FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Answering the Call

with Rocky and Sharon McElveen | July 8, 2008
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Today on the broadcast, Rocky and Sharon McElveen, owners of Alaskan Adventures, talk enthusiastically about the Alaskan wilderness they love and the Creator who made it all. Hear Rocky call a grizzly, and listen as he tells about the plane ride that almost ended his life.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Rocky and Sharon McElveen, owners of Alaskan Adventures, talk enthusiastically about the Alaskan wilderness they love and the Creator who made it all. Hear Rocky call a grizzly, and listen as he tells about the plane ride that almost ended his life.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Today on the broadcast, Rocky and Sharon McElveen, owners of Alaskan Adventures, talk enthusiastically about the Alaskan wilderness they love and the Creator who made it all.

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Answering the Call

With Rocky and Sharon McElveen
July 08, 2008
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Bob: The Bible says "The heavens declare the glory of God."  So do the mountains and the rivers and the streams and the glaciers of Alaska.  Here is Rocky McElveen.

Rocky: As a guide in Alaska, I've been able to observe God's general call to all men everywhere that screams out "I am God." 

Bob: But Rocky says what he is seeing today is a growing movement of people worshipping, the Creation instead of the Creator.

Rocky: This general revelation has been taken away from our children.  In fact, I just coined a new word.  It's from humanity, we've made it "zoomanity," so that all the animals and all of the Creation are equal to God's primary pinnacle focus of man as His great caretaker, as His steward of all of this earth.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Like the hymn writer, Alaskan tour guide, Rocky McElveen says when he considers all the works God's hand has made, his soul sings "How Great Thou Art."  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I am more than half a century old, and I don't know if you know this, but I have never been hunting in my life.

Dennis: Well, now, did you go out in the swamps with us that one time when we went duck hunting?

Bob: No, that got canceled.  Somebody was sick on that trip, and I …

Dennis: Were you sick?

Bob: I was not sick.

Dennis: Did you get sick?

Bob: I was not the one who got …

Dennis: Did you do that on purpose?

Bob: I was not the one who got sick.  I did say, "Thank you, Jesus," when I found out somebody else was …

Dennis: It was going to be delightful.  We were going to stand up in water waist deep …

Bob: Four o'clock in the morning …

Dennis: Thirty-five degrees.

Bob: That just sounded insane to me.  Now, I taught riflery at Camp Lakewood, so I know how to fire a gun.

Dennis: I know just the guy for you.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: Rocky McElveen will put you on a grizzly in Alaska in a heartbeat.  It's just what you need, Bob.

Bob: It just sounds delightful.

Rocky: A good place to start.


Bob: It sounds like wading in 35-degree water at 4 in the morning.  I just can't wait.


Dennis: Well, we have a couple of guests with us on today's broadcast – Rocky and Sharon McElveen, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Sharon: Thanks, it's good to be here.

Rocky: Great to be here.

Dennis: Rocky and his wife give leadership to Alaskan Adventures, which is a hunting and fishing lodge in Alaska, and they've been sharing with us not only some stories from the wild but also some lessons that have been learned in life and, Rocky, before we came on the air here, you were talking some about how God has a call for us, and some of how you've seen a call being illustrated in the wild?  Is that right?

Rocky: Yeah, for an old, rusty guide like myself, I have a lot of time to sit in the tundra and think, waiting for animals or just waiting on planes or weather to break, and we call that the "deer stand philosophy time."  And so to wax a little bit philosophical in this broadcast, I just recently saw a movie with my wife – "Expelled."  Interesting.

Bob: Mm-hm.

Rocky: That this man is taking on all of the universities about how God created our planet.

Bob: The whole idea of intelligent design.

Rocky: Right, intelligent designs, and, amazingly, as I have sat in the wilderness for over 25 years now, all my life in Alaska, it's 50 years, I start seeing these wonderful, incredible signs of an intelligent design that I would call God, my Creator.  One of them is the way that God has designed a general, wonderful call to all men everywhere through this earth.

