A voice in the wilderness: A first hike
During the summer, I work at Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, which is nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Because of our beautiful surroundings, we are often a destination camp for youth groups from all over the United States.
Two summers ago, I had a group drive on buses from Dallas, Texas. Most of these high-schoolers lived in the city and had never experienced anything like a national forest I remember this group in particular, because they were so fascinated by everything surrounding them: the aspen trees, the mountains, the waterfalls. For the entirety of the week, their eyes were wide open.
But from the time they arrived on Sunday afternoon, they fretted about their Thursday hike. They’d never hiked before and were nervous about hitting the trail. I continually told them, “Hiking is the same as walking. If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can hike.” And sure enough, once they got started, they realized that they too, could hike.
A few hours into our hike, I facilitated a spiritual practice that Sky Ranch calls Sacred Silence. We space kids out so that, while they are still within eyesight of one another, they are walking alone in the wilderness. We let them have 20 minutes of time alone with the mountains, and then come together to talk about what the experience was like.
One girl talked about wildflowers she noticed, another talked about being able to hear a waterfall in the distance. And then a brave boy spoke quietly, saying, “I forgot to notice anything around me. I was so busy talking to God.”
This Advent, I encourage each of you to go for a walk and engage with God intentionally, like my camper did during his walk in the wilderness. Focus on God so closely that you forget, even for a moment, whatever else is going on around you. Put one foot in front of the other, and pray.
Christine Vincent is a senior at Augustana College, planning to attend seminary. She is the youth ministries intern at St. Paul.