THE POWER OF ADVENTURE
By Rich Obenschain
Experiential learning has become extremely important in a postmodern age when people understand God primarily through their experience of Him. Without adventure, I believe youth will not grow to their full potential or they will seek adventure of little value.
La Vida seeks to provide transformational adventure experiences and space to seek God, from which powerful life lessons can be put into words and then lived out in the world. Time for simplicity, solitude, reflection and worship in a natural setting allows people to know God deeper by observing what God has created and what He values. Through the power of encouragement groups go back home with confidence and a stronger commitment to support each other in the daily struggles of life.
Many Christian organizations use La Vida for personal and group development. One example is Covenant Christian School in Peabody. They send every 9th grader on La Vida before they begin high school. The month-long Compass Program of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary also sends their students on a 10-day La Vida expedition.
Recently I was talking to a Connecticut youth pastor and former Young Life leader who has strategically used La Vida for years in his ministry to kids. La Vida is the best way he knows "to build disciples as well as prepare youth for summer mission experiences." He related a story of being in a village in the Andes Mountains of Peru with 15 kids who were forced to face a few challenges they weren't told to expect. After a few days, the group had the potential to fall apart, but six of the kids, who had been on La Vida the previous summer, "carried the other half of the group." They were able to apply their faith in Christ and encourage the others to make the best of a tough situation. This pastor believes the La Vida experience was a major component to the confidence in Christ and ability to overcome that these students demonstrated.
He had this to say in reflection: "Overcoming the challenges together, led by my La Vida-trained students, set the stage for us to overcome emotional and spiritual challenges and make the mission trip tremendously successful. We experienced success on every goal, and it was largely due to the hands-on training La Vida provided."
We have received great feedback from many Gordon College faculty and staff who have traveled as advisors on the many mission teams the College sends out each year. They too were so grateful to have students on their trips who had previously participated in La Vida, because those students seemed better prepared to persevere in the face of challenges and be more community oriented.
REKINDLE: A LETTER TO ALUMNI
Dear La Vida Alumni,
During your celebration you were told, "La Vida starts as soon as you get on the bus." Was this not the truth? What did it take for you to remember and put into practice what you have learned and believed on your La Vida trip?
I asked myself these questions four years ago and continue to ask them even today. What I went through for 12 long days was much needed self-reflection and a catalyst for what Christian life can be. It encouraged me to have a life filled with devotion to Jesus, community, covenant, challenge and change.
What does it take to rekindle this learning? I encourage you to reread your La Vida journal and relive each step or paddle. Remember the challenges and the joys. Remember surrendering your desires, worries and hopes to Christ and trusting in His provision. God was not the woods or the streams; God was with us, showing us our true selves and values and walking with us as we stepped outside our comfort zone. What kind of commitment move is Jesus asking you to take now? Do you trust Him like you trusted the belayers at the rock climb and the ropes course? Thinking through my trip and asking myself these questions have made all the difference in my relationship with God.
I challenge you, as your brother, to join me in fighting to rekindle the fire. The choice to grow toward Christ after your La Vida trip is not an easy one, but in prayer you are not alone. Here at La Vida, we don't want to forget you, the impact you have had, and the potential for more impact. We want to continue to encourage you and seek ways to enable you to be a stronger person. Put your leadership to good use for His Kingdom. If we could remain part of your goals to grow and be stretched, we'd be blessed. The name La Vida is not finished. There is a hidden end. The complete phrase is: La Vida cada día (The Life each day).
In His service,
La Vida Alumni, 2004
STAFF HIGHLIGHT: NATE HAUSMAN
La Vida welcomed Nate Hausman on board 10 years ago as a Sherpa while he was still a student at Gordon College. Nate stepped in to direct the Adirondack programs in 2002. Not only has he made great additions to that program as its director, but he's also worked hard to build strong relationships within the community surrounding the basecamp and among the New York State Rangers.
Nate has recently become an adjunct faculty in the Recreation and Leisure Studies department and is on his way to becoming a WEA National Standards Program certifying instructor. He continues to be active in the outdoors by running and hiking with his dog Colden.
