Meet Canoe 1
A version of this post was written by Jonathan Chandra ’18, Carter Reynolds ’17 , Hannah Fleth ’19 and Rosalind Keeley ’19, and compiled by La Vida staff member Amber Hausman. It originally appeared on blog of the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership.
Creation, Community, and Facing Your Fears: What These Students Learned on Their La Vida Expedition
May’s La Vida Expedition was the first of many life-changing trips that will take place 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 an especially strong bond during their journey. I asked the group if they would share some thoughts. —Amber
Jonathan: 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.
Carter: La Vida taught me a lot, but the most important thing I came away with was verification of the unmatched beauty of Christian community. With an extremely diverse band of 12 randomly chosen Jesus followers, all in different places in our 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 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 continues to be used by God to change lives.
Facing Your Fears
Hannah: 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 at 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 my 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 about 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.
God of Wonders
Rosalind: When we finally reached the end of our 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 were the life stories. After we had listened to them, and asked each 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 who would help us grow spiritually and in a personal way. I saw growth in everyone throughout the trip and I saw, 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, and 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!
Photos by Carter Reynolds