Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Complete Story (mostly)

So bits and pieces of Mark's story in the woods keep rolling in.
This will most likely be the last time I post anything. But the following letters from Mark's parents, I think nicely summarize the whole event. And quite frankly show the incredible goodness and mercy of God. We all know that it was God who brought Mark out of the woods, but the newspapers most likely aren't going to print that. So I thought I would give Everette and Sharon a voice. These were taken from Jim Porett's facebook page.

Two letters from the Albrecht's:
Letter #1
Dear Friends:
Please forward this message to others you know who prayed for us. It will be impossible to personally contact every one who has prayed, called, or emailed.

As you know last Fri, Sat, & Sun were extremely trying times for our family while Mark was lost in North Cascades Nat'l Park in Wa State. We were praying and hoping for the best, but by Sun were also preparing for the worst. Your prayers and encouragement got us through this time. We had decided we were going to trust God whether the news was bad or good, but we were definitely praying we would see Mark alive again.

God did answer this prayer as Mark made his way out to a road late Sunday afternoon. This was my best Father's Day ever but not one I want to repeat. Our whole family made it out to Wa for a 2 day family reunion - also the best vacation we have had.

Mark learned a lot during his experience and there are definitely some things he will do differently next time. After getting lost he made some wise decisions which helped him survive, but he was over his head on the challenges he faced, and he will be the first to tell you that God delivered him.

We are thankful to God for protecting Mark and appreciate your great support and encouragement during this time of trial. May this be a reminder to us all that we need God's strength, wisdom, and grace every day. May God bless you as you have been a blessing to us.

Everette & Sharon Albrecht

Letter #2 from Sharon Albrecht:
"It was so good to go out to Washington and see Mark after his "little adventure". He had obviously lost weight and was exhausted. However, he was relieved and thankful to be alive and back. While there we met with the rangers to express our gratitude and appreciation for all they did with the search effort. One of the rangers lingered afterward to let us know that she and her church had been praying for Mark. She went on to tell us that many predicted that Mark was dead from a fall or buried under an avalanche, and he might not be found. This is the usual scenario. Also, she told Mark it was a good thing he came out when he did because it snowed eight to ten inches Sunday night. After the meeting, we hiked up to the trailhead and we saw the spot where Mark emerged from the woods back onto the trail to safety and home. The North Cascades are beautiful and truly display the glory of God in His creation.

Mark says God led him into the wilderness and God brought him out. On Wednesday morning between 6:00 and 7:00, Mark broke camp and began hiking out. He planned to get out early, and he looked forward to getting some pizza to eat and getting well rested so he would be ready for work Thursday morning. ( He works Thursday-Sunday 5:00AM -4:30 PM. ) However, heavy cloud cover enveloped him limiting visibility on a trail that already had areas buried under snow/ice. Thus, he missed a switchback and hiked on. When he discovered that he was hopelessly lost, he made camp. The first time he set up his tent, it slid down the ice pack, so he found another spot with a tree to prop against one side of the tent to keep it from sliding. He spent the day using his utility tool knife to level the ice for the tent and the saw blade to cut branches to make an SOS and an arrow pointing to his tent. I think he also made a brush pile for a possible signal fire. After that he hunkered down in the tent to wait for help and pray. Thursday was sunny, so he spent that day drying everything out and waiting for help.

Everette and I were traveling from Georgia, where we had visited my family, to Alabama to visit Everette's mother Thursday. We were uneasy about Mark's situation since we had not heard from him Wednesday night, but we thought he might have been too exhausted to call. By Thursday night, neither of us could sleep. Friday morning we called his place of employment and found out he had not clocked in Thursday or that Friday morning. That's when the authorities were notified and the search began for Mark's vehicle, the lead to his whereabouts. With the aid of Mike Zackman, a friend, Purdue Alum, and pastor out there who helpled Mark get moved in, authorities found that Mark had registered for a permit to camp in the Northen Cascades. This information led them to his car Friday night. This was the lead that was needed to start search and rescue the next day. Saturday, Everette and I headed back to Indiana to regroup with the rest of the family and make arrangements to go out to Washington. For us it was a time of waiting; grabbing the phone every time it rang hoping for news, good news, any news. It was a time of praying and asking others to pray; a time of wondering where he was; what had happened; was he injured; did he know we were searching; had he given up hope; was he alive. It was a time of memories and reflection; of recalling lessons from God's Word; of listening for God's voice; and trusting God regardless of the outcome. "These things I(Jesus) have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. ( John 16:33 ) It was a time to cry out to God.

