Creation, Community, and Facing Your Fears- What These Students Learned on Their La Vida Expedition

Written By: Jonathan Chandra, Carter Reynolds, Hannah Fleth, and Rosalind Keeley
Compiled By: Amber Hausman

This past May La Vida Expedition was the first of many life-changing trips that will happen this summer. I’m continually blown away at how God uses the wilderness to shape our faith and who we are. As the groups returned from their 12 and 13 day trips, it was evident that “Canoe 1” had formed a strong bond during their journey. I asked the group if they would share some thoughts that I could then share with incoming students to get them excited about their trips this summer. Please read on to see what they had to say.  We can’t wait to see you at the Base Camp this summer! ~Amber

Meet Canoe 1

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[Creation]

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.”
-Psalm 19:1-2

One of the many lessons from La Vida that will stick with me for the rest of my life is that God is overwhelmingly present in nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God;” the Psalmist says, “the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” On my expedition, this was true every day. God made Himself known through blue skies, through sunrises and sunsets, and even in soft grey clouds before light rain. Then again, God was manifest everywhere during La Vida. He was present in gently swaying trees, by flickering campfires, and over the waters.

This brings me to another lesson I’ve learned and will forever take to heart: God is overwhelmingly present in Christian community. By the grace of God, our patrol—a motley crew of individuals who hardly knew each other at the beginning of the trip—came together as a family by the time our journey had ended. With praise, prayer, and shared faith, we persevered through challenges in the unfamiliar wilderness and were bound tightly together in the process. God blessed me strikingly through my group, and I was able to enjoy the experience all the more because of it. God was there with us through it all, from when we rested under gentle trees, to when we shared our lives over flickering campfires, to when we laughed and labored in our canoes over lakes and rivers.

There is something about spending two weeks in the wilderness with a group of strangers, away from the obligations and distractions of normal life, that is deeply spiritual. As you embark on your La Vida trip, I pray (and know!) that God will be present with you in nature, and with the people you are surrounded by. You’re in for something special.   ~God Bless, Jonathan

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[Community]

La Vida taught me a lot, but the most important thing I came away with was verification in the unmatched beauty of Christian community. With an extremely diverse band of 12 randomly chosen Jesus followers, all in different places in their walks of faith, we brought the best out in each other through the peaks and inevitable occasional valleys you will face on a challenging outdoor excursion. One thing that La Vida emphasized which made a huge difference in establishing such genuine, family type bonds, was the concept of “Be Here Now,” leaving all of life’s technological distractions behind for the 13 day journey.

After La Vida, my view of community is rooted in one word: intentionality. Without the typical everyday 21st century distractions of life, an intentional community naturally brings out the best, and worst, in each other, allowing for incredible growth. When you put Christ at the center of that, it amplifies the results astronomically. Being able to say that I saw this happen, by God’s grace, and watched lives be forever impacted by this one trip, is a totally divine gift. I’m humbled, and very thankful for my experience leading a trip for La Vida, and pray that this ministry is continued to be used by God to change lives.  ~Carter ReynoldsIMG_3084

[Facing Your Fears]

Fear always seems to follow me. Every since I was a kid, fear and anxiety would hinder me from living with confidence. So, as I began my La Vida experience, I was not surprised to find fear not far behind. I woke up the first morning with a sore back and a stuffy nose. I immediately began to worry that my body would not be able to withstand the strenuous trip. I imagined myself being driven back to base camp halfway through the trip in humiliation and failure because I’d come down with a fever and couldn’t continue. These anxieties caused me, as they had always done, to pull inward until I could console myself by coming up with a solution on my own.

Thankfully, I wasn’t allowed this “luxury”. My Sherpas sat down with us that same morning and asked us to share how we were feeling, our hopes and fears for the trip. I voiced my fears, which freed them from continually swirling around in my mind, and turned my thoughts to what I wanted from this trip. I wanted to become more fearless. Coming out of finals week, I was tired of being overwhelmed by anxiety and had asked those from home covering my trip in prayer to pray I would become just that: fearless. Despite my faithlessness in giving way to fear the very first day, God remained faithful and answered my prayer. Not only did my cold and back pain go away in the first few days, but I learned how to start living free from fear.

