Editor’s Note: So many girls across the country have been preparing speeches for the Lads to Leaders convention and were unable to give them because it was cancelled. We are spending the next few weeks celebrating the hard work of these young ladies by sharing their speeches with you! We are so incredibly proud of them and know that you will be encouraged and uplifted by their words.
MacKenzie Scarborough – Grade 11
Central Church of Christ Smyrna, GA
Every journey begins with a single step in the right direction, but when we don’t have our eyes fixed on the outcome, it’s all too easy to veer off track and become lost. No one knew this quite like a young California couple traveling during wintertime. When they left on their journey, no one could have guessed how lost they would truly become.
James and Jennifer Stolpa and their 5-month-old son were headed for a family funeral in Idaho. They left that day, singing and laughing, without a care in the world. They didn’t realize that their world was about to be turned upside down.
Psalm 16:11 says “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”. That joy can only be known in Christ. Without it, we are lost. Sometimes, we start to think we are invincible, don’t we? Just like this couple, we go about without a care in the world. Our focus becomes blurry. When we finally come out of our excitable fog, we realize we don’t know where we are. We wonder How could I have become so far away from who I was or where I should be?
During the winter of 1993, nearly 22 feet of snow fell in Idaho. It was one of the snowiest Januarys in the past 93 years. They had a huge problem. Hastily they decided to change their plans and take an unmaintained secondary road. Ultimately, their pickup bogged down in snow. There was nowhere to go. They were trapped.
That unmaintained secondary road will get us in trouble every single time. Think about the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. That sheep wandered away from the fold. He was lost, hopeless and afraid. Deuteronomy 31:6 says “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” During our lowest moments, we must realize that we have to find our Guide to get back on the straight and narrow.
The Stolpas spent 5 days hoping for rescue, but none came. Low temps and little food made the couple realize that they were in trouble. They had to do something. So, they started walking 12 miles through waist-deep snow until the road disappeared. Then, they struggled through the snow for another 28 hours. They were exhausted and losing all hope.
We have to recognize that a lack of faith can make us lose our way. We must remember the journey is not always easy. You might have to make a few pit stops, and might even go through a few snowstorms, but through it all, fruit is being built. You are becoming stronger, and your faith and reliance in Christ is growing.
Back to the story. Realizing that Jennifer was tired and weak, they knew they needed to do something else. Luckily, James spotted a small cave in the side of a cliff. They knew this was a temporary fix and soon realized they would freeze to death if they didn’t do something else. James made a plan to leave them in the cave, head back to the original pat and try to find some help.
Sometimes the way back is so simple that it almost feels complicated but we must have faith. James 1:2-4 says “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Faith is like a muscle that you strengthen through constant contact with God. With that contact, your faith grows, and you are not as apt to stray from the journey.
So, once the decision had been made, James started the journey back. Before long, the snow, cold temperatures, lack of food, and pure exhaustion began to take a toll on him. For 18 grueling hours, he struggled against the elements with predators stalking him right and left, but the desperate father was determined. By nightfall, he finally reached his truck.
You know that as soon as you are seeking the correct journey, that wolf will be on you. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The devil wants you to fail. He is unmerciful. You have to constantly be ready for the attack. We must connect with scripture daily in order to protect us from being devoured.
The next morning, James went back the way they had originally came. He pushed on for nearly 30 hours, covering more than 40 miles. Eight days had now passed. Finally, on January 6th, James saw a glimmer of hope and started running for dear life. It was a road worker in a truck. James yanked open the truck door and embraced the driver in a hug. James was barely alive, but he had made it.
Does this not remind you of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15? The son came home stinking from pig filth, weak and hopeless and the Father ran out and hugged him. He was not shunned because of the way he looked or what he had done. He was welcomed with open arms. At our weakest moment, we are grateful for grace and mercy to bring us back to the fold.
James was okay but I bet you are wondering if his wife and child made it? Well, James provided detailed information and rescuers soon found Jennifer and their child safe. The rescuers gave James high marks for his fateful choices to save his family. They said, “They made a bad decision at the beginning of their journey, but they made a lot of good decisions near the end”.
That statement alone can give us comfort. Bad decisions separate us from God. Romans 8:38 says “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, or height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. There is no amount of distance that can keep us from God’s love. We just have to make a lot of good decisions to get back.
The baby came through in excellent condition. The parents, however, were not so lucky. They were seriously injured and had to undergo many surgeries. They each lost toes and it took them over a year to learn to walk again.
Repentance does not mean that we are free from the consequences of our actions. We all have scars. Their purpose is not to cause us daily grief but to remind us of how merciful and gracious our Lord is and to keep us away from further sin. Don’t let those scars keep you from the love of God.
James and Jennifer had no idea that that day would be one that could have cost them their lives. Luckily, they found their way back and were rescued. My question to you is this: Are you lost? Have you gone down that unmaintained secondary road? Isaiah 41:10 tells us “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Jesus will always be there with open arms. Will you allow him to guide you in your journey or will you continue to head in the wrong direction? The choice is yours.