Stranded in the Desert

by Vanetta Stephens on December 9, 2015

in Faith/Trust

Stranded in the Desert

Stranded in the Desert

Though a desert area had been our home for all of our lives, at this time, we had never been stuck, and in need of rescuing, ever!  Here’s our story, and hopefully, you’ll take away something that will be beneficial for you in case you ever find yourself stranded in the desert, whether literal or symbolic.

In June of 1996, we had made plans with another couple from our home group to picnic at a river northeast of the Phoenix metro area.  The kids could swim, then we’d enjoy a picnic lunch, then head back home.

The morning we left to head out on our trip, our friend’s wife was unable to come due to a health issue.  We had informed a couple of close friends of where we would be visiting. We were just going to be gone for a few hours.

Upon arriving at our destination, we drove out further onto the river bank since the water level was lower than usual. The kids went swimming. While they were enjoying the water, the guys realized that driving out that far had been a bad decision; two of the truck’s axles were buried in sand. There was no way to dig the axles out.  Many ideas were tried, and none yield the desired results.

Keeping this as low-key as possible, we tried to enjoy our time there, while wondering how we were going to get unstuck. Normally, this area has a lot of people visiting/camping.  That was not the case this day!

We had plenty of water for a while, and we had the extra veggies to eat, but the sandwiches were gone.

To condense this lengthy story, we ended up spending the night on this beach.  The guys slept in chairs around a campfire, while our daughters and I slept in the truck cab.

Deserts are funny things:  They are very hot during the day, but at night the temperatures drop. The girls’ had worn their swim suits under their shorts and tops so there were no extra clothes. They were damp and cold!!  None of us slept, well.

The next morning, we ate more carrots, celery, and still had some water. There was a fresh water stream from which we could get more water to drink as long as we had purification tablets.

A climb to the top of one of the highest hills near us provided us no help for our cellphones to be used.  Though there was a $1,000.00 fine if caught burning anything, due to a burn ban, we set fires for the purpose of hoping we’d be spotted, even if it was to be fined!

We tried all kinds of things to be seen.  Absolutely nothing worked.

Meanwhile, and unknown to us, our home had been set up as headquarters.  My parents, Mike’s parents, our pastor at the time, (we don’t remember who else) camped at our house hoping to discover where we had gone. My dad, who was quite familiar with AZ, was certain we were much farther north, so had state rescuers looking for us there.

At some point the second day, one of our friends suddenly thought she remembered where we said we’d be, and checked with another mutual friend, for hopeful confirmation.  She remembered correctly!

After about 36 hours, we were finally found by helicopter.  Our friend went in the helicopter so that he could direct a driver with a winch back to our spot.

The truck was pulled out. We were back home that evening.

If you know anything about deserts you know how potentially dangerous things can turn.  The sun can do damage to your skin and hydration, along with the threat of some dangerous animals. The latter is why the guys slept near the fire, though none of them truly slept.

The rescue team said they were expecting to have to transport all of us to the hospital for sun exposure and dehydration. That didn’t need to happen thanks to my following the unction to pack extra foods that had high water content, plus the stream we were able to utilize.  Though this is a desert area, there were low shrubs that provided bits of shade.  We would get in the river to cool off, and then sit in the shady areas the wispy shrubs provided, continually moving with the shade.

None of our attempts to try to get the attention of pilots worked. All of our fires ended up being smoke which was blown close to the ground by light breezes. The pilots told us they had no idea we had any type of fire.  They chose to ignore our law-breaking  under the circumstances.

At one point, after one of our unsuccessful attempts, I looked up into the sky and started asking God what to do, next.   In an instant, I heard God say, “Vanetta, why are you talking to Me, like I am a long way off.  Don’t you remember where you are, and where I am.”  Well, yes, I did, but in the moment of frustration, and uncertainty, I didn’t even think.  I have never forgotten, though.  Note:  We were not new to Grace.  We had been Grace Living for about 12 years, at this time.

We never outgrow our need to be reminded of Truth.

This experience proved God’s Love, once again.  I asked Him why we weren’t rescued sooner.  His reply to me was, “Because we were not in danger and we didn’t need to be rescued sooner.”  (We still had food, and water, and had not-yet become desperate for anything more.)  His timing is always right on time. We often need to adjust our perspective.

God knew beforehand what we would need. We had everything we needed, when we needed it!

If you feel you’re in a dry place, like nothing may be happening for you, you can be confident that God is always at work on your behalf.  He is working on many levels to bring us into a deeper relationship with Him. His desires are for us to know how dearly loved we are, and trust Him no matter how circumstances appear.

In our situation, He didn’t erase the memory of where we said we’d be from any of our friends’ minds. They simply forgot. I’ve done the same thing! Maybe you have to! He brought it back to mind when it needed to be.  In the meantime, we had a choice:: to enjoy our time, while trusting God, or to become fearful.  Honestly, my emotions went up and down dependent upon the thoughts that ran through my mind. Though I tried to keep a calm, strong exterior for our kids’ sakes, I’m pretty sure I didn’t pull it off!

This was tough to go through. What we learned through that situation has carried us through other challenges in life. When you learn for yourself that God is loving, kind, and completely trustworthy, you won’t let the circumstances shape your belief about Him. You’ll then have a stone of remembrance  with which you’ll use to build up your confidence in the future.

Whatever you’re experiencing today, let God persuade your heart of the Truth about Him, as well as the Truth about who you are because you belong to Him!  As He is, so ARE you! ~1 Jn.4:17b. He’s your Good, GOOD Father!!




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