Lost In The Quetico


God Speaks Of Rescue To The Lost

by Eric Elkin

Don’t be afraid! I am with you.
From both east and west
    I will bring you together.
— Isaiah 43: 5

A friend of mine used to take canoe trips through Quetico Provincial Park in Southern Canada. These were not causal canoe trips, Quetico Provincial Park is 1,840 square miles of protected wilderness. Navigating the waterways of the park, means travelers need to canoe, portage and orienteer their way through a maze of over 600 lakes. There are very few road access points, no cell phone service, and limited rescue services.

Before each trip, the group would decide which one of the 21 entry points they would use and chart their course on maps. An aerial view of a route printed on a piece of paper, though, is easier to navigate than being on the water. Keeping track of east and west; north and south becomes critical for survival. 

One particular trip he told me about stays forged in my memory. They were deep in the middle of an area they had never traveled. They broke camp and started heading down a river connecting two lakes. Halfway down the river, the group realized they had left some vital piece of equipment back at their campsite. They decided to send one canoe back to get the forgotten gear; the other would travel up ahead to the lake and wait.

It sounded like such a simple plan. Except, there was a feature to the river no one noticed when the group left the campsite that morning, the river divided into two different directions. No one noticed it until leaving the campsite the second time. Now the retrieval canoe needed to decide which course to take. They could not remember which side they took in the morning but determined the river would feed the same lake.

Unfortunately, the side of the river they took went in a different direction and did not join the lake where the other canoe waited for them. The retrieval canoe also realized the maps were in the other canoe. The group was divided and lost. Now each decision about direction became even more critical. If they drifted too far away from known landmarks, they would be lost entirely. Yet, if they did not explore the area, the two canoes would not reunite.

Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valuable lessons. It is what we leave behind that is important. I think the matter of simplicity goes further than just food, equipment, and unnecessary gadgets; it goes into the matter of thoughts and objectives as well. When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost.
— Sigurd F. Olson

I cannot remember how long the two canoes were separated, but it was long enough to scare all the members in the group. All of them knew enough to realize they had dodged a bullet and were shaken by the experience. For some, it was their last “exploring” kind of canoe trip.

Most people will are not so adventurous as to go off into a remote wilderness. However, one does not really need to go into the wilderness to become lost. The recent government shutdown reveals how quickly families, unattached to the decision-making process, can become lost financially in a wilderness of commerce. Problems at work, difficulties in a relationship, struggles with health and private emotional issues, the kind we keep hidden from the outside world, can make us feel lost and alone.

If this type of feeling resonates with your current condition, open your ears, God is speaking to you. The message God wants you to hear is this, “Do not be afraid I am with you.” But the message is even more than that, God calls you by name and rescues you, even when traveling through deep waters. Something about those words calms my anxious soul. I hope they do for you as well.

Click to read Isaiah 43: 1-7

Reflection Questions:

  • When was a time you felt lost and alone?

  • What about that experience terrified you the most?

  • Who was involved in your “rescue?”

  • When has a word from God comforted your anxious soul?

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