Friday, September 28, 2012

Kristine's Testimony

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

In the summer of 2005, while in a program that exposed me to the wilderness and played a key role in changing my life, I was exposed to a youth program that challenged and helped ­to build character in youth by teaching them wilderness skills and taking them out on treks. It occurred to me that I would love to operate an organization that did something similar, but interwove faith as a key component to growth and recovery.
In the years that followed, I grew in my career as a team leader for a large financial institution as well as a part-time waitress at a family restaurant while attending college to complete my undergrad degree in Business Management. The dream seemed to get further away, though it was still tucked in the back of my heart. I left the bank and joined a non-profit that funded a Christian adult rehabilitation center. This position brought me closer to recovery, client-oriented work; but also taught me a lot about the essentials and difficulties in operating a non-profit.
Even though my career and educational path were always progressing and I was continually successful in my roles and responsibilities, I was not satisfied – my heart cried out for more. Through all this time I continued to build on my recovery, strengthen my relationship with Christ, and serve others. My life continued to improve and my circle continued to widen. But even though I loved my life, besides its temporary difficulties, I still longed for something different.
After months of praying about my future path, talking with others, and continually taking action, I found Tree of Life through Google search. I called to find out if they needed any female guides – and they did! But not only did they need a female guide, they needed someone that could help with the business portion of the organization and their marketing. I felt that my skills, experience, and education would be used for good to further God’s kingdom at Tree of Life.
In the months between that initial conversation and arriving at Tree of Life, I had so many experiences that I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me to contribute my time and talents here, as well as several “Godincidences”. I felt like if I did not come out here and turn my life over for this mission, I would be disobedient to God’s will in my life. I am so grateful for all the friends and family that have supported me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and loved me into being the person I am today. And, I am so excited to see how God will show up in our team work with Tree of Life Christian Wilderness Expeditions.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brett's Testimony

I was raised Lutheran in northern Michigan. Dad was a drug using trucker/biker. My brothers dreamed of being rock stars and lived accordingly. Mom always took us to church. One of my earliest memories is of my mother sobbing after a family fight. Even at that age I could recognize the source of her distress. I promised that I would never hurt her the way the rest of my family did.

I performed for everyone in order to separate myself from my brothers. Being the best kid in Sunday school became unfulfilling around age 13. My heart wasn’t in it. I was more interested in freedom and thought that I had found it in another lifestyle. Keeping my childhood promise, I always stayed sober. What I didn’t realize at the time was that women could inadvertently become my drug. It began innocently. I didn’t think my mother had ever been hurt by my brother’s girlfriends, just their substance abuse. It didn’t matter if my mother wasn’t hurt because I ended up being the one who was hurt. Years later I realized that I was revolving through cycles of heartbreak. The problem was that none of my relationships were ever centered on anything. They were just a way for two lost and blind people to improve an empty definition of love.

When I was 19 I was going through a tough break up. Late one night I found myself thinking back to the foundation my mother had built for me. Out of desperation, I prayed. I agreed to remain single for the rest of my life if that were the price I had to pay to be free of these heartbreaks. Soon after making my one-ended business deal with God I was driving at night and saw a brilliant meteor directly above the road. I instinctually started to make a wish and realized that in the past I had always made very selfish wishes in regards to a girlfriend. When this thought dawned on me it all became clear. God loved me more than any woman ever could and He was trying to tell me! When I got home I dusted off my Bible and began to read. It was the first time I had ever read it straight through. It changed my life. But, for some reason, I wasn’t yet convinced to change my lifestyle. I had read the whole Bible so I just figured I had earned the title ‘Christian’. For a few years I was living the same lifestyle as before, but I had this mentality of, ‘I’m a Christian now.’ Besides, living in a work town in Wyoming is a hard place for a new Christian.

Thankfully, when I was 22, I was invited back to my home church to chaperone a youth group mission trip. It was at that mission’s gathering that I first witnessed the Holy Spirit move. A second mission trip spurred me to pursue a career in ministry. I was living in Colorado and had worked many odd jobs which had seriously frustrated me. I was ready to put my faith into action and work for something real. Soon after making that decision I visited home and there was a magazine with a summer camp article. That gave direction, so I started searching online and sending applications. I was offered a camp job in Idaho.

