If you asked Gina Allen (24) and Brandon Day (28) about the connection between themselves and hiker John Donovan, they would tell you the amazing story of how they were saved from perishing in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California.

Gina and Brandon decided to spend a part of their Saturday taking a short hike along a trail just west of Palm Springs. They were in California for a Financial Conference. They took no water, food, spare clothing or cell phone with them. They wandered off the trail but they weren’t too worried at first because they were still in range of people’s voices.

Brandon felt they were not too far off track and they would find the trail, maybe ‘around the next boulder.’ But by night time, they hadn’t found the trail. By this time they were shivering and hungry and they put in a sleepless, freezing night in a little cave.

The next morning, they struggled to follow a stream down the rocky hills. Sunday night arrived. Extremely tired, their sleep was repeatedly interrupted by their shiverings. They told themselves: “We’re going to get out of here. We’re not going to die. It’s not our time.

Monday was worse. Gina was weaker. “The very worst thoughts went through our mind, that we might be stuck here. I prayed a lot,” Gina said. (1)

Desperation. Freezing cold. Hungry. Dehydrated. Lost.

Later on Monday they discovered a campsite. No one was there. At first they were elated thinking that someone was temporarily away from the site and would return to help them. But they looked closer. The foam mat had been there for a long time. A poncho was hanging on branches for shade. There was a backpack. A disposable razor, a spoon and tennis shoes. The gear was wet. The radio and flashlight were corroded. This campsite had been ‘dead’ for a while.

Their hopes were dashed. No one was there. They sifted through the belongings. They found identification. John Donovan, 60, a retired social worker from Virginia.

Donovan was an experienced hiker and was doing the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to Canada but he vanished during icy weather on May 02, 2005. They read his last notes written on sketch paper and on the back of maps. The notes depicted a man without hope of rescue. “His last journal entry was one year ago to the day that we found it. We were looking at the words of a man who was passing,” Brandon said.

As the journalist reporting the story said: they found salvation in Donovan’s backpack: a warm sweater for Gina, dry socks for Brandon and matches. By Tuesday they used the matches to light a fire which burned an acre or two creating a huge smoke signal. A helicopter arrived to rescue them.

The rescued hikers said they had a ‘real special thanks’ for the man who is presumed dead. Donovan’s sad death a year earlier brought these two hikers salvation. Had it not been for his death they would have perished.

The Bible speaks of sinners wandering off God’s path and being lost in sin. With each passing day, sinners travel further and further off track. You can read in Isaiah chapter 53 about sinners who have gone astray like sheep. Although people try desperately hard to save themselves and to get back on track – the Bible says we have no strength to save ourselves. No human effort can put us on to God’s path. We are not in the process of becoming spiritually lost – we ARE lost now.

But have you come across the Man who died? Not Donovan this time. When I was lost in my sins, I came across a great discovery. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ. 2000 years earlier, Christ died for my sins. Among the last words He said just before He died on the Cross were: “It is finished.” He finished paying for my sins. I had a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe. He cried from the Cross: ‘Finished! Paid in full.’

Gina and Brandon have a very personal and special connection with Mr. Donovan who is presumed dead. They will never forget that because he died, they were able to live.

What about your connection with the Lord Jesus? Have you ever discovered that His death is the means whereby you can be saved? Do you have a very special thank you in your heart for the death of Christ?

I do and I pray you will too.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

(1) http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12737512 Couple Recalls How Missing Hiker Saved Them, May, 11, 2006