Through the Storm: Mountain Rescue
Storms befall every created thing, sometimes only for a night, at other times enduring for seemingly endless days upon days.
In awakening this morning to real time news and images of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan, I watched with anguish at the scenes of devastation still unfolding before the spell bound world, lives being changed forever; some lost to the light of eternity, some surviving to the possibility of knowing God’s mercy in this life with the hope of a light filled unending future.
The ravages of this Pacific storm will not likely be calmed in the near future, but the response to such challenges is ours if we choose to rest in He Who holds the world in His hands.
This is true whether enduring long-term difficulties or consuming momentary challenge. In every situation we have the promise of the Creator Who sustains all He has created for His purpose and His timing according to what He will use for His glory.
There are times that seem impossible for a few hours and then suddenly the sunlight bursts in magnificent beams to pierce oppressive clouds, even in the middle of a dark cold night.
This brings to mind an event that so revealed the mighty right hand of God that I was unable to write of it at the time, but the reality of its having happened quickens my very being. I have seen the previousness of God Who goes before us as a banner!
To be sitting at home on a quiet evening and receive a phone call from your son that puts you on the alert really sharpens awareness of the Almighty.
Mom, I need you to get help for us. (Mind you, I am on a mountain top in Arkansas and he is in Colorado on a 12,000 foot mountain top, in deep snow, cold, cell phone running out of battery, no food, no way to start a fire!)
He had sent a text to his wife and the wife of another of the three men who were stranded. The other two men were still laboring to get the snowmobiles free from the deep soft snow in the alpine bowl area near Lake City. My son had struggled through the deep snow, losing one boot, trying to reach a high enough point to get a cell phone signal to reach help. Being familiar with the location he knew I might know how to communicate their location to rescue personnel. Having been in those very mountains a few months before allowed me to grasp the gravity of this situation in a manner beyond a normal response.
“Mom, if I don’t make it out of this you know I love you.” That brought tears.
He was digging a little shelter in the snow under an evergreen tree. It was hard to hang up the phone and lose voice connection. My heart and soul were with him while I stopped for a moment, “Lord help us. I am helpless aside from You.”
My husband and I began calling everyone we knew with connections in the Lake City area. I called the local 911 and they patched me through to the sheriff’s office or the local authorities in Gunnison, which was not as close as I would have wished. They took information and said they could not send out search and rescue party until morning. So here we were! I had sent out prayer requests to our church, to other BSF leaders and friends. Now I continued to pray.
Phone calls came from the parents of one of the other young men and I discovered the one I did not know had been a marine and was physically fit, with a strong never give up attitude. The other man was also very strong and persevering. Together they had labored to move the machines a few inches at a time, struggling even to take forward steps, and concerned about my son who was now separated from them and somewhere further up the mountain in total darkness except for the Light of Hope which dwells in the heart of a believer.
There were phone calls racing back and forth across the country, rallying help family and friends, not separated from the situational at all, but connected through united hearts pleading for a miracle, expecting a miracle, but not knowing what this answer from God would look like.
Meanwhile, back on that magnificent mountaintop, God was watching. He had everything under control, though those who were waiting signs of His presence could not yet see the fruit of their hope.
The two men were valiantly giving their all in order to free themselves and then search for their friend. They gave every ounce of strength they and in the Lord’s hand it was enough.
They finally reached more solid snow and began to search for my son who was trying to get warm and talking to God and thinking of his wife and three children at home. I am certain that each minute seemed as an eternity in the face of what might be a long night alone on the mountain in the presence of the Almighty.
Again, providence prevailed. The two young men stopped part way up the slope, turned off the machine, and shouted for my son. Yes! From this location he was enabled to hear them. JOY! He called back and forth as he made his way toward them, spent, crawling on the snow, beset with altitude sickness; but they were united and continued seek the way.
It was several miles on the other side of the mountain to the cabin and it would have been difficult and dangerous to try to find their way back in the darkness, so they were searching for closer shelter from the freezing conditions.
One of the men knew of an old inn in the area, and hoped to be led to that sanctuary in the night. Again! Isaiah 30:20, “go to the right or left, listen, and you will hear a voice telling you which way to go.” This command requires action before He will guide you. They went forward and there was light shining through the darkness! The Inn! It was closed through the week, to be opened a few days later. Even in that, our incomparable God superintended every detail as He went before them. Two men, one the chef, were there at the inn making preparations for the coning weekend. There was room in the inn that night. Out of the freezing cold, they were given something warm to drink, opportunity to make phone calls to the sheriff dept to tell them to call off the morning rescue, then calls to tell loved ones they were safe.
The sheriff’s office called me with good news. Then I was given time for a short and emotional reunion over the telephone with John, before I began calling those who had been praying to tell them of the miracle on that mountain that beautiful night.
Surely they would have endured. Certainly they would have persevered. But through giving so many people an opportunity to pray, we saw God’s providence. The men were safe. There were no over night complications, no frostbite or hypothermia or worse. The men at the inn were blessed in being part of this deliverance and given opportunity to provide shelter from the storm and nourishment and fellowship as these rescued men began to recount their ordeal. It was a sweet thing that they began to see the ways the Lord went before them on that mountain that night, and how He went behind them as a rear guard to protect them. What the world would call luck or chance, or good fortune, we know to be favor granted by our merciful God. We have glimpsed His glory yet again.
The next morning the men at the inn went with the three friends to retrieve the third snowmobile from the Alpine Bowl area. In the light of day the message was brought home again of the precarious position they had been in the night before. In the light of day they realized more fully the joy to be alive physically and spiritually.Through this ordeal the men and their friends and family all gave praise to the glory of God. Scripture tells me we are to remember, to write, to tell, to pass along to following generations what we have seen of God at work in the midst of His people. The witness of Isaiah 65:24 became a reality. “Before they call, I will answer. While they are still speaking I will hear.“ The previousness of the Lord in going before them was certainly evident on that night, all for the display of His glory. Remember.