I loved the job and they loved me. I lived and worked with believers who were close to my age. Fulfilling the book of Acts. Iron sharpening iron. Most importantly, I was exposed to real Biblical truths that had never been revealed to me in my traditional, old church. I realized that Jesus had paid the price for me in order to cleanse me of my sins. This revelation set me on fire for God and I was in the prime location for growth.

After three seasons of ministering to youth, I was offered by a co-worker to join her in a new ministry called Tree of Life. I didn’t believe that I qualified for the job position, but I asked God about it and He revealed an answer in Revelation 22:2. The passage exactly matched the description of this new ministry. So at age 24 I moved to Oregon to further fulfill God’s call for me. That brings us to today. Throughout my life the circumstances were often times not in my favor. I can’t help but feel like God has had a literal sway on situations big and small. And in case anyone is curious, God is evidently holding true to His end of the deal I proposed at age 19.

The most important thing I have learned in my closer walk with Thee is that God desires to be in union with us. How can you die to your current self in order to fully live in union with God?

"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Revelation 22:2

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kelsey's Testimony

I have been extremely blessed to grow up in a Christian home. I grew up going to church and Sunday school. The first time I remember asking Jesus into my heart was during nap time in kindergarten. Knowing Christ loves the innocent faith of a child, I am thankful for his incredible protection that allowed me to grow up as an innocent child of God. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, or the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14. At some point there is a transition though from being a child to taking ownership over your relationship with Christ. This is where the connection was lost for while.

            I knew the stories, believed that Jesus was the Son of God, went to church, and followed the “rules.” I may have looked the part, but my life did not reflect that I was living it for Christ. I followed the rules because I was a people pleaser and I feared getting in trouble. That may be a lot of parents dreams, but He created us for so much more than that. I believed Satan’s lies of working for people’s affection. I lived my life for them instead of for the one who created me.

            Entering high school I was open to drinking and drugs, but only by the grace and protection of God was I not exposed to that scene. Unfortunately though, I placed my value in guys. I allowed them to treat me poorly and speak to me however they pleased. I developed this attitude of doing whatever I could to be “good enough” for them. And guess what? I never was. When I was 16 I went on a retreat with my youth group. It was there that I experienced this unconditional love from people that didn’t even know me! I wanted whatever they had. Discovering that their love for me didn’t even compare to the love Christ had for me made me dive into the stories I “knew,” but never experienced. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” John 4:9-11 This is when my faith really became my own and not just what my parents believed.

            Throughout the rest of high school and college I was very much immersed in the secular world, but my relationship with Jesus continued to grow. I was learning more about who God was and the characteristics of Jesus and what it looks like to surrender my life to Him. He allowed me to see how He sees people and gave me a heart for loving people and showing them that Jesus is not a judgmental and condemning God. “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17. I was blessed with working at a Christian wilderness camp where people invested in me and gave me examples of what heaven on earth and what Godly relationships look like, along with how to serve others.

            This past season of my life has been the hardest, but the most rewarding. I was trying to find my value in other things like education and success when ultimately my value is found completely in Christ. God used someone else to show me that I need intimacy and how He wants to fulfill that need. I have become a woman after God’s own heart.  He has been teaching me that the Holy Spirit is alive and working, what my true authentic identity is, how He is pursuing me, the power of being a woman, and that His plans for me are greater than I can imagine. My desire is to be joyfully obedient to God’s command to go and make disciples of all nations and to love Jesus and others. He has led me out here and I’m excited to continue this journey with Him while he transforms me into a greater likeness of Himself. "But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Friday, September 21, 2012

Week 2 in Recap

  "The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today”
          Elbert Hubbard

          As we started our second week together as a new team, we were gifted a scholarship to Klamath County’s Chamber of Commerce’s 3 day Academy for Business Excellence. It’s this author’s assumption that we would all much rather have clients out in the field which would help fulfill our mission: to help people remove barriers to spiritual progress in their life, to help free them from destructive and captive ways of thinking, and to help them be restored to an abundant and God honoring life. Clients would also help pay the bills.
          But, the Academy couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time as our team is sitting down and figuring out the details of what exactly our mission and vision is and where we see ourselves going as an organization in the future. In one of the courses on business planning, the instructor said that without goals our ship could sail in any direction and get lost in the winds. We believe that God will guide our ship, but we are responsible for manning the sails and being good stewards of the boat He’s given us.