Dennis: Creation.

Rocky: Creation – every man, everywhere knows, simply by going outdoors, whether you look at a sunset in Florida or you're in the deserts of Iraq, you know that there is a Creator, a Designer, a purpose behind that place where we are.

Bob: The Bible scholars talk about "general revelation."  This is God's general revelation, and they point to Psalm 19, "the heavens declare the glory of God."  Romans 1 talks about how "Creation screams forth the reality of who God is."

Rocky: We laugh and say God must have been to Starbuck's the morning He created Alaska because of the mountains the rivers and …

Bob: He was a little wired.

Rocky: I mean, what was going on here?  I mean, you can't even walk across the land much less live in it, and so the very nature of Alaska is the climate and the winters and the challenges are formidable.

Dennis: Okay, Rocky, you've been in Alaska for all of your life.

Rocky: Yes, sir.

Dennis: What one thing – if you had to select one thing that declares the grandeur of God the best.

Rocky: Well, you and I both know that answer – it has to be the mountains.  The power of God– I believe all of His attributes are displayed through Creation in Alaska or anywhere in certain wonderful complex ways.  The power of God and His majesty and His grandeur are displayed in His mountains and, of course, we have the highest mountain in North America.  Many people come to Alaska simply to see these beautiful mountains and Mount Denali.

Dennis: And, you know, I wasn't sure how you would answer that, but that would have been what I said, because I've been to Alaska close to a dozen times and been in bush planes, I've landed on glaciers at 9,000 feet up, I've landed on ice fields 10,000 feet thick and looked up at this amphitheater of mountains that surrounds us, and it's like it does declare the grandeur of God and who He is.

Rocky: Oh, yes.

Dennis: But back to the call …

Rocky: Right.

Dennis: You've seen this issue of the call of God to people also demonstrated among the mammals.

Rocky: It's amazing, when you make your life – I met with a man down in Jackson, Mississippi, Will Primos, and he's made his life by imitating the calls of all of these animals in nature, and maybe you're sitting there right now with a rattle in your hand, or maybe you have a duck call or a turkey call, a scratch box, whatever you use, we've learned to imitate the sounds of loons and eagles and all kinds of reptiles – alligators, even, have a call.  They go down to the bottom of the lagoon, and they [makes popping sound], and they blow these little bubbles, and it says, "I love you.  Come see me tonight.  Yeah."

Dennis: Sharon, you've lived with him a long time.  Can you authenticate whether this is true or not?

Sharon: That's to another alligator.

Bob: He doesn't come up behind you and go [pop].

Rocky: Oh, maybe that was me with alligator shoes on, I don't know.


Bob: You brought – this is a call that you've got with you, right?

Rocky: Right, right.

Bob: What kind of a call is this?

Dennis: This is a homemade call, right?

Rocky: Yeah, well, we've been working on a mega death call to call in …

Bob: A mega death call?

Rocky: Yeah, I mean, why do we sit in the middle of Alaska as guides and call in raging grizzly bears?  And it's one of the most intense, exciting calls that I've ever had, and one of the most famous calls, of course, is just as I had with Billy Graham.  Well, I had the privilege of hunting and fishing, of course, with Franklin, his almost-as-famous son.  So Franklin and I – I told Franklin, "Come on out, and we'll call up a grizzly bear."  And Franklin laughed, but you know what?  He showed up.  We had a long night on a gravel bar, and I told Franklin, "Franklin, I can call you in a couple of bears with this new call, and you guys get ready."  We looked like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  As we went across the river – we all had hipboots on, and we started wading up a small creek that came into this river, and I started calling.

Dennis: Now, I've got to stop you here, because some of our listeners don't understand the magnitude and the size of a grizzly bear.  Put them in context just real quickly, Rocky.

Bob: Is he bigger than a middle linebacker on a football team?

