Thanks to folks who persist in search and rescue

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When authorities brought in Rich Cassens and his K9 “Groot” to assist in the location of a Palo Alto, California couple missing eight days, the quest transitioned from “search and rescue” to “search and recovery.”

“I was called in because my dog is certified in locating human remains,” Cassen said.

The couple, Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin, went missing from their rental cottage in Inverness on Valentine’s Day. When housekeeping showed up the next morning, their car and cell phones were there, but the couple was not. Eventually, authorities were alerted.

Over the next eight days, multiple agencies assisted, including the U.S. Coast guard. Numerous volunteers and drones scoured the countryside, hoping to find the couple in their 70s alive.

Saturday, February 22 arrived, and 70 Marin County sheriff’s office searchers gathered at a local fire department to take assignments and continue looking.

At that point, they expected the worse, shared Quincy Webster, 18, a high school senior and rescue volunteer, who was paired with Cassens. They were assigned a drainage area about three miles away from the couple’s cabin. They started at the beach, sloshed through thick mud as they followed the drainage and hit extremely thick vegetation. No trail, just trees and thick underbrush.

They whacked their way into the density, using their hands and body to inch through. They kept going for over an hour when they thought they heard voices.

“We looked at each other and thought, ‘That’s kind of odd,’” said Classen. We weren’t expecting somebody to be yelling for help.”

He signaled Groot to follow the voice as the pair forced their way through the foliage. When the rescuers finally reached Irwin and Kiparsky, the couple was shocked, then elated. Scratched, cut up and beaten, they had survived by drinking puddle water and eating wild fern fronds.

However, they made it out and continue to their recovery. As one Palo Alto Weekly reader posted, “Thanks to all the folks who never gave up. You are the real heroes.” (https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/02/25/two-volunteers-one-dog-and-the-story-of-the-palo-alto-couples-unlikely-rescue, accessed 3/2/20).

Jesus never gave up on the lost. Whether it was the multitudes who appeared to Him as sheep without a shepherd, or individuals like the woman at the well who needed Living Water, Jesus cared about the lost. He said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10), referring to those who had yet to come to Him in salvation. He told stories expressing the urgency of finding that which is lost (see Luke 15) and the rejoicing taking place in heaven when the lost are found.

Never giving up is one key. Persistently praying for the lost is another. As a pastor, I regularly hear prayer requests and many public prayers, but I rarely hear concern expressed for the lost and rarely hear the lost prayed for by name.

We can learn a lot from George Mueller. Mueller founded schools and orphanages while serving as a missionary in Bristol, England, in the 1800s. His example of faith and testimonies of God’s miraculous provision provide inspiration today. He practiced persistent prayer for the lost.

He shared, “In 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission.” Eighteen months later the first of five was converted.

“I thanked God and prayed on for the others,” he added. Five years later, the second person was converted. He continued to pray for them by name day after day and six years later the third was converted. Two remained and Mueller persisted in prayer.

Thirty-six years passed and they were still unconverted. On the day of Mueller’s funeral, the fourth man came to Christ at Mueller’s graveside. Several years later, the fifth man came to Christ.

Mueller shared before his death, “The great point is never give up until the answer comes. I have been praying for 63 years and eight months for one man’s conversion. He is not saved yet, but he will be. How can it not be otherwise? I am praying!”

What if the rescue team called off their search after the seventh day? The California couple may not have made it. What if we give up one prayer too soon? What if we quit seeking and persisting? Do we care enough to seek out and pray for the lost? Jesus did.

[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road, near McCurry Park, and invites you to join them this Sunday. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org and “like” them on Facebook.]