Tuesday, October 30, 2012

17 year old finds God on a Tree of Life trek

We were running whitewater on the mighty Deschutes for five days. Awake at 6:30 and in bed at 11:00. It was tough work, but of course somebody had to do it. Tree of Life had five guides going through training along with a 17 year old participant on a trek who agreed to experience an intensified version of the young adult guide-in-training. The young man was raised by a very religious family and had wandered from the faith so to speak. He was at a tender point in his adolescence when identity comes into question. He had been challenged at home to share his true self. He replied, ‘pothead.’ Thus he came to visit us in Oregon.

Day one, day two, and day three had passed without getting anything serious out of him. He almost seemed in denial of why he was here. He enjoyed the rafting and he was good at it. Also a funny addition to the boat. We were there to disciple, though, and he didn’t seem to want any of it. He listened quietly to lessons and then wrote in his journal regarding personal matters.

One night during our training we were having a serious worship time outside. The guitarist played ‘Here I Am to Worship’ and everyone sang along. Our new friend was thinking about other things. Parents, school, friends, drugs, girls. He wondered, ‘Why can’t I just live how I want and still believe in God and have Him in my life?’ Finally, he was inspired to pray, ‘God if you really want me to change then show yourself.’ As his attention wandered from our worship he found himself looking up at the partly cloudy sky. Immediately, the clouds began to blow away and expose the nearly full moon. He couldn’t believe it. He looked around, but nobody else noticed. They were focused on worship. He told us about this later, of course, and our reaction was to begin a lesson of Holy Spirit power directly from Acts. His response was very typical of the rest of the trip. Back to square one it seemed.

We finished our time on the river and began traveling toward the Pacific. Before parting ways, two of our staff prayed together for our current participant. Their desire was for God to be directly present in his life; for Him, His glory, and His power to be revealed to him. Day six of our trek proposed to run only 12 days. Everyone had gone to bed around the campfire, snuggled into sleeping bags protecting against spring chill. The teen awoke during the night and couldn’t seem to pass out again. The fire had died out leaving only faint embers. Adding a log to the coals, he found a Bible sitting nearby. This wasn’t something that had interested him in the past, but something was stirring him to do this. After reading for a few minutes, the fire burst back to life. No flames immediately turned into large flames engulfing the recently added log. He was stunned. Recalling this later he said, ‘I couldn’t do anything except stare at the fire and pray.’ We again referred to Acts and continued our study of the Holy Spirit. The newly willing student took notes and completed a journal assignment.

The rest of the trip was a great experience for all of us. Often, the downside is the degree to which young people are willing to submit to God. It’s hard to give up control when the world appears to satisfy so well. In the near future, the young man found himself in trouble a few more times. He remembered his experiences with Tree of Life and referred back to them. Our hope is that he can always look back and remember his initial encounter with God on a trek when he was 17. As always, God and God alone, deserves the praise for a life turned around.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Christian Adventure Association Conference

The weekend came to a close on Sunday morning as the group that had attended 2012’s Christian Adventure Association’s Conference reflected on the weekend. Many shared from their heart about their joys and their struggles, only in the way that one can share after sharing a weekend of workshops, intense discussions and stories, and exciting skills and thrills. With full hearts, spirits, and bellies, we parted ways to continue to carry out the work needed to be done in our respective organizations.

Mount Shasta
Our team made a decision over two months ago to invest the time and funds (mostly from our own personal finances) into this conference, even though any income looked grim during the time. I don’t think a minute of the weekend was wasted – as it works in the spiritual realm. The drive to and from Santa Cruz ensured beautiful sites, including an up close view of the ever looming Mount Shasta, and the overwhelming vastness of the city of San Francisco.

One of the primary purposes of the weekend is to gather together people throughout the United States that are working to bring God into individual’s adventure experiences. It was great to meet other people working in common circumstances and toward the same goal. Tree of Life differentiated from many of the other organizations in that our service’s focal point is to provide Biblical counseling to our participants and help them to remove any obstacles blocking them from the abundant life Christ wants to give them.
In addition to networking and fellowship, the weekend consisted of a structured schedule of workshops. There were always two different topics available at the same time which made decisions for attendance difficult. Topics ranged from backpacking food menus to communicating with the public to theory on the future of outdoor ministry. In addition, we got to experience “skills and thrills” courses where we got to experience the ocean and Redwoods while developing skills.
We all walked away grateful for the weekend and the opportunity to meet people in the same industry, learn more about new topics, and experience some exciting adventures. Thank you Christian Adventure Association for organizing this annual conference to bring us together and equip us to better bring Christ into our outdoor expeditions. The most important question we will continue to ask ourselves is “are we doing the best we can to really change lives and grown character while we guide people in an outdoor adventure?”
For more info on the Christian Adventure Association visit caainfo.org

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

David's Testimony

I grew up the youngest of seven children in a small town in Point Clear, AL. I was an adventurous kid that spent most of his time climbing trees, building forts and weapons, roaming the beaches of Mobile Bay, and battling one of my four older brothers. We all went to church on Sundays and then Sunday school, but I can’t say I ever had the slightest care for what the preacher was talking about.

It wasn’t until middle school that someone first sat down with me and wanted to talk to me about Jesus. I had won a short story contest and went up to a Young Writers conference with my English teacher. During the trip he asked me about my faith, told me about Christ, and asked me if he could pray for me, which I was open to. He prayed and I said “Yea God, if you’re real, show me. Just reach out to me at some time.” I was serious. Nothing happened for a couple of years. I kept on being a wild child and getting into whatever mischief I could find.
Here I will edit out the meat of the story, but suffice it to say that in addition to being a stuntman, I also had a strange introverted, highly imaginative, mystic streak to me from childhood. Looking back I had a fairly murky grasp on reality, all of which led me into some dabbling in the occult. After one experience in particular, I was cast into a realm of very disturbing spiritual warfare which seemed to have no end. At this point the powers of darkness were very real to me but I still had no notion of the benevolent God of the universe. I look back on this period as a turning point that I’m very great full for. The curtains were drawn back and I got to see that the spiritual world is every bit as real as the one I daily walk in. God has put many people in my path that have had similar spiritual battles and needed someone to talk to that didn’t think they were crazy; so, God can certainly use all things for his purposes.
Saved by grace! I was about to enter High school and the Young Life leader there invited me to a Christian retreat. I made fun of him, but my Mom saw to it that I went. Over a few days I listened to a man speak from the word on the basic gospel message. It wasn't a message that God was going to fix all of my problems or make my life wonderful or easy, but that I was a separated from the one true living God by my sin. This couldn't be made right by my own works, but only by accepting Christ who paid the price of my sins on the cross. The Holy Spirit moved in me and revealed to me that this was truth. I can only see it as a supernatural experience that allowed me to break outside of my own limited reason and humbly receive grace from the Creator of all things. I've always looked back on this moment with great wonder as to how this transformation could happen to me of all people. The only answer that I can come up with is that way back when I first prayed for God to reveal himself to me, I meant it. “Knock and the door shall be opened.” I believe that this is the most powerful thing that we can do on this brief earthly journey, just reach out to God. He knew that I needed this experience to open my eyes. No one could have explained it to me and no amount of studying world religions and philosophy could be sufficient to what was freely given. It’s fair to say that God has been at the center of my life ever since.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2