Hold Fast 10:23

Hello friends! As most of you know from my last post, I have the privilege of serving this summer as an RMI (Real Ministry Immersion) mentor for Compass, a Christian leadership development program for high school students run by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I just want to update ya’ll a bit on how the first part of my time with the students has been, as well as give you a glimpse into the magnificent work the Lord is doing within the hearts and minds of 27 young high school men and women whose desire it is to chase after and serve the Lord.

My group is the yellow group, aka, the Yellow Fellows. There are nine young men and women in our group: Henry, Amir, Daniel, Samuel, Amber, Natalie, Iela, Marielle, and Kelly. Only one word can adequately sum up how I feel about our group and I believe that is blessed. It is a group full of laughter, singing, desire to pursue relationship with one another and the Lord, and willingness to listen, learn, and grow. As a leader it is always a blessing to have students who take initiative in building relationships, asking the hard questions, and stepping into new and potentially uncomfortable situations and this group has certainly jumped eagerly into all three.

After bidding goodbye to parents last Wednesday, we had a short time together at Gordon before packing up the bus and heading to the La Vida base camp in Lake Clear, NY. Upon our arrival, we added two more to our number, our sherpas, Adrienne and Matt. Adrienne is actually a former Compass participant who is serving as a sherpa for La Vida for the first time this summer. Matt is a rising junior at Gordon College who fell in love with the outdoors upon his own participant trip with La Vida and decided to go on staff leading college trips. Both Adrienne and Matt were welcomed additions to our family and their love for the Lord and desire to share their outdoor and faith experience with the students brought even more depth and life to our budding family.

Our first days were spent in the high and low ropes course where the students began to work together to accomplish certain goals and overcome obstacles as a group, as well as rock climbing. After spending two nights at base camp, going through the ropes courses, rock climbing, and learning from Matt and Adrienne about the basics of backpacking, we set off for our excursion through the Dix mountain itinerary. Dix is the sixth highest peak in the High Peak Mountain range of the Adirondacks and was the second mountain the students got a chance to climb. Our first night was spent at Round Pond before we hiked full-pack to a stop at the base of Noonmark Mountain where we stashed our backpacks and proceeded to climb to the top, before descending and taking up the packs again to head to our camp site for the next two nights. For many students Noonmark was their first summiting of a peak and I must say it was truly a joy to see the awe and excitement on all the faces as we finally reached the top. That joy was magnified the next day as we peaked the 4,840 ft. Dix Mountain.

A unique part of the La Vida and Compass experience is the sharing of life stories of each member of the community, as well as the forming of a group covenant. For our group, the sharing of stories took place around the campfire, as well as at each the peak of both Noonmark and Dix Mountain. I must say it is an exhilarating and humbling experience to listen to the story of a student while seeing the visible manifestation of God’s story and our place within it so clearly from the top of a mountain.

After finally getting back to camp from our Dix Mountain trek, we shared our table talk time and then moved into the forming of our covenant. As with any covenant, our covenant is meant to be both a promise and commitment to one another, as well as an expression of their desire for what type of community we aspire to foster through the Lord’s grace and love. The students decided upon Hold Fast 1023, built upon Hebrews 10:23-25 as the covenant verse, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Funnily enough, Hold Fast is a word the students learned their first day before even departing Gordon, that comes from the word belay.

The next day, this covenant would serve as a great reminder to the students as we set out on our bushwhacking trek, a 2.2 mile and seven hour trek off trail to our next campsite. Though it was a long day and somewhat frustrating day at times wither due to physical pains and weariness or difficult terrain, it was also a day in which each student persevered and kept up a spirit of encouragement, worship, and ‘holding fast’ to one another.

The bushwhack served as perfect preparation for the next task the students undertook as they began their ‘Finals Day,’ in which the sherpas and I hid and followed from a distance as the leaders of the day rallied the group together in picking up camp, initiating Compass time (normal hour of quiet time in the morning), navigating to our final camp site, and finally, setting up camp. Adrienne, Matt, and I couldn’t have been more proud as we watched from a distance as Amir and Marielle led everyone with great care, humility, service, and encouragement.

Finally, the day before leaving the trail, we sent the students off on their solo day, a day of fasting and solitude with the Lord a short distance from our main camp. Though it was a stormy night and the mosquitoes were peskier than normal, I believe each student came away from their time with a significant promise/blessing/lesson/realization that the Lord revealed. From an appreciation of the fellowship with which the Lord provides us, to the empowering presence of the spirit, to the Lord’s provision in all things, or recognition and acceptance of the depth of the Lord’s unfailing and relentless love toward us, each student proceeded to share and add to growing richness of our little community.

Together we form an eclectic mix of backgrounds and personalities that I feel the Lord has knit into one unique family. I am amazed by the depth of maturity and wisdom that each student has expressed in our 12 days together and truly cannot wait to see how the Lord continues to work within them throughout the next two rhythms of the Compass month, seminary week and Nicaragua. I am immensely proud of each student, as I have seen each of them grown in deeper intimacy with Christ, as well as develop a better understanding of their own unique roles as leaders within our yellow community group, their own story, and their faith. When you are thrust headfirst into a wilderness excursion such as La Vida, I believe you come face to face with your vision of yourself and your place within the world and God’s vision of who He is creating you to be and how He is calling you into His world. The students all faced fear, failure, joy, recognition of gifts, insecurities, compassion, love, grace, etc. When they encountered the overwhelming beauty and magnificence of God’s Creation in the Adirondack wilderness, as well as the blessing of dwelling together as a community in unity, it was inevitable that the Holy Spirit would begin to move and work within them, revealing, refining, and fashioning them more into the young men and women He has so uniquely created.