Jason Lawrence Bell
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02-24-20 Journey Of Faith


‘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 are performing a Journey of Faith. Journeys of Faith are a walk of trust, where members will 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. As the group begins their hike, Adam leads a group prayer and asks Jesus to lead them to his tree and safely bring them back. When they are finished praying, the faithful will allow Jesus to lead them. The group begins their walk, but it does not start well. Members are heading in all different directions. Adam stops the hikers. ‘We should all be going the same direction.’ Two hikers heading in opposite directions insist Jesus said their way is the correct direction. The others said they are confused. Adam offers, ‘we need to stay together, so let’s follow the directions of the eldest.’ That is Harriet. She is the longest member of the Church and the oldest.

Harriet faithfully takes charge and leads the group on into the Redwoods. No one marks the path or tries to remember the way back. They are in complete faith that they are being protected and are led by their savior. Harriet is relaxed and everyone has confident until they pass the same Forest Ranger shed twice. Harriet reassures them and heads in a different direction. After two more hours they come around a bend and there is the same Rangers shed. Harriet is deflated and the seriousness of their situation begins setting in.

Adam sees they only had a few hours of daylight left and they need to find their cars soon. From the shed Adam sees the tree lines in all directions. Adam suggests, ‘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 reach the trees, they see the tree bark and the faces. It is unusual and fascinating to the hikers. The patchy tree bark is everywhere and if you look hard enough you can soon find bark that looks familiar. The hikers excitedly scan from tree to tree looking for Jesus’s face. One hiker yells out, ‘I found Mickey Mouse.’ Everyone looks at the tree and agrees that it looks like Mickey Mouse. Then they find the face of an old women, and then an eagle’s head. They search and search but no Jesus is not visible. The sun is quickly setting and Adam looks scared. When the others see Adam’s fear they all sober to the mess they are in. Adam immediately calls for everyone to head back to the Rangers Shed.

They walk as quickly as they can. When they reach the shed the sun is almost down. With cell phone light they break into the shed and entered. It is barely large enough to hold them, but they pack in. It is just a shed with no insulation or utilities. Then the darkness blinds everything. They agree not to use their cell phone lights to save their batteries. So, they huddle in complete darkness. The night becomes very cold and their casual clothes barely help. Their body heat is their only hope so they become tightly huddled. Some are afraid to fall asleep, thinking they will not wake up alive. It is a long miserable night.

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

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

The others are looking a little disgusted at Harriet but say nothing. Adam is thinking, the only way you can explain this honestly is that Jesus was not involved at all. Then a reporter asks Adam, ‘this seems like a triumphant religious experience, are you planning another Journey of Faith soon?’ Adam hesitates 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***