From the Pulpit – Getting to the top over the dead bodies of others

Pastor Samek asks whether you will rescue others or ignore them in your quest to reach the top.

Recently we heard in the news about 16 Sherpas who perished under an avalanche on Mt Everest. What a tragic event!

Several months ago I read another article about the high percentage of casualties occurring during climbs to Mt. Everest and other mega peaks.

Reaching its top is a dream of many people, but the risk is high, and many underestimate dangers connected with these climbs. Statistics are sobering: In 2008, 3,684 individuals attempted climb Mt. Everest, 210 died (5.7 per cent). The same year 10,229 attempted climb 8,000 metres and higher peaks of which 711 died (7 per cent).

The highest percentage of death was on Mt. Annapurna – out of 153 climbers 58 died (38 per cent)! Why do many men and women take such risks? Most die on their way down after they had reached their coveted goal. They die of exhaustion, run out of oxygen, have a simple fall and break a leg or arm. What is most shocking is that many need not have died if someone  would have helped them.

One story shared by one of the climbers suffices: “On my climb up I passed by two fresh dead bodies. They must come to realize they would die but lacked strength to crawl aside. They remained connected to the rope and other climbers were stepping over them. Then I noticed another climber lay on the rocks. It was Aydin Irmack from Turkey; we met in the lower camp. He was partly unconscious had no gloves or oxygen supply left. He gave up and waited for his end. Others were passing him by. I realized that if I do the same he’ll die.”

This is not fiction, it happened in May 2012. A 24 year old Israeli climber, Nadav Ben Yehuda, aborted his climb just 300 metres below the top. He decided to save the life of a stranger and forfeit his life ambition becoming the youngest Israeli ever to reach the top. For nine hours he worked hard to bring Irmack’s body down the mountain.

Most of the climbers on their way up refused to help. When asked, they would not respond, looked sideways, pursuing their goals. Many others have been left die along that trail because climbers, invested in their climbs, were focused solely on their goals. It is estimated that 200 bodies lay scattered and ignored on the rocks of Mt. Everest, unburied.

“What is the value of human life?” and “What can a person give in exchange for his life?” were questions Jesus asked one day. How do we value life? Is pursuit of our goals reason to step over those who need our help? Nadav Ben Yehuda didn’t. All around us are people with deep inner wounds, exhausted from battling varied adversities. Then along comes you pursuing your life’s ambitions and you face a dilemma. Will you press on or will you help to save the wounded and weak?

Jesus told the parable of “the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). He was pursuing his business until he saw a wounded Jew who was robbed, beaten and left wounded to die by the road. There were two men from a high religious office who passed by the dying man pursuing their religion’s agenda. Now, Samaritans were hated by the Jews those days and vice versa. But this Samaritan did not allow other man’s (or his own) racial, ethnic or religious prejudices or animosities nor his own business interests to override his sense of common humanness with the wounded, bleeding sufferer. Without his prompt help he would die. In a sense, this is what our Creator did for us. He came to our dying planet as one of us to rescue prejudiced, unwelcoming and helpless humanity.

You may be in the position of those two dying men in our story, or you may be someone strong and successful climbing to reach your high goals and life’s ambition. Maybe right now you feel exhausted, worn out, defeated and giving up. Many reaching after life’s illusive dreams, find them empty, feeling like dying on the inside. Trying come back where the “normal wholesome life” is lived can seem beyond your strength. The Lord of Life understands. He won’t step over you or pass you by. He’ll gently care for you, heal your wounds and lead you to where real and safe life is lived. Most often, He works through human helpers – people like Nadav Ben Yehuda or “the Good Samaritan” in the parable Jesus told. I pray He will bring one into your life or if you are the strong one move your heart to become one.

Pastor Karel Samek, Ashcroft 7th Day Adventist Church

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