I always enjoy hearing from those who have chosen to subscribe to receive my monthly newsletter*, but I particularly love it when they choose to share their own “light through the cracks” stories with me.
One that came to me, just recently, was from a man called Arnold.
He and his family spent a period of time living and working in Chile in Latin America, where they saw several incredible “light through the cracks” stories unfold, and which gave them a real heart for the Chilean people.
This is one of his stories, which I’m sharing here, with his blessing.
Arnold has had an inspirational idea for raising much-needed funds.
Now in the UK, he has persuaded a group of 30 people to join him in climbing 15 mountain peaks in Wales’ largest National Park, known locally as Eryri or Snowdonia. All the peaks are more than 3000 feet high, and the total walking distance is 26 miles, the equivalent of a marathon. The idea is to complete the challenge in under 24 hours, and to raise sponsorship in the process.
Some of the group are friends from Arnold’s church; others are colleagues from his company. But all of them are buoyed up by the knowledge that the funds will secure the success of a self-build housing project for some indigenous families who live at 8000 feet above sea level in the Chilean Andes.
“If we had known in advance how hard it would be, we might not have embarked on it,” Arnold concedes. “One indication of its difficulty was that there was a man on the walk, who acquired such serious blisters, that he had to spend the following three days in a wheelchair! He had been determined to finish, because someone had promised him a lot of money if he completed all 15 peaks, but he was in huge amounts of pain.”
Although in his early 60s, Arnold is undeterred. He organises three minibuses and drivers, before dividing the group into small teams, with him joining the team that is likely to walk the route at the slowest pace.
It is mid-summer, when the days are at their longest in the UK, and Arnold’s team sets off mid-morning. By late afternoon, they complete the first of the mountain ranges, before heading southwards, where they descend into a valley, ready to climb the second of the three mountain ranges.
The aim is to complete this range before nightfall, before descending into Llanberis to have a few hours’ sleep in the youth hostel there. In the early hours of the morning, they will set off again to climb the third and final mountain range, including Snowdon itself.
The youngest member of Arnold’s team is a man called Robert, who is particularly slow. By the time he and Arnold reach the beginning of the second mountain range, two members of the team have given up waiting and have gone on ahead. There are only three of them left – Arnold, Robert and a young friend of Robert’s.
Part way through the second mountain range, on an ascent, Robert is finding it hard to get his breath. When they reach the ridge, he starts to complain of pains around his heart.
“We knew we were in trouble,” Arnold tells me. “Climbing the remaining mountains in the range was clearly out of the question. Robert was an invalid, and there was only an hour or so of daylight left. We were nearly 3000 feet above sea level and we had no means of communication with the world below. There was only one thing we could do: PRAY!”
Robert’s friend insists he is an atheist, but Arnold prays out loud, regardless. He simply asks the Lord to help them, and he senses that his prayer has been heard.
Ahead of them, they can see a crossroads, by a lake. There is a path that goes straight on, heading up to the next mountain on the planned route. The path to the right descends through the Devil’s Kitchen to a valley. And the path to the left, much less used, descends into Llanberis Valley, where the youth hostel is located.
“We were struggling downwards to this crossroads, Robert’s friend and I supporting him as best we could,” Arnold tells me. “Then, all of a sudden, like a mountain goat, a man came bounding down the shale-covered mountainside behind us.”
“Are you all right?” he asks, skidding to a halt.
“No,” Arnold replies. “My friend is complaining of heart trouble, so we are going to try to get him down to Llanberis.”
“The Llanberis track is easy to start with,” the man says, “but it’s very steep at the bottom, and it will be dark by the time you get there, so it would be dangerous. You’re safer going this other way. It’s steep to start with, but after that it’s easy.”
He speaks with authority, clearly familiar with the terrain.
“We can get through the Devil’s Kitchen while there’s still some light,” he says, “and, if you’ll come with me, I’ll lead you down.”
Without another word, the man takes the lead. Arnold and his companions follow him in silence, daylight rapidly fading, as they descend through the Devil’s Kitchen to the valley below.
At the bottom, they turn around to thank him.
But he is no longer there. He has simply vanished.
Once in the valley, Arnold is able to get a mobile phone signal, using an emergency handset, to call one of the minibus drivers to come and pick them up.
In the early hours of the following morning, he goes on to join one of the other teams, successfully completing 13 out of the 15 peaks in the allotted timeframe – while Robert is given the all-clear in a medical check.
“I’ve always wondered about the man who rescued us on that mountain,” Arnold tells me. “My sense is that he was an angel, who the Lord sent to help us, in response to my prayer.”
Maybe you have been in a situation where you have no means of communication. If this is you, how did you respond? Were you like Arnold, who knew that the only thing he could do was pray?
Or maybe you have had an experience like Arnold’s, where you have prayed in response to a precarious situation. If so, what happened? Were you able to see the Lord send you someone to help you in your moment of need?
Or maybe you have had an encounter, like Arnold, where you have turned around to thank someone, who has simply disappeared. Have you ever stopped and considered how that person may have been an angel?
As ever, all constructive comments would be welcome below.