Messiah hikers come to the rescue
|On March 14, Messiah College gave a heroes' welcome to the Messiah students and educators (left to right) who rescued four hikers: Jordan Windholz '05; Derek Rosenberger '06; Lucas Sheaffer '05; Ryan Wilson, resident director of Bittner Hall and Mellinger Apartments; C. J. Hill '06; and Craig Dalen, resident direcctor of Witmer Residence.
The trip began sunny and warm, but temperatures soon plummeted and blizzard conditions intensified as six young men from Messiah
hiked to higher elevations, pressing on toward their goal of covering 60 miles through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although the hikers from Messiah had planned for and packed to handle any weather, other hikers, as they were soon to discover, were not so well prepared. Only 20 miles into their hike, the Messiah group came across a group of young men whose gear and clothing were not sufficient for the rapidly changing conditions. Hypothermia had already begun to set in for one hiker.
Immediately, the Messiah men put their wilderness survival skills to the test. Two resident directors from the College, Craig Dalen and Ryan Wilson, set off to get help, while the remaining four, all College resident assistants, stayed to assist the other hikers, who were all college students themselves. The Messiah group realized the situation was serious when hiker Matthew Schultz began shaking uncontrollably and displaying
incoherent behavior—early signs of hypothermia.
“One by one, each of us stepped up into a helping role,” says Wilson. “The sight of Matthew vomiting and shaking violently was enough to know that I had a responsibility to act.” Park rangers, alerted by Dalen and Wilson, returned in time for Schultz to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, as he was too weak to hike out of the mountains.
Like the Messiah Six, the other hikers had set off on the trail on a bright, sunny day. But their gear and clothing became soaked by a daytime rain, which turned into a blizzard overnight, freezing their clothing and gear. The hikers from Messiah, three of whom were trained in wilderness first-response techniques, were well prepared to respond to such critical situations. “We could never have seen this, or hoped this, but in retrospect, God was preparing us for the situation for weeks, maybe months,” says Jordan Windholz ’05. “God taught me a lot of lessons, like that he is good, and our vision is limited. Just roll with it and trust God; who knows what he has in store for you.”
Anticipating a time of intentional fellowship and physical challenge, C. J. Hill ’06, Lucas Sheaffer ’05, Derek Rosenberger ’06, and Windholz, along with Messiah employees Dalen and Wilson, had carefully planned out their trip—complete with Bible study times. They set off that day in early March to hike through the park—as well as to grow together in their faith—and they returned to campus as heroes. Local and national media—including CNN, Fox News, and The Philadelphia Inquirer—picked up the hikers’ story of selfless heroism and broadcast interviews in which the men talked about the role service and faith play in their lives.
“In situations such as ours, there are no decisions to be made in terms of ‘do we help or don’t we?’” says Hill. “The question becomes, ‘how
can we best help?’” Although they had not hiked the full 60 miles they had hoped to complete, the Messiah Six, satisfied that they had accomplished something even more meaningful, chose to come home early—but not before enjoying a hearty steak dinner.
—Dulcimer Hope Brubaker '04