Today’s message is part 2 of Lost In The Grand Canyon, an excerpt of Dale’s NEW book, Visiting Heaven – Heavenly Keys to Living a Life Without Limitations, soon to be released. This book describes his detailed journey to heaven following a fatal airplane crash and the extraordinary life that he lived in response to that experience.
Lost In The Grand Canyon is one of over 100 stories of Dale’s life that reflect heaven’s faith and power in the face of the world’s circumstances demanding defeat. This story will build your faith and increase your ability to persevere to victory.
To read part 1, click the following link: https://daleblack.org/lost-in-the-grand-canyon/
Lost in the Grand Canyon – Part 2 of 2
I stood at the canyon rim six thousand feet above the floor. The sheer magnitude made me feel like a bug in comparison as I watched the chopper grow smaller in the sky. It was easy to understand how someone on the trail below could become disoriented and lost. The main canyon branched into smaller canyons, weaving a maze of pathways easy to follow but leading to a dead end most of the time. Gaining perspective from the canyon floor was impossible. It was simply too massive. I whispered another prayer. “Thank You, Father in heaven, for answering prayer. Thank You for bringing Don back alive.”
I had visited the Grand Canyon a dozen times before but always during the summer when the temperature commonly reaches 90 degrees, up to a high of 120. If you don’t have enough water and shade, you can easily become dehydrated and disoriented. Those are the conditions that cause most deaths in the canyon. But this was early April. The winter snow was still on the ground, and nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing. Let’s face it. This canyon is entirely unforgiving no matter what time of the year.
Inside the canyon, the helicopter looked like a gnat. It was barely visible as it followed the prescribed search pattern. I reviewed God’s promise to Paula and me. The shepherd will leave the ninety-nine to search for the one sheep that is lost . . . and search until he is found! This was God’s promise—and for me, His directive.
God had given us His promise, but we had to respond by becoming His hands and feet, by taking action as an expression of our faith. We were all doing that by searching and speaking in faith. Keeping our faith strong was a constant battle of pushing out the doubt and fear and replacing it with God’s Word.
The entire seventh day passed without so much as a trace of Don. How could this be happening? The disappointment was difficult to hide. Most of those who had come to help now needed to return to their responsibilities, leaving us with only four people and a helicopter. We felt gutted. That meant our search would be limited to the air— and there was only enough money to pay for one more day of flying.
Adding to our frustration, SAR decided to shut down their search. With their helicopter grounded and the statistical chances of finding Don alive nearly zero, they were wrapping things up and clearing out.
It was the morning of the eighth day, and we were searching entirely on our own. It certainly seemed illogical and even ridiculous that we were holding onto faith that we would find Don alive. The volunteer searchers who were now going home, shoulders sagging, were heartbroken. And we could feel the ridicule from some on the SAR team.
A verse came to mind, as often happens when I’m struggling and contemplating what I should do.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
It always comes down to a choice. Faith is a choice, and I had to choose once again. Each of us remaining had to choose. Do I lead this small team and continue to believe the promise God gave? Or do I count our losses and let go in defeat?
Using a chart and insights from those who had been searching on the ground and the chopper flights, I guided them into an airborne search grid over a previously unscoured area. It felt as if we were all holding our collective breath. Every time the radio crackled, I grabbed it in anticipation. The hours ticked by. Once again, all day searching, searching, and more searching. But nothing was found—not even a trace. At best, we had an hour of sunlight left.
The stress was showing in Virginia’s deeply creased face and wringing hands. I could see the doubt and fear growing. It was easy to understand why.
Tension was building among the volunteers too. Dusk now turned to darkness with no sign of Don. It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth.
Now the darkness stopped the day’s search. I called Bill on the radio. They had landed the chopper on the rim to contact me and ask what they should do. I analyzed how much flight time we had left before the money was gone. Maybe an hour. Two at the most. Just enough to fly back and land at the base. For all practical purposes, the search was over.
I bowed my head. “Lord? What do you want me to do? What shall I do now, Father?”
I previously mentioned my miraculous survival of an air crash and subsequent visit to heaven. Since then, I have believed in the power of God’s Word. I’ve also learned how important individual faith is in our daily life. Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Following His will is different here on earth because of Satan’s resistance, but the principles don’t change.
I thought of a scripture in Mark 4. It teaches that when God gives His Word, Satan comes immediately to steal it. It goes on to describe how persecution and tribulation come to choke out the Word that was sown. This was the battle we were fighting, and we were certainly feeling the heat of it.
God had sown the promise in my heart. Until he is found. Now circumstances were piling up to steal my faith and choke out that Living Word—to get me to relax my grip of faith. We were living in the moment of decision. Everything was on the line.
Night had fallen, and the chopper was out there in the blackness, parked somewhere on the rim of the vast Grand Canyon. And Don Johnson? There was no sign of him. His poor wife had finally given up and retreated to the privacy of her room.
Sitting in a chair in the hotel lobby, I heard that still small voice again. What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? The shepherd found the lost sheep alive and brought it home, rejoicing. We would do the same.
I got on the radio and asked Charlie to arrange a joint communication between him, Bill, Mark, and me. My request surprised everyone. “Are you willing to stay there overnight so we can search a couple of hours in the morning?” Silence. Each person thought long about what I was asking. It was a lot. The nighttime temperatures were cold, and there was nowhere for them to lie down. They would all have to huddle up in the helicopter and wait nine hours for the sun to rise.
If everyone was willing to stay put until morning, we would have a couple more hours with the helicopter.
