A couple of weeks ago, two of our adventurous rangers – Sarah and Drea – went on a backpacking trip through Buckskin Gulch and Paria River Canyon. They were prepared to hike four days through deep water, over logjams, and around quicksand. Not quite my kind of trip but they were excited.
The first day they hiked was beautiful and challenging. Everything they dreamed the trip would be. They hiked through Buckskin Gulch and into the Paria River Canyon. Sarah and Drea were feeling pretty good about learning to recognize and avoid quicksand. But then, as they waded in the shallow river about 4 p.m., they stepped into some quicksand that was quicker. Drea was able to quickly back out but Sarah’s leg was sucked into the quicksand and she was stuck.
Really stuck. Stuck for the next 19 hours. Drea and Sarah tried everything they could think of to get Sarah’s leg out, but the leg was solidly stuck. After a couple of hours of trying to extricate the leg, Sarah and Drea decided that Drea would need to hike out to get help. The closest road was 12 miles away. Before she left, Drea built Sarah a firepit on rocks in the river, helped Sarah dress in layers that included wool and a wetsuit, and situated food and other necessities on a sleeping pad that Sarah used like a float.
Drea proceeded to hike 12 miles in the dark, through water and over obstacles, to get help for Sarah. Along the way she met other hikers. Two of them hiked in the dark down the river to Sarah so they could try to get her out. When Drea finally got to the road and a cell signal, she called 911 which sent a rescue helicopter.
Meanwhile, Sarah and the two good Samaritans were working to get her out of the hole. Her helpers built a dam around her which lessened the water flowing into the quicksand hole. Through digging out the sand and working her hiking pole in around her leg, Sarah was finally able to break the suction of the quicksand and get out of the hole. The rescue helicopter arrived shortly after this and lifted Sarah out of the canyon. But her ordeal wasn’t over because her leg was totally numb and would continue to be numb for the next two days.
But why am I telling you all of this? After all, this is Sarah and Drea’s story, not mine. Two reasons. First, this is the most exciting thing that happened around here this summer and we are all thankful Sarah and Drea are alive and well. Second, Sarah came to church this morning and everything in the service spoke to her. She was eager to tell me that the psalm was about quicksand. And the prayer for help echoed one she prayed during the night she was stuck. The hymns and the sermon spoke to her as well.
When we are open to the Holy Spirit, a variety of things can speak to us. In fact, after a life or death experience like Sarah’s, everything shouts of God’s care for us. When we are looking for God, we will always find evidence of God’s love and providence.