They call it the death zone.
Since Edmund Hillary summitted Mt Everest in the 1950s, over 280 people have died climbing Mt Everest. They breathed their last in the death zone where there is not enough oxygen available for humans to survive. Some of their bodies still lie contorted on that frozen landscape.
In May 2006, the Australian Lincoln Hall lay dying in the death zone. He had summitted Everest and was descending with his fellow expeditioners when he became delirious, a sign of fluid on the brain. Fellow climbers ascending and descending felt he was a lost cause and left him to die. His wife and teenage sons were relayed the message that he was dead.
There he lay all night at 8,700 meters. But that next day something truly inspiring and God-like would happen in the death zone.
A Canadian climber and Calgary teacher, Andrew Brash, was making his second attempt at reaching the top of the world’s tallest peak. He was just 200 meters from the summit when he came upon the frozen Lincoln Hall.
And then, near the top of Mt Everest, an astounding act of love played out.
What is love? An erotic feeling? A maudlin sentiment? A deep emotion? Here’s what the Bible tells us about real love…
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” Ephesians 2:4
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love.” Ephesians 5:1-2
Love sees our neighbor, the one in need; and motivated by compassionate concern for their well-being, sacrifices private interests in search of the well-being of others.
This is real love as far as God is concerned. This is how he loved…giving himself, sacrificing for you and for me. Our Lord Jesus “made himself nothing” and took on “the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:7)
When Andrew Brash rounded that rock and encountered the frozen body of Lincoln Hall, he had a choice. To turn away and keep climbing, to realize his private expedition dream; or to turn back, and motivated by compassionate concern sacrificially serve someone in need.
It was the same choice that 40 other mountaineers had that same year when they encountered the Englishman, David Sharp, as he began to succumb in the death zone. They choose not to assist David. It made no difference if they were ascending or descending. They all passed by. And David died alone on Mt Everest.
(Does this remind you of the passers-by in Good Samaritan story of Luke 10:33?)
But Andrew Sharp did not pass by. Amazingly, he turned his back on the Summit. He sacrificed his life-long goal. He gave up everything he had trained for, to sacrificially serve another human being.
With limited oxygen left, he stopped, he stooped down and began to save Andrew Hall. Tea was warmed. Limbs were massaged. Other mountaineers joined in. Somehow, Andrew miraculously revived and was carried down to safety. The summit receded…but Andrew was saved!
It is not likely that any of us as Corpath members will find ourselves climbing in the death zone of Mt Everest and come across someone in desperate need.
But God knows each of us will encounter moments ahead when the needs of a community neighbour on our street, a struggling family member, a hurting employee, a marginalized city resident, a needy fellow traveller on the journey of life, will suddenly appear and their presence will interrogate our private interests.
And like Andrew Brash, we will have a choice. Something will win the day; private interests or the needs of others. Our own personal peace, pleasure, affluence, and well-being, or the call to be a servant.
I hope it will be said of Corpath members that we voted with Andrew Brash, that we voted with God. For as the Apostle John so clearly reminds us,
“Dear children. Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth…” 1 John 3:19
Thank you, Jesus, that by your great love you rescued us from our spiritual death zone. Help each one of us to imitate you and live a life of love.
Blessings for a good week ahead,