Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Thought My Life Was Over (literally)

Warning: this is a long one. (don't want to read the whole thing? Scroll to the bottom and watch the video)

A couple of weeks ago I had set up some meetings in Redding California. Those meetings were placed around our high schools houseboats camp (Red) at Shasta Lake. So I decided to go down an extra day early and spend 24 hours with our high schoolers on the houseboats.

As soon as I pulled to shore on one of the speedboats a few students yelled my name and asked if I wanted to go on a hike. That's what I was there for so I said, "Of course!" I dropped off my suitcase and sleeping bag and headed up in my board shorts and flip flops. We started out as a group of nine but about a mile into the hike there are only six of us left. Five high schoolers and me. The hike was up a ravine where you can tell that a river comes during the rainy times. As a matter of fact we found water about halfway up.

These guys had hiked this before but had never gone as far as we did. They wanted to go all the way to the top. After we had been hiking for about 45 minutes to an hour I mentioned that it was going to take a lot longer to go down because there were several sections we had to do some good climbing. And I was one of two who was only wearing flip-flops. (had I only known)

At one point it was going to be a good climb and I saw that if I went up to the left and climbed the rockface and used a rope that I saw, I could probably do it easier to get around where the others went. I kept finding more ridges to grab onto with my fingers and my feet and kept climbing and climbing. Because I had to use my hands and feet I was completely focused on the next spot in front of me. This meant I did not see the bigger picture.

The guys kept saying, "Erik, you are boss!" I felt weird, because I knew I was their leader, but I was not their boss. Perhaps this helped to encourage my continual climbing, I don't know. ;) As I made my way up I suddenly came to a spot where there was a lot of loose dirt and rocks. I looked back from where I came from and realized I could not go back down. If I tried I would most definitely slide down to a painful end. So I carefully moved to the next stable spot I could get to while slipping here and there a bit. I was able to grab onto to "rocks" that were part of the rockface and knew they would be safe. My left foot went totally sideways on a small lip that held my foot while my right foot was in a spot where it was like I was stretching out my calf. There was loose dirt under my right foot so I kept slowly sliding and having to readjust.

About 15 feet to my right was a ridge that I thought might possibly be safety. I saw a good sized rock and reached out for it, putting about 85% of my weight on it, when it immediately caused a small avalanche. I uttered a worty dird (which is rare) and somehow pulled myself back with my left fingers. I apologized to the guys and assessed my surroundings. 15 feet on either side of my was a ridge that may be climbable; 15 feet below me was a 20 foot drop and then another 50-70 feet to the bottom; 20 feet above me were trees and safety. I was stuck. Stuck like, "I know I can not get to safety on my own" stuck.

I sent 2 of the guys down for help and told them, "Yes, you can bring me a rope, but I WANT PROFESSIONAL CLIMBERS!!!" I reiterated that fact several times so it was clear I was in a precarious situation. This was not just Erik joking around.

I calculated the time that there could possibly be someone to come and get me. If it took us about an hour to get there and it would be more difficult to get back down then tell someone and then someone come back up with the rope it was going to be quite a long time.

I sent two of the guys up the rest of the way of the mountain to come around to where I was above me. And Trevor stayed down below. At one point he asked if we wanted to talk about something and I said, "No, I need to concentrate." I was thinking about things I have not talked my children yet. I also thought about me Jeanne-Ann could marry that could help her raise our four children. Most of my friends my HR married and single guys are too young. I have high standards for my family!

All of a sudden in my head I started singing the song "center."

It was pretty cool, because in the face of death I wanted Jesus to be right there in the middle of everything. I guess knowing that I potentially would see him in a few moments that's all I needed.

After a while I think I had enough thought about this and needed some level of distraction from my thought process. I called down to Trevor and told I would like him to share his story with me. I was very thankful for Trevor in that moment.

After about two hours I heard Jeramy's voice. He started quoting from the Bible. "The Lord is my strength." "The Lord is my strength when I am weak." I have never sensed God's word being so alive and active and real as in that moment. Between what Jeramy was saying and the fact that Jeramy was there I found some renewed energy to hold on. Then the old classic song "All in All" began to run through my mind.
It was great! it's truly amazing how powerful music is. I'm so thankful for it in my life.