It was the first time in over 5 years that I slept in a sleeping bag (well, outside at least) and strapped on the backpack for more than one day. This past fall semester, I had the privilege of working with Gordon College's Outdoor Education Immersion Semester. The Immersion Semester is a collaborative effort between the Recreation and Leisure Studies department, Gordon's Global Education office and the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education.
2007 marked round number two for the Immersion Semester, and as we have now had time to reflect back upon those few months, read evaluations and think through memories, we are blessed to announce its huge success! My role within the semester long program was twofold: to teach two of the semester's courses (Foundations of Outdoor Education as well as Philosophies and Theories of Outdoor Education), and to serve as an apprentice instructor on the 24-day Wilderness Education Association National Standards Program course.
By far, the highlight of the semester for me was getting back into the woods. I mean, who can really complain about getting paid to hike for three weeks through Wyoming's Wind River Range? Certainly not I. This time proved to be so beneficial and meaningful for me because of the direct contact I had with students and the ability to teach them transferable skills. What an amazing classroom setting: 11,000 foot peaks, meandering mountain streams and a group of 15 very cool people.
My love and passion for wilderness education and ministry was certainly rekindled during that semester. The Lord speaks so clearly to me when I interact with Him in Creation. I can't wait to get back out there again!
LA VIDA IN ECUADOR
by Katie Madden
La Vida staff like to hang out in the trees and mountains, right? Not just North American trees and mountains though! This past January, a group of eight women, a mix of staff and students here at Gordon, went to Ecuador for two weeks to work with a retreat and training center called El Refugio (the Refuge). This ministry is part of an organization called Youth World International, and according to their mission statement, El Refugio "exists to facilitate deeper relationships with Jesus Christ through nature and outdoor adventure." That sounds right up La Vida's alley to me!
Over the course of the trip, the La Vida Ecuador team had a chance to offer various trainings on advanced ropes course rescue procedures and debriefing strategies to the staff at El Refugio. We also introduced a number of new games to the larger group of 18-20 year old Ecuadorian facilitators who volunteer their time leading groups through the ropes course and developing their leadership skills. In working with the El Refugio staff, we had many opportunities not only to share our skills and knowledge, but also to learn from the people we met and spent time with along the way.
Staff and students were very encouraged by the reports and stories about this trip and La Vida has high hopes of continuing to offer overseas service/learning trips as a follow-up to the La Vida experience.
EXPERIENTIAL DISCIPLESHIP, NATURE AND BOOKS
Books found on Rich Obenschain's Bookshelf
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
This is a relevant and poignant book, speaking about the ramifications of children and youth becoming "nature deficient." The La Vida program directors and office staff have been encouraged by Richard Louv's book as they work to connect youth to the natural world.
Experiencing God Day by Dayby Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
Many Discovery and La Vida staff members know that this is a favorite book of Rich's. It is a great devotional that speaks to everyday issues with an experiential perspective.
The La Vida Center for Outdoor Education continues to be interested in how the worldwide church is using outdoor and adventure education. In the past two years, staff traveled and served different adventure programs in South Africa with the Recreation and Leisure Studies department and at El Refugio in Quito, Ecuador. La Vida plans to seek other service learning opportunities for students to see the impact adventure education can have in different cultural contexts.
Along with this, we are excited to have several staff alumni serving internationally and using the field of adventure education. Below are past staff and their current work abroad. If you know of others who are working internationally in this field, please let us know.
Dana and Brandi Bates, La Vida staff: Viata and New Horizons Foundation, Romania
Nathan Kenison, La Vida staff: Creation Care, New Zealand
Sarah Barrett, La Vida staff : Creation Care, New Zealand
La Vida is planning to make much needed repairs and updates to the Adirondack Basecamp property. These repairs include the barn where celebrations are held, staff cabins and the equipment shed that will soon need to be replaced. The property and buildings that we have allow us to serve and minister to youth and college students more effectively.
If you would like to hear more about these specific projects, please contact the La Vida office or Gordon College. You can also give to the The La Vida Belay Team, a group of past staff, alumni, campers, families and supporters that give to the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education at Gordon College.