          Classes included training on proposal writing, marketing plans, creating contingency and succession plans, discussions on social media, in depth training on using Facebook, a panel on the Affordable Healthcare Act, and much more. In addition, politicians from the state and county were present for lunch-time presentations on how legislation affects local and state-wide business, as well as how the community can get involved in the political process. Needless to say, not all of these forums were necessary or enticing for all of our team…
          In addition to time spent in seminars through the week, we also spent time together outside of classes hammering out our own vision, mission, and marketing strategies. We discussed what our different skills and gifts are and what we think we can contribute to this organization to get Tree of Life operating to a capacity where we can help up to 100 clients a year and hopefully more in the future! We’ve also learned that in addition to the unique gifts and skills that we can contribute, we will all be called outside of our comfort zone to be grown, stretched, and eventually be able to help this ministry grow in the way that God desires.
          Please continue to keep our team and ministry in your prayers – they are the foundation of any success we may accomplish.
        “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nothing worth achieving comes easy… This was definitely a challenging, but rewarding week for the new team. The first couple of days were spent sitting in a circle discussing where we envision Tree of Life going, some ideas on how to achieve those goals, and going over the policy and procedure manual. Though these discussions are crucial to the business end of any organization, you could imagine the challenge for a group of people whose hearts on fire for the Lord and crave the outdoor wilderness…
The second two days found the four guides in the Chemult Ranger’s District. Only David and Brett had been exposed to the beauty and the challenges of the territory. Currently, this is the only land that Tree of Life has a permit to run wilderness treks. It is a goal to get permits in at least two other wilderness areas; however, the process can be long, tedious, and expensive.
This region of the Winema National Forest contains mostly Lodge Pole Pine and Ponderosa trees. Because of the high desert location, the ground consists of mostly pumice, which basically becomes a dust that sneaks into every crevice of clothing and existing cracks. This was only one of the challenges… Another challenge of the Chemult is the lack of water supply in the area, as well as the winding roads that can exist and not be on the map, be mislabeled, or be overgrown and difficult to navigate. Also, temperature can vary 40 to 60 degrees from day to night. It’s important to be prepared for all of this – spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Scouting is something that needs to take place in order to plan the 21 day trek so that when clients arrive, the route is set ahead of time. Brett spent the days driving the terrain and marking camps with the GPS while David, Kelsey and Kristine hiked out the day treks to gauge their navigability for difficulty, timeliness, and water sources. The group would gather for lunch and set up camp at night while discussing the day’s challenges and victories. One thing was for sure, they were grateful to have gotten a taste of the Chemult before the clients arrived.
Though it’s Saturday, the work does not stop – even if no one is getting paid during this pioneering time. Our team is setting out to help another local wilderness program to take down their camp for the summer. This opportunity will provide some great networking, help to establish solid partnerships with other organizations, and provide more sources for the questions that are sure to arise as we continue to build the organization. Please be in prayer for us as we continue to build the mission we believe that God is guiding us be a part of. Many blessings to you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First day with the new team!

September 11th was a sad day that reminds our nation how terrorism can come and kill, steal, and destroy an unsuspecting people who value liberty and justice. Ironically, the newest team of Tree of Life met for the first time on this 12th anniversary talking about how they can work together to help others break their own bondage that is killing, stealing and destroying, and be set free through a life with Christ.

How exactly is this team to fulfill such a great duty? They won’t… but God will through them. They opened with prayer asking God to guide the mission and direct their work to fulfill His purpose. They thanked God for the opportunity to be part of such an organization. And they asked God to bring clients that would be helped, saved, and healed through their work… but that would also help keep them afloat in the times to come at the start of a dry season.

So, they set to work on covering important topics that can seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but are important to talk about nonetheless. Things like mission, vision, objectives, websites, pamphlets, scouting territory, YouTube, FaceBook, spiritual gifts, and individual goals. The meeting felt productive, though it was a lot of information and discussion. This team of three men and two women have high hopes for what will become of Tree of Life Christian Wilderness Expeditions and the people that will be served through their work.