Story and Photos By: Rachel Hoang, La Vida Intern
Even though this quad is my fifth time serving as a Discovery Apprentice, the weekend camping trips never get old. Every class is different, packed with funny quirks, humor and their own sense of character. With each class I lead, I learn something new and valuable. Whether you’re a student, apprentice or instructor in this class, growth is inevitable. You learn to build trust, to work and communicate with others, to listen and be intentional with those around you. You learn to stretch yourself to overcome your fears and worries.
We left for our camping trip Saturday, October 6th, around 7:45 AM and arrived in the White Mountains of New Hampshire around lunch time. Hiking to our campsite was a little bit of a struggle with all of our gear on our backs, but it was hard to complain when we were surrounded by a forest of golden leaves. The air was crisp and cool on our faces as we trekked in a single-file line, dodging the muddy spots by hopping along the rocks. After finally arriving at our campsite, we set up camp and then grabbed our day packs to head out for our hike.
The hike to Zealand Falls was a couple miles filled with colorful foliage, gorgeous views and good conversation. There’s nothing like sitting before a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by yellow trees and at the same time, being able to share this experience with classmates and friends alongside you.
When we arrived back at our campsite, we had the students spread out along the river for their solo time. Some of them wrote in their journals, others sat in silence as they slowly took in the nature around them. Silence and being alone with our thoughts isn’t always easy. However, in all the classes I’ve been an apprentice for, I have never had a student say that they did not like their solo time. We go through life, always on the move, rarely taking the time in our busy schedules to stop and be silent. But, it’s in these silent, still moments, where God often speaks and instills something into our open, listening hearts.
The campfire as the main source of warmth at night, made for a great place to share our life stories with each other. As each student shared their story while the rest of the group listened quietly, I saw how God was moving in each and every one of these students’ lives. Though our stories are unique and different from the person next to us, I saw how much God was molding and directing each of our lives in ways that reflected just how much he deeply cares and loves us.
The next day, we hiked Middle Sugarloaf, which is about a mile and a half. With the frequent inclines, our legs and lungs quickly started to burn. I probably heard the phrase, “Are we almost there?” three or four times during the hike up, which is understandable, given the fact that burning muscles and tired lungs are hardly ever a great feeling. When we finally got to the summit, the clouds completely obscured any view from our sight. So, while my students couldn’t say, “The view was worth it,” one student did say, “It’s about the bonding experience.” There may not have been a view from the summit, but the time we spend together is always worth it.
I do feel like we often go through life in this manner. Someone once said that most of life is spent in between where we started and where we want to be. Sometimes, we’ll have those “mountaintop” experiences, filled with joy, inspiration and rejuvenation. However, most of life will be spent on the climb upwards, the journey where trials, challenges and hard times will often hit us. God wants to stretch and challenge us to grow deeper in relationship with Him first, allowing Him to equip us with His love to extend generously to those around us. This growing process isn’t always a painless, smooth ride. In fact, it can often be a strenuous, difficult, trek upwards. However, if we’re always impatiently looking at our watches, wondering when we will reach the summit, we miss out on all the wonderful, hidden moments of growth on our journey up.
Spending the course of the weekend with my class helped me to see just how much God listens and hears every word we utter and every thought we have. The way He cares about the small, little details of our prayers, reminds me of how much He wants the best for us–a life spent in the midst of His redemptive love. As God continues to grow us into the men and women He has called us to be, we’re bound to hit some muddy moments and steep inclines. But, if we take the time to be intentional with those around us, if we take moments to be silent, surrounding ourselves with His creation and Word, He will speak and move in our lives. As Billy Graham once said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit grows in the valley.”