Rocky: You know, they're a horse with a bad attitude.  These things are big – 600, 700, 800 pounds, and they can move so fast.  It's about like me when I haven't eaten in a couple of days.  Actually, we have a possible world record that we just donated to the Bass Pro in Scottsdale, Arizona, but the skull on that bear was 29 and 4/16 of an inch.  Now, just take two feet in front of you right now, and put your hand about – that's how big the skull was.

Bob: Take a yardstick and two-thirds of that …

Dennis: That's the head.

Rocky: That's the head.

Dennis: So that explains why they can eat big things.

Rocky: Yes, in fact, the bigger head you have, the less likely you are to die from a grizzly because they can't get their teeth around you.  That's my philosophy.

Bob: So why would you want to call these guys in in the first place?  I mean, I'd just say, "You guys stay where you are.  Have a nice time up there in the woods."  Why are you calling them in?

Rocky: I think that's the definition of a guide.  Just – that adventuresome, that on-the-edge, we're going to call these bears in, and we're going to stand mano y bearo, and we're going to win.


Bob: It might be the definition of …

Dennis: Mano y bearo?


Bob: It might be the definition of something else, but I'm not going to venture …

Rocky: No, really, it's like the shootout at the OK West Corral. 

Bob: Yeah?

Rocky: You're on one side, and here they are.

Dennis: But you could die.

Rocky: Absolutely.

Bob: So to call one of these in, you've got this – and, in fact, we should just alert our listeners, you are about to hear the sound of the call, and this is not …

Dennis: Turn the radio down lest there be any bears around.

Rocky: Right.

Bob: This is not a …

Rocky: If you're in a camp in Alaska, now is the time to turn your radio off.

Bob: This is not a female grizzly bear calling a male that we're going to hear, is it?

Rocky: No.  This is a sound – it will probably sound to some of you a lot like your husband.  This is the sound of a male grizzly who is killing the cubs of a female in order for the female to come into heat, or so that she will mate.

Bob: Wow.  So we're going to …

Rocky: It brings the whole family.

Bob: So are you ready to let her rip?

Rocky: Right.

Bob: Hang on, here we go.

Rocky: [squealing bear sound]

Bob: And that actually attracts somebody to come?  That gets bears going?

Rocky: Boy, it got me going!  Honey, let's go home!

Bob: Is that what you blew out in the woods with Franklin Graham?

Rocky: Exactly.

Dennis: And what did Franklin do when you …

Rocky: Well, at first, he kept looking at me, kind of, you know, that little slinky-eyed smile of his, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."  All of a sudden, two bears were upon us.  It was like Delilah and Sampson, the Philistines are upon you, you know, and I mean they were running full speed right down on top of us.

Dennis: How far away were they?

Rocky: By the time Franklin got his first shot off, it was probably 20 to 25 yards.

Dennis: And we're talking about some …

Rocky: Running, charging …

Dennis: Thirty miles an hour.

Rocky: … grizzly bears, right, and they thought – they never even stopped.  I mean, even when they saw who we were and what we were, they just kept coming because they were so convinced that Mama was going to be around the corner waiting for them.

Bob: None of them went, "That's Franklin Graham, we can't hurt him?"


Rocky: I thought maybe one of them would say, "Is that Just as I am?"

Bob: So you took both of the bear as they came?

Rocky: Yeah, we took both of the bears, and we started at 7, by 7:30 we had two bears down, threw them in the planes and took them home.  Beautiful.

Bob: I know that there are guides that you know who go out every day and see the grandeur of Alaska and they hear the calls of one animal to another …

Rocky: Right.

Bob: And yet they go back, and they don't have any acknowledgement that God created all of this, which really just points to the fact that the hardness of a man's heart can be significant.  God can be calling, and yet men can harden their hearts and resist that call.

Rocky: Oh, yeah, and I think one of the ways that changes a man the most is when he is able to worship and praise God through nature.  And God especially gives wonderful affirmation of His love directly to you with the sun on your face, the wind on your back, the rain in front of you – those are all signs of God's direct love and care for you.

