Encouragement To Reach Your Goals!


January 2006

Dear Ministry Partner,

It is reported that the ad in the newspaper read, "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Sir Ernest Shackleton." On August 8th, 1914, Ernest Shackleton set sail from England on his South Pole scientific expedition to make a transcontinental crossing of Antarctica with 27 other men whom he had selected from the hundreds who responded. (He had previously made two attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole for the English, but Roald Amundsen succeeded in planting a Norwegian flag on the South Pole a couple of years before this trip.) On November 5th, 1914, the team arrived at the Norwegian whaling station on South Georgia Island just above the Weddell Sea of Antarctica with a crew of 27 men and 69 sled-dogs. Their ship, the Endurance, was a three-masted boat especially designed to break through ice, and after stocking up on supplies they headed south on December 5th.

As the ship plowed through the Weddell Sea towards its landing point, it had to pick its way through 1,000 miles of unusually heavy pack ice with dropping temperatures over a six week period. When they were 100 miles from the solid land of Antarctica, an intense gale drove all the pieces of that pack ice into one giant mass, trapping the Endurance. For 10 months the ship sat as if set in cement, and the men maintained morale by organizing soccer matches, theatrical evenings, and haircutting tournaments (much of this in the sunless Antarctic winter).

With temperatures regularly below zero, it became clear that the seasonal weather had not broken the ice pack apart to free the Endurance, and preparations began to be made to abandon the ship and drag its three 20 foot long life boats to open water and try for inhabited land. This plan was executed just in time, as the enormous pressure of the ice pack broke the Endurance apart and she sank into the Antarctic Ocean below their feet on November 21st, 1915. Now there was only 48 inches of shifting ice between where they stood and the bottom of the ocean 1,000 feet below.

They had little to eat and terrible living conditions as the men dragged the heavy life boats with their supplies over the pressure ridges and difficult surfaces of the pack ice which was starting to break apart. One night, the ice split apart directly through the middle of their camp dropping one man in his sleeping bag into the water below. Shackleton reached down and grabbed the man's sleeping bag, pulling him up out of the water just before the ice closed back over where he had just been.

The men finally reached enough openings in the ice pack that they could float the boats and navigate the water on April 9th, 1916. They decided to make for the closest landfall they could see, a pitiful pile of rocks called Elephant Island far from any shipping lanes. This was a difficult sailing accomplishment but they did reach the island in a short time. Half starved, they at least had a monotonous diet now of penguin and seal, and solid land under their feet.

However, there was no chance of rescue. No ships passed that way. No radio at that time was capable of summoning help. Further, they had no real shelter other than their boats turned upside-down, and no building materials. Realizing they would eventually die on that island if they did nothing, Shackleton decided to take one of the three 20 foot boats, named the James Caird, and five hand-picked sailors, including a mutinous carpenter, and set sail across about 800 miles of thrashing sea for the closest inhabited land (which was the South Georgia Island they started from). They expected to encounter waves up to 50 feet tall from tip to trough (called "Cape Horn Rollers") in their relatively tiny boat. Their navigation was by a sextant and a chronometer of unknown accuracy, and they were dependent on sightings of the sun which could sometimes not be seen for weeks in the overcast weather so characteristic of those southern latitudes. The man they were depending on for guidance, Frank Worsley, had been the official captain of the Endurance, and they were now depending on him for their lives — because if Shackleton missed South Georgia Island 800 miles away, they would be lost at sea in the currents of the unpopulated south Atlantic ocean, leaving the crew left behind to perish.

On April 24th, the six men launched out in the 20 foot James Caird from Elephant Island leaving the rest of the crew there in survival mode — their fate resting on the success of Shackleton to reach the South Georgia Island whaling station and find a ship to return to rescue them. Shackleton's sailing progress was slow and the ocean was rough, but they were making progress at about 2 miles per hour. The sea was constantly spilling into the boat, so two men were always bailing the water out, one man was manning the rudder, one was navigating, and two men would try to sleep in the bottom of the wet boat which was filled with rocks for ballast. Ice built up on top of the boat to a depth of 15 inches, threatening to capsize them from the weight. Worsley was only able to take a total of four navigational sighting in 16 days at sea when the sky cleared enough to see the sunset and stars with his sextant. The rest of their navigating was just being led by the spirit.

However, they gained sight of South Georgia Island, but were blown back out to sea twice. Then on May 10th they were able to land in a small bay. They were on the uninhabited west side of the island, and the whaling station was on the east side. No one had ever crossed the 22 miles of snowy mountain range, glaciers, and crevasses that divided the island, but that was the only hope Shackleton had. They rested and regained some strength for a few days, then Shackleton selected two of the strongest men with him and set out across the mountain range for the east side. On the cold frozen mountains with no tent or sleeping bags, Shackleton knew they would freeze to death if they slept, so they just kept climbing and hiking for 5 straight days. They eventually had to wade down the length of an icy stream waist deep, and let themselves down by rope through a 30 foot snow-fed waterfall soaking wet, but they walked out within sight of the whaling station on May 20th, 1917, over a year and a half after they left.

Having arrived, Shackleton was able to use a large boat the next day to rescue his three men left on the opposite side of South Georgia Island. However, it took four attempts over several months before Shackleton succeeded in reaching Elephant Island in an ocean going vessel to pick up the rest of his crew on August 30th, 1916. The men there had survived over two years in the most miserable conditions imaginable, yet not a single man died of the original 28 that began the expedition. This was one of the most incredible examples of endurance and survival in history. (These facts can be verified through www.CoolAntarctica.com or an encyclopedia.)

Now by comparison, whatever difficulties you and I are going through seem fairly small. Shackleton's expedition ship was aptly named the Endurance. Shackleton was very concerned for the lives of the men depending on him, and he never gave up — he endured hardship and was able to save all the lives entrusted to him and counting on him.

You and I are modern day Shackletons. There are many lives depending on us — perhaps our spouse or children, perhaps other relatives, perhaps employees, neighbors or fellow church members. The unbelievers around us may not realize they are depending on us to be "saved", but being saved to them is more than being rescued off Elephant Island — it is being saved from "Hell Island" — and we may be the only ones who can reach them. And to do this, we need to have endurance — endurance to put up with persecution, rejection, divorce, loneliness, sickness, disease, injuries, hard times financially, crop failures, investment losses, business reversals, layoffs, misunderstandings, lawsuits, wrongful accusations, threats, intimidation — all realities of living in a fallen world. You have endured through many of these yourself and have demonstrated endurance or you would not be here. God appreciates your endurance! He has addressed this in His Word. "You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36). "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). You will never regret finishing the Christian journey of endurance, and standing before Jesus to hear, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." Your life is important, and we need your part in the work of God on the earth.

Encouraging Christian endurance,

Dale & Judi Leander


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