The greatest ever rescue

Last Wednesday afternoon a huge avalanche hit Hotel Rigopiano, in central Italy, at an estimated speed of 60mph. Following several earthquakes, guests had gathered on the ground floor of the four-star spa hotel to await evacuation. The avalanche caused the roof to collapse and moved the building 11 yards off its foundations. More than 30 people were known to be in the hotel, including some children. The first rescuers arrived, by helicopter and ski, 12 hours later and faced the complex and urgent task of trying to find survivors.

In the early stages of the rescue there were no signs of life and it was feared that everyone had died. Giampiero Parete was staying at the hotel with his wife and 2 children. They were on a special holiday. Moments before the avalanche struck Giampero left the hotel to get some headache tablets for his wife from their car. He immediately raised the alarm and then waited for help to come fearing that his wife and children had died. On the second day of the rescue Giampero’s wife, Adriana, his 7-year-old son, Gianfilipo, and 6-year-old daughter, Ludovica, were pulled out of the rubble alive. In all 9 people have been rescued, 23 are still missing and 6 have died.

It is always inspiring to watch dedicated rescue teams using all their skills, and the resources at their disposal, to save the lives of those caught up in disasters. Often they are willing to put their lives in danger to save others. We share their joy when people are found alive and are rescued and, also, their sadness when they find the bodies of those who have died.

The message of the Bible is about the greatest ever rescue. Religions usually teach the things we must do in order to find acceptance with God. The good news of the Gospel is about what God has done in Jesus to rescue us. We are all in great need of being rescued. We live in a world of suffering and death and also struggle personally to do what we know is right. The obituaries of the rich and famous often reveal deep sadness as they have struggled with addictions and broken relationships. Out of his great love for us, Jesus came into the world to rescue us and give us a future and a hope. A well-known hymn says, “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”


My help comes from the Lord

An avalanche on Mont Blanc has claimed the lives of 9 climbers, including 3 from Britain. They were part of a group of 28 experienced climbers who were attempting one of the most dangerous ascents in Europe to reach the summit of Mont Blanc. One of those who died, Roger Payne, was the mountain guide for the party and had been the General Secretary of the British Mountaineering Council. He had taken part in more than 20 expeditions to some of the world’s most difficult peaks, including the notorious K2 in the Himalayas. His love of climbing began through his scout group in Hammersmith, West London, and he developed his skills in the Scottish and Welsh mountains. A friend said, “He loved the mountains.”

It is easy to understand why people love the mountains. The photographs of the rescue team at work reveal the awesome beauty of the Mont Blanc massif as it towers above them. The bright sunshine, the white snow and the rugged peaks give little indication of the tragedy which had taken place just a few hours before. Climbers will continue to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, to achieve an ambition and to experience the beauty of God’s creation.

In Psalm 121 the psalmist reflects on the greatness and beauty of the hills. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Walking and climbing in the mountains make us feel how small we are. The mountains tower above us. They were here before we were born and will continue after we die. We are all so vulnerable and life is so frail. We need help, but the mountains cannot help us.

The help we need comes from the One who created the mountains – the Creator of heaven and earth. He watches over us and never sleeps. He keeps our feet from slipping and keeps us from all harm. He watches over our coming and going both now and for evermore. Life in this world only makes sense in the light of eternity. When terrible tragedies happen and lives are lost there is One to whom we can turn. He understands our frailty and need. His Son, Jesus Christ, came into this world to demonstrate his love for us. This love is so great that nothing in all creation can separate us from it.