Pilot Bill got approval from his boss to stay another day by donating his salary. Then everyone agreed to spend the night sitting in place. I lay on the hotel lobby carpet with the radio by my side. We spent the night cold and uncomfortable—and praying. Even Bill was praying silently with us.
About 5:30 a.m., the radio crackled. “Dale? You copy?” It was Charlie. The temperatures had dropped into the teens. They were cold but ready to tackle this last search effort during daylight as the helicopter returned to base.
I gave them directions for the new, previously unchecked search area. It was our last chance to find Don.
Just before takeoff, I led the team in prayer over our radios. “Father, in the name of Jesus, we once again thank You. You are always faithful and true to Your Word. Thank You for leading us to Don. Direct us to find Don alive, on this flight. Lead and direct and provide funding for us until he is found! Thank You, Father. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
I’ve learned it is easiest to give up faith in the eleventh hour as a sense of hopelessness grows. But sometimes I’ve observed God moving even after time has run out. I struggled to keep my mouth from speaking what appeared obvious to the others. All involved knew we were out of time and out of options—except for this last flight, which was actually a “return to base” operation. We’d look along the return flight path, a different route than we’d used before.
I gave last-minute instructions. “Bill, as before, you’re in charge of the helicopter and the aviation part of the flight. Stay legal. Stay safe. And Charlie, once again you’re in charge of the search. Fly the route that we’ve agreed on—unless you are sure God is leading you otherwise.
“One last thing, gentlemen. Bring Don back. Alive. Find him and bring him back according to our prayers of faith. Do you understand? Do it God’s way. Bring that chopper back with Don inside! Copy?”
“Copy. We copy all.” Charlie responded. A click on the radio . . . and then silence. I was alone in the hotel lobby. I prayed in the spirit. I praised the Lord for His faithfulness and His love. And for always answering prayer.
The helicopter lifted off and headed south, as agreed. Charlie gave me updates every few minutes. It was almost as if I were inside the aircraft with them. Proceeding further away from base, they were planning to turn west, following the flight plan. Suddenly, Charlie said he sensed a tug on his heart that he interpreted as God’s leading. He instructed Bill to turn east up the next canyon for just a peek into the small artery. “We’re low on fuel. I can do it for a minute, maybe two . . . but no more!” Bill shouted over the sounds of the rotor blades.
They scoured the landscape with binoculars. No one spoke. Within seconds, Charlie yelled, “There! I see something!”
Bill turned the helicopter slightly so they could all see below. Strewn in the snow were a jacket, shirt, socks, and shoes. Clear signs of a hiker in the final stages of hypothermia.
I was startled by the crackle of the radio. “Dale. We see a naked man on a rock below. It’s got to be Don. We think we’ve found him! You copy?”
“Copy!” I held my breath, waiting . . .
On a large rock, someone tried to stand, then collapsed back into a heap. The man lay motionless on top of the boulder. He rallied, trying to stand again, even lifting his arms. The men in the helicopter watched in disbelief as he fell off the rock into the snow. It had to be Don! And he was alive! But barely.
The helicopter touched down a short distance away from the boulder. Charlie and Mark jumped out, racing toward the frail man on the ground. Don was barely conscious. He’d been freezing and without food or water for over a week and could not stand. Don had always been tall and slim, but now he looked more like a bag of bones than a living person. Wrapping him in a blanket, they carried him back to the helicopter.
The radio crackled to life. “Dale! We’ve got him! Dale! It’s Don, and he’s alive! He’s barely conscious, but we’ve got him! He’s in the helicopter, and we’re bringing him to base. Dale, you copy? He’s alive!”
“I copy! I copy! Praise the good Lord! He’s alive! Bring him here.”
“Until he is found,” I whispered. “Thank you, Father.”
“This is chopper 5 Alpha Tango. We have Don Johnson onboard. He’s alive! Headed back to base now.”
To this day I don’t know how Don’s wife heard the news, but she bolted into the lobby screaming, her face filled with anticipation. “What’s happening? What’s happening?” Tears streamed down her cheeks.
I grabbed her arm and told her the news. Moments later, we ran toward the spot where the helicopter would land. We could see it getting larger as the noise of the rotor grew louder. We held our breath as they touched down, and the prop slowed to a stop.
Charlie and Mark opened the door as I raced forward and lifted Don’s frail body out of the helicopter. Virginia ran toward us. Don was barely recognizable. Virginia gasped, then wrapped her arms around him, sobbing in relief.
Don was probably six feet four inches, and I don’t think he weighed over a hundred pounds at that moment. We wrapped him in more blankets and gave him warm tea and soup. We started making calls. Summoning a doctor to the phone, we followed his instructions to transport Don to the local hospital immediately.
God had promised. In faith, we had agreed, and—the most difficult part—we had stayed and fought the “good fight of faith” to the end. The process had been so much harder than any of us had expected. But God had brought it to pass—His promise had been fulfilled through our faith in action. Praise the Lord! He is faithful!
The next day, we learned that Don’s internal organs had already begun shutting down before he was rescued. The doctor said if he had not been found that day, he would not have been found alive.
I was home within twenty-four hours, jumping back into work—as busy as ever. A few days later, I looked up to see Paula walking into my office with a large, beautiful vase of flowers. Smiling and teary-eyed, she read the note accompanying the bouquet.
“Dear Dale, you saved my life! I am forever in debt to you. May God bless you and Paula always! – Don Johnson”
“Thank you, Dale, for never giving up! UNTIL HE IS FOUND!
Copyright 2022 Eagle International Ministries Inc aka Dale Black Ministries
With God nothing is impossible!
To read part 1, click the following link: https://daleblack.org/lost-in-the-grand-canyon/
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