Saturday cloud cover kept the copters grounded. A hasty search for the obvious was made along the trail and two campsites. We were told that there was no clear evidence that Mark had been at either campsite. A couple of leads came in that raised our hopes but they did not pan out. Sunday a large widespread search was conducted adding 50 to 60 trained volunteers and two dogs. Weather conditions were lousy with clouds again keeping copters grounded and rain and snow expected later. We were being gently forewarned to expect the worst.

Meanwhile, Mark entered into a spiritual battle Saturday night. He felt that he would not make it through the next day or two if he was not found. That's when he heard the taunting voice telling him God did not love him. If God loved him, this wouldn't have happened to him. God didn't care. No one was looking for him. He was going to die out there. To fight it off, Mark started to sing/scream, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so ...". He quoted Psalm 121, pulled scripture cards out of his wallet to read aloud, and prayed. God broke through and gave him inner peace and reassurance of His love and faithfulness. Then his mind began to clear and he remembered the position of the sun, which he had seen Thursday only, and a plan began to form. Sunday morning the ground was clear enough for him to see the terrain, check his map, and figure out his position based on his memory of the sun's position. With that information and using his compass, after making some adjustments for error, he ate the last of his meager rations and broke camp. All the while he prayed for guidance and safety. There had been some directions he had contemplated taking but God stopped him with with a frim, "No". When he realized he could walk down and hit the trail, if his figuring was correct, God did not block his way. Mark said it took him five to six hours to get to the trail. He emerged from thick brush by a creek, nearly falling on his face from the little ledge. He had only taken a few steps when he saw a hiker appraoching through the fog. Mark waved his arms in the air and called out to him, "I've been lost since Wednesday and haven't had anything to eat. Do you have any food?" This hiker gave Mark everything he had. He told Mark searchers were looking for him and that he could meet rangers up at the trailhead or down in the parking lot. Mark said he didn't have enough strenth to climb, but he could make it going down. With that, he accompanied Mark to the parking lot where Mike Zackman and his son, Timothy, were making their way to look for him. Mike stayed with Mark and prayed with him before the meeting with the rangers and media.

When we got the phone call about 6:30 PM on Fathers' Day saying Mark had been found; that he was alive; that he had walked out on the trail; that he was not hurt; that he was wet cold and hungry, we wept and gave thanks. Then we shouted, laughed, called family members, friends, and we ran out to tell our neighbors. Such rejoicing! The lost had been found!

Later, Mark was allowed to talk with us for five minutew before his debriefing with the rangers. His first words to Everette were,"Happy Father's Day", and his first words to me were, I'm sorry I put you through so much."

Needless to say, this has been a defining moment in all our lives. Mark came out of his wilderness encounter with God seeming stronger, deeper, centerd, at peace, different in a good way. We have a deeper understanding of the frailty of life and a deeper sense of God's trusworthiness.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! -- From Psalm 34

Sharon Albrecht

P.S.This doesn't really fit the mood of this epistle but the question lingers regarding why there was no evidence that Mark had camped at either campsite. Mark was trained by his scout leaders not to leave anything behind at a campsite. "Always leave it clean and in better condition than which it was found." Mike Z. said Mark stayed with his family Sunday night and he saw him pull out this ziplock bag with strange looking contents, ummmm let's call it solid body waste material, from his backpack. Mark's explanation, "Ive been trained to leave my campsite clean." "