Albert and Rita Chretien, who attend Penticton Church of the Nazarene in British Columbia, went missing March 19 in Nevada. Rita was found alive 49 days later. Albert remains missing despite several exhaustive searches.
Nazarene recounts how God helped her survive in the wilderness
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
In an interview for the Canadian Christian television show, Context with Lorna Dueck, Rita Chretien spoke publicly for the first time about her survival in the Nevada wilderness and her husband, Albert, who has never been found.

On March 19, the couple was on their way to a heavy equipment tradeshow in Las Vegas and decided to visit places they had never seen before.

“We were so excited about seeing the country, you know, we had never gone that route before,” she said.

Rita explained how she and Albert got lost after they used a GPS device to find a shortcut to Jackpot, Nevada, where they had a hotel reservation.  

The Globe and Mail newspaper said had it had been July, and not March, the route would have taken the Chretiens through a beautiful canyon road with breathtaking views. 

They turned down a logging road — the GPS device showed the road connected to the highway – and their Chevy Astro van got stuck in the mud. It was about 10 p.m. 

“So we slept there in the van, while we felt dumb and discouraged,” Rita read from her diary during the interview.

The next day, they used a snow shovel and small rocks to help the van’s back tires gain traction. They got out of the mud, but as they tried to avoid one patch of mud, the van got stuck “in a worse mud hole,” Rita said.

They tried digging the van out again, but nothing worked.

“Al, he cried, and I cried, and we prayed and said, ‘Lord, what are we going to do now?’ ” she said in the interview.

Albert called 911 on a cell phone from a hilltop and reached someone, but was cutoff after he gave the person on the phone a few directions. He tried again, but got cut off constantly, Rita Chretien said.

The couple decided to walk for help, following the original GPS instructions to the highway. After walking almost five miles, Rita’s knee swelled, so they went back to the van.

For three days, the couple slept in their van and survived on what little they had. Rita's knee couldn't handle another walk in Nevada’s high desert, so Albert decided to set out on his own.

“We prayed and had our Daily Bread devotions as we usually do every morning and asked the Lord to go with him, to help him get their quickly.” Rita said.

“We prayed, and we cried, it was very emotional. We had not cried so deeply for years…”

Rita remained brave; she knew Albert wouldn't leave if she was too emotional.

Taking the GPS device, Albert walked away. It was the last time Rita saw her husband. She would later learn that a ranch was five miles in the opposite direction.

Chretien read from her Bible, prayed, and wrote in her diary as the days turned into weeks.

One passage in the Bible became very special to her - Psalms 86: 2-7. “Preserve my soul. Be merciful unto me O’ Lord for I cry unto thee daily. Give ear O’ Lord unto my prayer and attend to my voice of my supplication. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee and thou will answer me...”

She rationed candy, fish oil pills, and trail mix, and drank water from a nearby stream. One day, she used what little she had to take communion.

“Every time I did not know what to do, I just said, ‘What do I do now, Lord?’” she said.

By the 49th day, Chretien thought she might die alone in the wilderness. She thought her three sons would learn of their parents’ fate by reading her diary.

She felt weak throughout her body and had difficulty getting water.

"I went down to get water, and it was difficult to get back. So difficult, I was almost crawling back,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh, no! What’s happening to me?’ My chest was sore, I was out of breath, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

She barely made it back to the van.

Rita decided to clean herself up and rest. She put a blanket around herself and “I prayed the little child's prayer: 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.’”

She was at peace after praying and went to sleep.

Hunters looking for elk antlers spotted the van two hours later. Chretien heard the hunters’ ATVs coming toward her. She didn’t even realize that she was awake, she said.

“I yanked that door open and flagged them down.”

Rita spent the next few days in an Idaho hospital and then transferred to a hospital in British Columbia.

She’s at home now and drives the Chevy Astro van she survived in for almost two months. Rita still attends Penticton Church of the Nazarene and hopes to find her husband one day.

Search teams have gone out several times in the Nevada area where the Chretiens were lost, but have found no signs of Albert.

The entire interview is available on Context’s website. Lost: The Rita Chretien Story airs at 11 a.m. October 9 on the Canadian Global Television network.
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