How do you encompass all that goes on, into, and is learned from a true life experience like those on a VLA trip? Short answer, you don’t. So, in order to alleviate your eyes, attention span, and my fingers typing I shall attempt to compile our 2016 Forging experience into a short series of tales leading up to our 2016 Conquering trip in early August.
Where to begin? Considering all the mind blowing/life altering lessons, sights, experiences, and challenges we went through together on this trip, this is a difficult question to answer. However, I guess the best place to begin is near the beginning, both chronologically and in purpose of the trip. Not intentionally, the following became some of the silver linings of ‘difficult’ moments during the trips, and can find it’s roots here:
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness…Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.” - Galatians 6:1,2
“We who are strong ought to bear with the shortcomings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” - Romans 15:1
This ideal played itself out in a multitude of ways on the trip from helping each other cook meals or clean up after to everyone working together to grab a lady out of a river into our own boat before she met the next rapid a bit too ‘up close and personal’. But I think the two that stick out in my mind the most were where I struggled and the Seekers were there to pick me up, and where one of our Seekers did not make it to the summit of Wheeler Peak and had to be helped down the mountain because of severe altitude sickness. In both cases you could clearly see the proverb manifested in the humbling acceptance of the one in need, and the strength lovingly given by all those around.
The first was where I, the ‘leader,’ struggled in frustration as we got on the road extremely late due to our trailer lights not hooking up right electrically with the van. I know, I know, seems silly, but when they worked just the day before and and our window of time to get to certain places along the route fairly tight, let’s just say I was not a happy camper (ha, camper, see what I did there?…anyway). However, as I was childishly brooding in my frustration, the rest of the seekers were rallying around the situation patiently waiting, trying to keep the situation (and me) calm, and even seeking different solutions in any way I hadn’t thought of yet. This is how one Seeker (Martyn), came up with the idea that it must be a ground wire problem as he researched the issue on YouTube (thanks YouTube). Thus we found the ground wire on the trailer had somehow been severed; and with just a few tweaks, we reattached it and were on our way.
The second and more meaningful of the two anecdotes was when I had to carry my pack and Somiari’s (90 lbs. total) the last 2 miles to our first camp because he had become too altitude sick to make it on his own. While it took us a whole extra hour to reach the camp, the rest of the Seekers did a fantastic job setting things up for Somiari so he wouldn’t have to do much when he arrived. They made sure all his needs were met when he got there, and generally made him feel accepted in an awkward and tough position as he struggled through the night. In the end I had to take him down off the mountain as his condition did not improve much overnight. I think it was exceptionally hard for him as he instantly started feeling better as soon as he took the first step down the mountain, all the while knowing it was the right call as it would be too risky to attempt the rest of the journey to the summit.
However, all of us grew in spirit, our relationships towards one another as fellow human beings, understood a little more of the joy our Creator designed us for between ourselves and Him, and in our own souls as we grasped the meaning behind bearing one another’s burdens.
Both the bearer of the burden and the one being carried play an integral part in the growth of the other, and if realized correctly, leads to the flourishing of both in mind, body, and spirit.
I think the experience expressed by one of the Seekers, Ian, sums it up nicely:
“This trip reminded me of how insignificant and helpless I am on my own. Even in the middle of a beautiful and seemingly harmless environment, I was still incredibly vulnerable. Looking back, this trip has taught me that on my own, it’s almost impossible to achieve my goals. Only when I lean on others and rely on the Lord can I hope to succeed.”
So go and bear each others burdens.