There were four of us. Part of the reason to climb the volcano was to climb a mountain and have a fun hiking experience. And part of the reason to climb the volcano was to address the spiritual context of the region and ask God to do a work. So the people in this tribe were very strong Muslims. There’s a lot of supernatural beliefs and a lot of spiritual power in this area. The volcano is known as a site of spiritual power. It’s like a high place in the Old Testament. It talks about building altars and worshipping on the high places. So part of bringing the gospel into an area that it has never been before involves asking God through the power of the Holy Spirit to break the strongholds and principalities.
Sunday morning July 5th, 1992 we climbed the volcano, got to the very top of the volcano and we had a praise and worship service and we had a prayer time praying for the gospel of Jesus Christ to visit those people and penetrate the villages that we could see from the top of that mountain. Now in the center of the bowl, there’s a really deep hole and the sides are really steep. As we turned to walk away from that hole in the center of the bowl, that’s when it exploded. This volcano hadn’t had an eruption like that since 1976. So, the timing of that eruption is pretty remarkable. I’ve got a picture that was taken by that other climbing team. And that’s the picture of the explosion. It was like Mount St. Helens. When it exploded, we heard the noise and we looked back. It was like looking at jet exhaust. We were like right next to it as it went up in the air and missed us by just a few yards. Well, so the response was to run and so we ran for about eight seconds before the debris started falling on us. These rocks that fell on us, some of the rocks were about the size of my fist. Some of the rocks were the size of a bowling ball. They began to pelt us. When they hit, they were so hot that I was wearing a wool jacket, a flannel shirt and a t-shirt and they burned instantly. In the time it took them to hit and bounce off, they burned through all the layers of my clothes and gave me a third-degree burn. So there was a big rock sitting there that we had to run past in order to get up out of the crater and when we started getting pelted with the hot rocks, we dove underneath the edge of that rock. John whose leg was sticking out, a rock landed on his leg and cracked his leg. Some of the rocks would hit and bounce and roll. They would roll, blend and still burn us. The noise was like standing next to a jet engine. It was a constant roar. Yeah, you couldn’t hear without shouting at each other.
We prayed while we were hiding underneath that rock and asked the Lord to protect us and stop the volcano. Volcanoes throb, they erupt in pulses. So, we were able to hide in that cleft, or in the knee of that rock for about five minutes. Then the intensity of the eruption let up. We were able to then take that opportunity to climb the rest of the way out of the crater and make it down to the tree line where we made a splint for John’s leg. We were still blanketed with sand. That’s one of the reasons we got up and left when we did, is that we started getting covered with sand and I was afraid we were going to be buried. It took about eight hours to climb down the mountain in our injured condition. The other climbing group was at the top of the mountain when we were there and it took about a week before they were able to climb and recover the body of one of the Indonesian climbers who was hit with a rock and killed.
The eruption happened in 1992. So it was about the middle of our time in Indonesia. By the time we left in 1996 we had seen the Lord create a congregation of majority people in that area that hadn’t existed before. We had been able to spearhead a Bible translation project. The scriptures had never been produced or printed in this particular language. The New Testament was finished in 1996 (the year we left). This is the article that was in USA Today. This is the Guidepost article. The correlation between the eruption and our praise and worship from prayer time wasn’t mentioned in any of those stories. The scientific thing is always well, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But I believe that there was a cause and effect relationship with those prayers and the material world.
The book of Revelation talks about the prayers of the saints being collected in Heaven. They go up as incense before the throne. And the angels gather the prayers in the golden censer and hurl the prayers down to the earth and there are earthquakes, lightening and peals of thunder. So there’s a cause and effect relationship between the prayers of the saints and events on earth.