He started to climb up after me the way I came. I immediately yelled for him not to come up. That's how I got stuck. I didn't want him to be stuck as well. At the same time, Trevor took the rope that Jeramy had brought and brought it up the rest of the way. It seems to be taking forever. Every minute felt like it was possibly my last.

After about 15 minutes I yelled to the two guys above me, "Where is he?!" They thought he was about 30 feet away. A few minutes later I yelled again where was he. They couldn't see him. I said, "I thought you said he was 30 feet away a few minutes ago?" They said the brush was so thick it was hard to tell. At this point I started yelling at them as did Jeramy. I was losing my grip.

I didn't know if I had anymore left in me. I told Jeramy I didn't think I could hold on any longer. I had lost complete feeling in my right foot 30 minutes prior to that. My mouth was so dry. I could feel my throat constricting from the heat, lack of water and loss of significant amounts of sweat.

I seriously thought,




Finally I heard the guys above me telling me they were tying the rope to the tree. They dropped down the rope and suddenly an avalanche of rocks and dirt came cascading down on me. There was a pretty good sized one that smacked me right on top of the head. I just didn't want one to hit my hands. I was fading fast. With every move of the rope more rocks came at me. When the rope was within reach I mustered all the strength I had and held on with one hand and wrapped the rope around me. I looked up and saw that they were holding the rope. I told them they had to let go as I could not live with one or more of them slipping to their death trying to save me.

They let down more slack and I wrapped more and more around me. When it was finally taught I looked at my options and went for it. I gave a small tug and pushed for the left ridge with all I had in me. I slipped and grasped and pulled with all my might. Rocks and dirt falling from under my feet. I was able to grab a tree root and then began the climb up.

When I reached the top I made sure I was clear and I sat down. I just sat there in complete and utter disbelief. I was alive. I was no longer in any major life-threatening danger. My leg began to shake like crazy, but I was alive!!!

After a few minutes Jeramy had made his way to where we were and we began to make our way to the top of the mountain. It was then that I realized why it took so long for the guys to get through. The trees and brush was so thick it was scratching and scraping at everyone of us along the way. We were not out of the woods yet (literally) as we had to duck and slide over to the top. There were lots of fist-sized rocks below me and I knew I would need to slide down them and grab the next tree several times along the way. That's when I heard the loud chopping sounds of the blades of the rescue helicopter. I waved at them and they turned around! What? I still had a nasty journey ahead of me in my flip-flops. I heard later they were told I was fine. Not sure who had any knowledge of that fact, seeing how everyone involved was with me.

We made it down and there was the sheriff just outside of his boat waiting for me. "Are you injured?" "Not really." "Good, then this will be quick. I need your name, your D.O.B and your credit card number...haha. Just kidding." A joking police officer was just what I needed after a near death experience. Haha. I got on the leader boat. Drank a couple of bottles of water, ate an apple and recounted the story to the leaders who were there.

I still can't believe it.

Far away shot. I was stuck right in the middle

Getting closer
There I was. Gulp.
Thanx Search & Rescue.
It's the thought that counts, right?
I will forever be thankful to God for these guys and their role in saving my life!

Here is the video Jared Schilling shot of me telling the story.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forever Family Anniversary (1 year ago today we got custody of the babies)

One year ago today (July 12, 2011) we walked into our lawyer's office with a speech prepared explaining why we wanted him to make some calls and visits so we could hurry up the process a bit. We had just left the orphanage after our 2 1/2 hour visit with the babies. After I was done blabbering my long list, he smiled, waited a moment and said, "You can go get them now."


"You can go get them now."

"You mean permanantly?"




"Literally, right now we can go back to the orphanage and take them and never have to take them back there ever again?"


Tears streaming down my face. I turn to Jeanne-ann and Kynzi and Karston. We scream. Jump up and down and hug. I round our lawyers desk and give him a huge hug! He told me he was going to call and let us know, but because I had called him first to say we wanted to drop by for a visit, he decided to wait to tell me in person.

Here is a video of our "meetcha day." This is actually from the first time we ever saw/met/held Haak and Nyah.

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