In our physical activities and daily devotions, we discussed how to redefine success so that it’s not about succeeding as much as it is giving everything your best, even if you’re unsure you’ll succeed, and being proud that you tried. As I read more about this and put it into practice while rock climbing and portaging, I experienced a freedom that not only dispelled my spirit of fear but also made me excited to pursue more challenges. I left La Vida desiring to act on my dreams for deeper relationships. I was now unafraid of making mistakes and could reach out to my friends without second guessing my every move. I challenge those approaching a season of testing, whether that is La Vida or some other life experience, to be honest with someone when they ask you about your fears. Bring those fears honestly before God, and be open to lessons that come your way. I learned to embrace the freedom to fail and now I no longer see life as a test, but as a learning process. ~Hannah FlethBlog Template 3

[God of Wonders]

When we finally reached the end of our 12-day journey, we came back together at base camp along with the other canoeing and hiking patrols. One of the songs we sang during the celebration was called “God of Wonders”. I was really moved by this song and the lyrics because it is very valid; our God is indeed a “God of Wonders”.

The best things about the trip that I really enjoyed were the life stories. After we had listened to them, and asked the person funny and interesting questions, we all grew so much closer. I learned from this experience that only the God of Wonders could have brought our group together from across all parts of the world and placed us with the people that would help us grow spiritually and in a personal way. I saw growth in everyone throughout the trip and I saw how in just a short amount of time how the Holy Spirit was present every day we were on the water. Our group covenant (Ephesians 4:2-3) was definitely achieved and maintained during our 12 days as a community. Personally, I learned how to trust in God and find joy in the little things, but as a group, we learned a new kind of love, community, hope and how to challenge each other. Without our God of wonders we wouldn’t have been challenged by choice or placed in the group in which we were placed, and I am so thankful for every minute I got to share with and learn from my C1 family! ~ Rosalind KeeleyIMG_3116

Photos By: Carter Reynolds

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May Expedition from the Sherpa’s Perspective

The May College Expedition went really well! Celebration was a beautiful time of worship and hearing how God moved in the lives of these students. Below is just a glimpse into what was experienced these 12 days.

Mountain 1, Joel and Richelle

The first days proved difficult for our group as we attempted the high ropes course and rock climbing at Owl’s Head. At the top of Giant Mountain, our first peak, many questioned their ability to persevere through the upcoming challenges. Their collective willingness to embrace challenge and ability to constantly encourage each other got us all to the top of Grace Mountain. As we summited this final peak, we were taken aback by the unexpected but astonishing view. Almost as breathtaking as the view was the physical and emotional capability of the group as a whole. We learned that through trial and struggle, we can grow personally and together, as a community. We were better able to appreciate the depth of God’s love and the power of His handiwork. In the words of a participant, we were able to learn that “God’s creation is not so easily conquered.”

IMG_9242Mountain 2, James and Julia

This May trip, hiking through the McKenzie wilderness region, was filled with many challenges and joys. Our group, known as the “Awesome Possums,” persevered through hikes around Lake Placid and up Whiteface Mountain. Through infectious laughter and determined communication, the troop bonded and learned how to be each other’s handholds to reach common goals. They thought deeply about the importance of authentic relationships with God and each other, culminating in a powerful group experience.

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WE ARE ATTRACTIVE!!!

On trip you often become less and less physically appealing to others as time goes on. This is largely due to dirt and the smells that are created of sweating for 12 days with out soap and water. But on trip we became more attractive as trip went on because our group decided they wanted to be attractive to God more than to man.

”The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

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Mountain 4 harnessed the powers of physics to scale rock climbs, bushwhack through forests, and summit high peaks with their packs on their backs. Along the way, they learned the power of close community and perseverance as they marveled at God’s alpine springtime in the Adirondacks, and considered how trees represented the group experience as well as their relationship with God!