Dennis: And to that point, Rocky, God sometimes – and I don't want to overstate it here, like God is going to a lot of trouble, because He's fully capable of doing whatever He wants to do, but sometimes He really does go out of His way, it seems, to get someone's attention, and they don't listen.  You tell the story in your book about an adventure you had with a group of men where you were finally rescued by a bush plane, and he took off, and he guessed wrong in terms of being able to make it, and he crashed it.

Rocky: Right.

Dennis: Tell them about what happened with him.

Rocky: One of my pilots had to leave early, and I had to hire – we have usually two pilots on staff, and I had another pilot to fly our planes, and he was older, and he couldn't hear real well, and he couldn't see hardly at all, and he couldn't fly that well. 

Bob: This is not how you still run the company, right?

Rocky: No.

Bob: I'm just wanting to make sure.

Dennis: This happened years ago.

Bob: Years ago.

Rocky: So we went into a …

Bob: Rocky, the man who hires the blind old pilots.

Dennis: That could be a book.

Rocky: Oh, man, well, we've kidded about that for years, and we went into this bear camp, and they had a couple of bear down, and a caribou, and the winds were blowing over 40 knots, and I had to literally jump out of one of my planes and grab onto the strut to hold it in place.  We couldn't load the people that were in the camp, and so we took off, and as we took off, my pilot didn't see this huge tree in front of him and hit the top of the tree with the prop.  And it just exploded.  It was, like – many times, honey, I've wanted to have our Christmas tree do that.

As this thing exploded, we kept on flying, and I said, "Oh, what happened, what happened there?"  "Oh, we're okay, boss, we're okay, boss.  No big deal, boss."  We kept flying and flying, the winds were taking us up very quickly.  We got off the mountain pass, and we got over the canyons, and we were looking down.  I kind of sighed a gracious breath of relief, and the prop went dead, and all you could hear was the wind whistling past the wings, and I looked down, and I went, "Ohhh, we got up so high.  Why couldn't this have happened right when we hit the tree."  And I said to the pilot, "Can you start it?"  He goes, "No, I can't start it."

He kept saying, "We're going to make it, boss.  We're going to make it, boss."  Little did we know that the pine tree had gone up into the cowling of the plane and pulled out the gasolator which, in short, means that it pulled out the gas line and the little glass cup that held the gas, and so there was no way that gas could get to the engine.  It was not going to start, and we were going to crash.

As we started descending, I told the pilot to turn around and try to hit the open hill where we left, but he'd turned around with the winds and listened to me, we would have both died instantly, because we would have hit at about 150 miles an hour.  So he tried to hold the nose of the plane into the howling winds and go down slightly, and we had no choice to where we landed the plane, and so it was on a top of spruce trees.  And as they were – it looked to me like I was going to be sitting on toothpicks, you know, at first, and then as they got – I went, "Oh, this is going to really hurt."

Dennis: How many passengers on board?

Rocky: It was just my pilot and myself.

Dennis: Okay.

Rocky: So as we went in, we went in really hard to the trees.  The trees ripped off the wings, the back, but none of the – I was expecting a tree to come up through the bottom, and I had taken my backpack and protected my most valuable asset, my wonderful face, and that's how I hit.  And when I hit, I had my head down, and it was just an amazing amount of noise and din and, all of a sudden, you could just smell leaking gas, and you could hear the pilot groaning and moaning, and I managed to throw my door open and jump out, and I turned around and tried to ease him out, and he was pretty broken up.  He had a lot of – a mangled leg, his face was really bloody.  I didn't know how bad he was or how – but at least he had survived that moment.

I pulled him out, and I pulled him to the tail of the plane, and I propped him up in the midst of the trees and the tundra and the smell of blueberries and everything that had been ripped up when we hit – and gas – and I said, "You know what?  God was talking to one of us."  I said, "Have you ever accepted Christ into your heart?"  And he goes, "You know, I went to a little Baptist church down in Texas," and he said, "I heard about Jesus.  I heard about this Christ that wanted to be my Savior."  And I said, "Well, if you would have died right now, and I would have died right now," I said, "I would be in heaven with Him, and you wouldn't have made it.  You would be in hell."

