Youth Treks: Opening hearts and minds in God's great outdoors

2/17/2012

"The best time to strengthen your relationship with God is when you are completely immersed in His creation. That’s what Trek gave me: a distraction-free place of my own."—Allie Ramsey

 

"It allowed me to reconnect with God by disconnecting from technology."—Taylor Fogle

 

"Many of the lessons I learned from the Trekking ministry apply to everyday life and have been especially helpful as I entered my first year of college. When you live together in the woods for a week, you see each other at your best and at your worst. Through that experience, I’ve learned to look deeper than what’s on the surface... We hiked some difficult trails. It’s SO worth the effort! Don’t give up, even when it’s hard... Being surrounded by nature has helped me learn to intentionally listen for God’s voice and not be afraid of silence."—from a camper who participated in three Treks

At right, the team of Allison Hardin, left, and Jeremy Goodner paddle a scenic lake during a 2011 Senior High Trek.Below, a mountain lake is the backdrop for a photo of young Oklahomans on a 2011 hike in Colorado.

By Audra Fogle

One-hundred steps up the mountain, she began to sob. "I can’t do this, I can’t do this!" A quarter of a mile farther, nausea hit her. Was it fear, poor physical condition, altitude, or a combination of those? Regardless, the teenager was overwhelmed and miserable.

One aspect of the Oklahoma Conference Camps’ Senior High Trek Program is teamwork. But what happened next on that mountain was the grace of God expressed through nine high school students. Without adult prompting, they chose to carry their teammate’s burden.

They began dividing up the 50 pounds of gear in her backpack. Those first days on the hike, everyone was fully loaded. Carrying any additional weight was difficult. But the students did not complain; they began to work together to figure out how to share the load along the trail.

The girl and I traveled a slower pace, at the back of the line. "No one has ever done anything like that for me," she said, astonished. "I’m sure my friends at school wouldn’t have done that, and these people don’t even know me."

Later, as we journeyed out of the wilderness, she carried her own gear and, at times, even led the pack—hiking with a bounce in her step and song in her heart. It’s amazing how God works!

Part of the Conference’s Camps Ministry, the trekking program has been in existence for more than 25 years. Yet the need for this program has never been greater. Teens today seem constantly plugged in to cellphones, computers, personal music players—sometimes several at once. They want to hear God’s voice, but they haven’t learned how to listen.

Many never have seen the full array of stars in night sky, especially urban youths, living in cities’ light clutter.

The purpose of the Senior High Trek Program is to help teens:

  • experience God’s majesty through nature;

  • learn the biblical understanding of stewardship;

  • unplug from technology;

  • gain confidence and practice leadership;

  • live as a Christian community; and

  • have opportunity to breathe deeply and intentionally listen for God’s voice.

During a week in the wilderness, hiking or canoeing, youths learn to work as a team to pump water, cook meals, set up a low-impact campsite, safely hang a bear bag, read a compass, navigate a map—and be genuine with one another. Each evening, the group gathers to reflect on the day. The campfire becomes a great place for youths and the adult leaders to be in conversation and share their faith journeys.

Contact these Camps leaders to learn more:

You can help

1. Volunteer. We are recruiting adults who enjoy the outdoors. We are partnered with expert guides; adults need only to love venturing outdoors alongside teens.

2. Transportation. Ask your church to allow the program to borrow its van or bus.

3. Donate. Financial gifts help with scholarships, training, equipment, and gasoline purchases.


Senior High Treks
For students entering grades 9 through 12

Trek 1: Backpacking in Roosevelt National Forest, Colo., June 22-30

Lace up your hiking boots for wilderness adventure with trained guides. This national forest is located near Fort Collins, Colo. Hike over mountains and around glacial lakes; swim in an ice-cold stream. View wildlife and amazing scenery. Because of altitude and terrain extremes, a training program will be suggested to prepare campers. For safety purposes, guides will have 24-hour radio contact with area forest rangers.

 Skills required: Each participant must be able to hike several miles daily over mountainous terrain while carrying a backpack load of 40-50 pounds.

Trek 2: Paddling the Boundary Water Canoe Area between Minnesota and Ontario, July 27-Aug. 4

Bring your paddle and see for yourself why Minnesota license plates declare "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Wait quietly and you may see elk coming to drink. Eagles soar during the day, and the cries of loons fill the air as sun sets. The group will travel about 50 miles by canoe and portage between lakes. 

Skills required: Participants must be willing to learn proper paddling techniques and be able to work in teams of two, paddling several miles a day. Portages require teams to carry their 75-pound canoes short distances on land between lakes.

Under the Stars and Over the Edge!
Red Rock Canyon, Okla., Oct. 5-7
(For students entering grades 9 through 12)

Weekend retreat, with lodging at United Methodist Canyon Camp. Worship under the stars (complete with telescopes!); climbing, rappelling, and hiking in Red Rock Canyon. Learn from two climbing experts. No special equipment needed.

 

Online registration opens soon for the 2012 summer camping season: www.okumc.org/camp

 


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