Sunday, January 21, 2007

What We Saw On The Mountain

The Oregonian (Portland’s newspaper) ran an article this week paying tribute to Sheriff Wampler—a man my family will never forget for putting his heart and soul into the search for Kelly, Brian and Nikko.

The article got me thinking again about the overwhelming response of people around the nation to the crisis on Mt. Hood. How does one explain such a phenomenon? Even people who got caught up in the suspense had a hard time figuring out what had drawn them in and why they cared so much about three men they didn't even know. Yet they watched anxiously and prayed throughout the ordeal. They wept along with the families when searchers located Kelly, then wept again when the rescue effort for Brian and Nikko shifted to recovery. Many tell me they are still grieving, even now.

I have wondered a lot about this myself and while I still don’t fully understand why this event captivated the nation, here are some of my initial thoughts about what happened.

First (and the Sheriff Wampler article brought this to mind) it seemed to me that for a brief moment in time we glimpsed on Mt. Hood something of the way things were meant to be. With three men in trouble, scores of people banded together to do whatever they could to rescue them. It didn’t seem to matter that they didn’t know the climbers or that many were strangers to each other. They were solidly united in one purpose: to get to the three climbers as soon as they could.

It was, I think, a riveting embodiment of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan—multiplied by the numbers of searchers heading for the slopes, flying overhead, piecing together available clues left behind by the three men, and caring for the families.

Some may find this surprising, but the media entered into the caring too. Frank told me many eyes brimmed with tears during news conferences. After the cameras were off, several of them came up to him and gently told him they were praying or that they hoped things would turn out well. Early on, when Frank was doing a CNN interview in the cold, a reporter offered his gloves. Afterwards, when Frank attempted to return them, the reporter insisted that he keep them. Frank had many heartfelt conversations with media representatives that I know he won’t forget.

In a world of fierce competition, biting adversarial exchanges, and endless violence, this was at least for me an unforgettable example of the “love your neighbor as yourself” way God means for His image bearers to live together. That alone is reason for us to feel drawn to the story.

But second, I think what made the story so gripping was the fact that it was also about God. We heard words of faith and hope in God and statements about prayer that amazingly were transmitted uncensored over the airwaves. It seemed to strike a chord with many people, and I wonder if that doesn’t reflect the spiritual hunger in our souls—an inbuilt desire to know God and to reconnect with Him.

All I know is that when it was over, people's hearts were deeply touched and many still wanted to hear more about hope and faith, and that can only be a good thing.


You can read the article on Sheriff Wampler at: (


Anonymous said...

Maybe this was part of God's plan for Kelly, Brian and Nikko-using 3 men of faith and their families to show us that He is still a presence in a violent world that seems to be turning away from faith. This tragedy brought out the best in people and we saw on TV the families from different backgrounds speak of faith.

I am one of those people still drawn to this story. I remember Frank speaking of God and it affected me. How many nonbelievers watched and now are maybe thinking and questioning about God? The Lord works in mysterious ways.....


Linda W. said...

You can give some credit to Frank as a spokesperson, as well. All those years of facing seminary students must have paid off. :) I think it's rare that "ordinary families" handle media relations well, which often works against them. But watching and listening to Frank, you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted not to be sympathetic.

Anonymous said...

I've been teaching a class for a local college on Jesus and the Kingdom. I'm going to use this blog to give a real world example of "a glimpse of the Kingdom." We see His glory in the least likely of times. Thanks for illustrating this for us.
Peace and Comfort to you guys,