And I had a chance not only to share the Gospel, but this pilot asked Christ to come into his life at that point, right at that point, and as leaning up against the back of that plane, and we lost the plane, we definitely lost a plane, and it was a terrible accident, a terrible crash, but we have a believer.  We have a new believer in Christ.

Dennis: And the point there is that this man had to hear the call and needed to believe, and I undoubtedly think right now there are listeners who are hearing our broadcast and who, through unique circumstances, perhaps, in their own lives, God has been going through to get their attention. 

Rocky: They may be crashing and burning.

Dennis: Exactly.

Rocky: Right.

Dennis: And what was your statement you made to him?  God is speaking to one of us?

Rocky: Right.  I said, "God is speaking to one of us.  He has given one of us" – I told him, I said, "You know, if I would have died right now, then, you know, I would have been in heaven with Christ.  The worst thing that would happen" – where would you be?

Dennis: Mm-hm, and I think that's the question for every listener who doesn't know Christ, and it's really very simple.  Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him."

Now, he's talking about fellowshipping with Him, but ultimately what He wants you to do is, by faith, to answer His call, His call to you, and to place your faith in Him for the forgiveness of your sins for right-standing before God and to know God personally.

Rocky: And I would appeal to the outdoors family and especially to the outdoorsman – even as the ungrateful child who never thanks Mom and Dad for anything he has, to be able to go out with a heart of worship and a heart of gratitude for this incredible environment and this wonderful outdoor world we have.

Dennis: Yeah.

Rocky: Incredible.

Dennis: Our God made a Creation for us to enjoy.

Rocky: It's a sign of His love.

Dennis: But He doesn't want us to worship the Creation.

Rocky: That's right.

Dennis: He wants to be worshipped as the Creator.

Rocky: The giver of the good gift.

Dennis: That's right.

Bob: You know, there are millions of people who have looked at the grandeur of God's Creation, and who still don't know the God who created all of the world.  They've seen the Grand Canyon, but they've never met the Grand Creator of the Grand Canyon.

If any of our listeners are interested in meeting the God who created not just the Alaskan wilderness but all of the heavens and the earth, we would love to introduce you to this God.  There is a book that we have called "Pursuing God," that helps you know how you can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; how you can know your Creator. 

And all you have to do if you'd like a copy of that book is to call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and say, "I want to know how to become a friend of God.  I want to be introduced to the one Who created me."  And we'll be happy to send you a copy of the book "Pursuing God" at no cost and with no obligation so that you can learn how to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In addition, if you are interested in getting a copy of Rocky McElveen's book, which is called "Wild Men, Wild Alaska," you can find out more about the book on our website at  When you get to our home page, look to the right side of the screen, and you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  If you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where you can find out about how to order a copy of Rocky's book from us, or simply call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent to you.

I want to take just a minute and let your listeners know just how grateful we are for those of you who not only listen to FamilyLife Today but who also support this ministry financially.  It's your contributions that help keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.  Your financial partnership with us is vitally important, and this month, if you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we'd like to say thank you by sending you a CD that includes a conversation we had not long ago with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  She is the host of the daily radio program, "Revive Our Hearts," and we sat down to talk with her about the subject of forgiveness.

She has written a book called "Choosing Forgiveness," and in marriage and family, there wind up being plenty of opportunities for us to extend forgiveness to one another.  We had a great conversation, and we'd love to send the CD to you as our way of saying thanks for your support of this ministry.  You can request a copy when you donate online at simply by typing the word "forgive" into the keycode box on the donation form.

Or, if you'd prefer, just call 1-800-FLTODAY, you could make a donation over the phone and, again, just mention that you'd like the CD on forgiveness or the CD with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  We are happy to send it to you.  It's our way of saying thank you for your support of this ministry.

Well, tomorrow we're going to hear about a very difficult season in Rocky and Sharon McElveen's marriage, a season that almost pressed them into isolation.  We'll find out about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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