The spread world-wide of the COVID-19 virus has brought to mind a life or death race by dogsled that took place in Alaska nearly a century ago. In 1925, an outbreak of the deadly and highly contagious disease of diphtheria broke out in Nome, a remote town on the west coast of Alaska that was established when gold was discovered there in 1898. By 1899, Nome’s population reached 10,000. There were about 1500 people still living there when the diphtheria epidemic hit in the winter of 1925.
The lone doctor in Nome knew the only hope of saving countless young lives was to get a vaccine within days, but the only source was in Anchorage, some 1,000 miles away. This was before airplanes and snowmobiles were used to deliver supplies and mail. Dogsleds were the main means of travel and delivery of supplies. Time was of the essence, as people were dying and the serum needed to get there as quickly as possible. The serum traveled by train to Nenana, where a dogsled team picked it up and took it to Nulato where another team would take it to Nome, another 674 miles. It took a team from the Postal Service an average of 25 days to go from Nulato to Nome, but in the extreme cold (temperatures form -60 to -70 degrees Fahrenheit), and high winds, the serum would last only about six days. So, they set up a relay race with 20 mushers and their dogsled teams and, in spite of the extreme weather and a near-deadly shortcut, the serum arrived in Nome in five days and 7 1/2 hours! Many lives were saved by a chain of people who urgently worked together–each doing his part–to deliver life to people who otherwise would be doomed.
Joe Redington, Sr., who lived in Alaska and spent much time using dog teams himself in his work, in order to preserve the culture of sled dogs and their use in Alaska, established “The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” (nicknamed “The Last Great Race on Earth”) in 1973. It begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. The Iditarod Trail was actually cleared in 1908 by government employees but it wasn’t until the 1910 gold discoveries in Iditarod (now a ghost town) and other communities, that it became regularly used to get supplies and mail to miners and settlements–delivered, of course, by dog teams. It also provided the route for gold to be sent out of Alaska when the Bering Sea was frozen, preventing ships from reaching Nome. Dog teams carried gold to the ice-free bay at Seward to be loaded on ships there.
Joe also established “The Serum Run Race” from Nualto to Nome. It is nicknamed “The Great Mercy Run.”
There is a life-or-death race going on in our world right now–“The Great Mercy Run” to get the life-saving message of Jesus to people who will die without it. And, like the mushers delivering the life-saving serum to those in Nome, Alaska faced great adversity from the severe cold, wind and blizzards, those today who bear the “Good News” of the Gospel of Christ also face much opposition from the enemy of our souls who is doing everything possible to stop the “serum carriers.” He is, according to Scripture, “Filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12 NIV). As we observe the condition of the world today with the constant conflicts and wars and sexual perversion and political unrest and anti-semitism, we can’t help but think that the time is very near for Jesus to return, meaning folks who are dying of the “sin virus,” have very little time and we need to get the “serum” to them ASAP! The Apostle Paul had a prayer request that surely applies today: “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men…and protected from the evil one” (II Thes. 3:1-3 NIV). Billions of people are dying and the “serum” of the Gospel is their only hope. Their eternal life depends on it and the enemy is doing all he can to keep them from receiving it. We each need to be part of the “rescue team” bringing them the one thing that can save them–the good news that Jesus died to pay the penalty of their sin, was buried, and rose again. He loves them and will grant them eternal life if they receive Him into their life as the only means of salvation. For, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12 NASB). If you do not have the Son in your life, invite Him in today. If you do, be part of the Great Mercy Run. Time is short.