IMG_9288Canoe 1, Rachel and Dan

Despite headwinds, choppy water, cold mornings, and swarms of black flies, Canoe 1 experienced the beauty of God’s creation through gorgeous weather and the breathtaking landscapes of Long Lake, the Raquette River, and parts of Saranac Lake. As a group, we experienced close community, vulnerability, reflection, and the power of encouragement as we led and served each other. A service project with caretaker Gary Valentine was a highlight of the trip: we maintained a canoe carry trail and experienced service as an expression of gratitude.

IMG_9276 Canoe 2, Elizabeth and Evan

Remember the boat times? We faced wind, waves, and the cold over the past 12 days as we paddled through the Saranac Lakes. The team faced these challenges with hope, positive attitudes and a lot of laughter. Instead of being discouraged by the wind and the waves, we were overwhelmed by God’s power, creativity and sovereignty. It became a daily practice to see God’s love and beauty through creation.

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Final Large Group Photo

IMG_9393Photo Credit: Amber Dvornski

La Vida Through The Eyes of May Support Staff

Summer is officially here and we are near the end of our first College Expedition!  Students headed up to La Vida’s Base Camp on May 17th and 18th and today is the second day of their “solo” experience. They return to Base Camp tomorrow and we will get to hear about how their lives have been changed through their experience in the wilderness.

Our crew of support staff serve the students and leaders throughout the trip in many different ways. We thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into our experiences the past week and half:

Stephen Rich, Sophomore at the University of North Carolina:

“Coming into this session, I did not know much of what to expect. I am a student at the University of North Carolina, making me a bit of an unusual part of the staff. I went through the La Vida program as a high school student in Gordon-Conwell’s Compass program, but was only here for those short days on trip. However, coming back to base camp has been such an incredible experience. As a part of the support staff, we have worked together to support the Sherpas and those on trip—praying for them each morning and throughout the day, writing notes of encouragement, preparing food for them, and doing anything else that we can do to show them love and support. Additionally, we have completed various tasks around base camp—gardening, roofing, painting, mowing, cooking, and cleaning, among others. Contrary to the natural response of such copious and sometimes strenuous work, I have found such joy in my time here. The Lord is so present here. He is present in the conversations and interactions of the staff. I have seen and heard of how He is moving and working in others’ lives, and that is a beautiful testament to His goodness and faithfulness. He is present in our work. Instead of seeing these tasks as something to simply check off of a list, it is important to keep in mind the eternal impact of this work. In giving ourselves up to His Spirit, we were able to see the purpose and joy in doing work. For we are not doing this work for our own glory, and we are not doing this work for the glory of La Vida, but we are doing this work for the glory of the Lord. We are doing our very best to create an environment that is centered on the Lord, to create a place that is designed to assist people in seeing the Lord and what He is doing in their lives, and to facilitate a deeper knowledge and relationship with Him. That is what I have come to see is the heart of La Vida. The wilderness is a beautiful place that never ceases to amaze me. Building friendships and learning about living in community is incredibly important, valuable, and close to the Lord’s heart. But above all, it has been a joy and a blessing to see the Lord reveal Himself to me, the rest of the staff, and the participants this May session. ”

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Stephen mowing the lawn at base camp.

 

Linnea Hultberg, Sophomore at Gordon College:

“I was originally preparing to work as a co-Sherpa this May, but because a few people had to be moved around, I got switched to work on support staff. Looking back on this session, it was completely God working to place me here. I think that if I had been sent out on trip this May it would have been a very positive experience, but instead I got to see the gears of La Vida. I got to see the safety nets and community that silently encourage, pray, and indeed support the groups of people out on trip. It was great belaying different trips at the high ropes course and at different rock courses. It was great following each trip through the itinerary and praying for each group each day. It was great subtly improving base camp through gardening, painting, mowing and countless other jobs so that those who come through La Vida have a better, less distracted experience. It was great checking and organizing gear so that we know each trip will have gear that works. And in it’s own way, it’s great knowing that most of what we do here at base camp will go unnoticed. It ensures we’re not serving for recognition or praise but rather out of our love for the program, the people involved, and for God. There is a joyful contentment in our job. While forming bonds with your group and experiencing the beauty of the Adirondacks is something I still very much look forward to doing, I am so glad for the experience I gained through serving on support staff, and I love the community and beauty that comes from it as well.”

