Jason Lawrence Bell
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02-24-20                       PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

‘Faith brought us here, and faith will lead us out,’ states the team leader trying to reassure his group of hikers. ‘Lost is a temporary condition, and our Savior is already finding the path to take us home.’ After a full day of wandering the Redwoods, the hikers still have no idea where they landed. Plus, they have no cell phone reception, or maps, or compass or even light for the coming night darkness. It was supposed to a casual hike, but now each lost hour becomes more serious and threatening.

The group is made up of members of Paradise City Christ’s Way Church. A mixed team of ten faithful followers who was performing a Journey Of Faith. Journeys of Faith were a walk of trust, where members would go to remote locations and follow God’s lead to find a religious wonder and return safely and inspired. Journeys of Faith were popular in the 60s, but most churches have avoided them since. Christ’s Way Church has resurrected the Journey and this is their first walk of trust.

Adam the organizer chose the Redwoods, because of the tree bark. There is an area in the Redwoods where it is legend that the face of Jesus is clearly shown on the side of a tree. When the group began their hike, Adam led a group prayer and asked Jesus to lead them to his tree and safely bring them back. When they were finished praying, the faithful would allow Jesus to lead them. The group began their walk, but it did not start well. Members were heading in all different directions. Adam stopped the hikers. ‘We should all be going the same direction.’ Two hikers heading in opposite directions insisted Jesus said their way was the correct direction. The others said they were confused. Adam offered, ‘we need to stay together, so let’s follow the directions of the eldest.’ That was Harriet. She was the longest member of the Church and the oldest.

Harriet faithfully took charge and led the group on into the Redwoods. No one marked the path or tried to remember the way back. They were in complete faith that they were being protected and led by their savior. Harriet was relaxed and everyone was confident until they passed the same Forest Ranger shed twice. Harriet reassured them and headed in a different direction. After two more hours they came around a bend and there was the same Rangers shed. Harriet was deflated and the seriousness of their situation began setting in.

Adam saw they only had a few hours of daylight left and they needed to find their cars soon. From the shed Adam could see the tree lines in all directions. Adam suggested, ‘those trees in that direction look the most like the ones when we entered the park. I say let’s head there, but in case we need it, let’s remember where the shed is.’ Harriet said under her breath, ‘why remember, it seems to follow us everywhere.’

As soon as they reached the trees, they saw the tree bark and the faces. It was unusual and fascinating to the hikers. The patchy tree bark was everywhere and if you looked hard enough you could soon find bark that looked familiar. The hikers excitedly scanned from tree to tree looking for Jesus’s face. One hiker yelled out, ‘I found Mickey Mouse.’ Everyone looked at the tree and agreed that it looked like Mickey Mouse. Then they found the face of an old women, and then an eagle’s head. They searched and searched but no Jesus was visible. The sun was quickly setting and Adam looked scared. When the others saw Adam’s fear they all sobered to the mess they were in. Adam immediately called for everyone to head back to the Rangers Shed.

They walked as quickly as they could. When they reached the shed the sun was almost down. With cell phone light they broke into the shed and entered. It was barely large enough to hold them, but they packed in. It was just a shed with no insulation or utilities. Then the darkness blinded everything. They agreed not to use their cell phone lights to save their batteries. So, they were huddled in complete darkness. The night became very cold and their casual clothes barely helped. Their body heat was their only hope so they became tightly huddled. Some were afraid to fall asleep, thinking they won’t wake up alive. It was a long miserable night.

As soon as there was a little morning light Adam took the most charged cell phone and climbed on the roof of the shed and tried to get any reception. He found a bar appear on the phone. He immediately texted 911. ‘Lost hikers. Please help.’ Shortly after he got a response. ‘Are you the church group?’ Adam was elated, ‘yes, yes, please help.’ A quick response, ‘Great, where are you?’ Adam text back, ‘the Rangers Shed.’ ‘There are twenty Rangers Sheds, which one?’ Adam was stumped and tried to describe, but failed. Then he had an idea, ‘the Mickey Mouse tree. Do you know where?’ The text immediately responded, ‘of course, everyone knows that tree.’

Adam walked the group back down to the bark trees. When they reached the trees, there were already four off-road vehicles waiting. They had blankets and warm drinks. The off-road vehicles took the group back to their cars. Waiting at the cars was a news crew that were reporting the lost hiker’s story. As the hikers ate snacks and warmed up, the reporters were asking questions. Harriet was very vocal and said, ‘this was a Journey Of Faith and Jesus led us to a Rangers Cabin where we were protected and safe.’ Adam was thinking, ‘now it’s a cabin. We nearly died in that shed.’ Harriet continued, ‘and the face of Jesus and the tree bark that led us out. This is truly an example of Jesus protecting his flock. Jesus is great.’

The others were looking a little disgusted at Harriet but said nothing. Adam was thinking, the only way you can explain this honestly is that Jesus was not involved at all. Then a reporter asked Adam, ‘this seems like a triumphant religious experience, are you planning another Journey of Faith soon?’ Adam hesitated before answering. ‘I am certain the church will closely consider allowing further Journeys with these unique experiences we have had on his Journey. Thank you.’ With that Adam walked away thinking ‘future Journeys, over my dead body. We were saved by a Mickey Mouse tree.’ Peace**