Linnea and other staff spinning the parachute (Eleanor is sitting in the middle). Through all the hard work, we have found time to have some fun!

Linnea and other staff spinning the parachute. Through all the hard work, we have found time to have some fun!

 

Sam Craig, 2015 graduate of Gordon College:

The sound of shuffling papers, books, and muffled voices have now become just a distant memory of our finals week at Gordon College. Now, the sound of laughter, bird songs, and the F18 (dishwasher) have taken their place in the background noise of the La Vida Base Camp up in the Adirondacks. Even the conversation has changed. Instead of discussions of papers, projects, and term exams, the conversation is full of our daily adventures–of fighting off black flies, raking the grass, van moves, painting cabins, and the assortment of other various tasks that need to be accomplished before participants arrive for celebration. And it is not only these tasks that hold our attention, but the moments we share together, as a staff, that keep our spirits high. We work, play, and pray together. Each day we learn a little more about one another and celebrate one another’s quirks, odd jokes, and joyful life. And it is here, in the support staff community, that I’ve seen God’s work being done and have experienced Christ’s presence. The sounds surrounding us may have changed, but God’s work in and around our lives continues and it has been my joy and delight to participate in this good work.”

Sam helping put gravel down in the garden.

Sam helping put gravel down in the garden.

It has been a fun few weeks with this group of students!  Here are a few more pictures:

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A long day of roofing, but the equipment building is one step closer to completion.

 

Ansa helping make plaques.

Ansa helping make plaques.

Handstand contest 🙂 Stephen won.

 

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Sherry helping in the garden.

Photo Credit: Amber Dvornski and Nate Hausman

President Michael Lindsay Visits La Vida Base Camp

The summer of 2014 brought many visitors to the La Vida Base Camp property including several cabinet members from Gordon College and President Michael Lindsay. This was President Lindsay’s first visit to the Base Camp and allowed him to interact with the Gordon students who were just finishing their College Expedition trip. He was able to walk around the Base Camp property with Nate, drive with Rich to pick up a canoe group, and see the Adirondack ministry in action. He listened to stories from students from their trip and was able to officially welcome them to Gordon College.

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Construction of the New Equipment Building at Base Camp

This past weekend, Nate returned to the Base Camp with 11 volunteers including employees of Gordon College, Nate’s LEAP Intern, and Rich and Amber from the La Vida Office. The group arrived Thursday and immediately started work on the construction. The next two days consisted of preparing the flooring and putting up the walls and roof of the building. It was amazing to see after 30 hours of work, what once was a blank site, is now a near complete building ready to serve the La Vida program. Nate is excited about some of the new features which include a garage door for easy access during gear check in/out, a covered rear porch that will allow groups to stay dry during rainy check in/out times, attic storage, and level floors (haha, all former Sherpas know what we’re talking about). Although we got a lot done this weekend, there are still a number of items on our to do list for the building. This coming Spring, Gordon’s electricians will travel back up to Base Camp with Nate to finish wiring the building. Plumbing will hopefully be installed for a washer and dryer, and doors and windows will be installed to fully secure the building. We are very thankful to all of the people who volunteered their time and resources to help make this building a possibility for us.

Photo Credit: Amber Dvornski

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Demolition of the La Vida Gear Shed

3 weeks ago Nate Hausman, Director of the Adirondack Program, headed up to the La Vida Base Camp with Paul Helgesen (Director of Plant Operations and Sustainability), Jeff O’Brien (Fleet Manager), Nate Kenison (former Sherpa) and John Whitmore (2013 ALP participant and friend of Nate’s) to demolish the gear shed and prepare the site for La Vida’s new equipment building. Another former Sherpa, John Pillen, also helped with the demolition. 7 years ago, the gear shed shifted off of its footings and has since been leaning to one side. Nate and Paul collaborated this last year to create a blueprint and project timeline for a new building. This weekend was the beginning of those plans coming together and marked the first of two weekends of construction at Base Camp.

 

Photo Credit: Nathan Hausman

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