It was the spring semester of my first year at Gordon College. I found myself walking to the basement of Frost Hall to visit the La Vida office and speak with Rich Obenschain. Contemplating a change in my major, I had discovered a newfound passion for creating fun, active, and community-based experiences for people after taking a recreation class.

As I passed the old VW van, plastered with lots of outdoor gear stickers, and entered the dank basement office, I was greeted by a golden retriever. A deep voice beckoned me into their workspace cluttered with paperwork. “How does he find anything in here?” I thought as I sat down to chat with Rich about outdoor education. A natural salesman, I would leave the office 30 minutes later committed to changing my major and adding Outdoor Education as my concentration. Little did I know that in just two weeks, my La Vida trip to the Adirondacks (my first time truly camping) would forever change the course of my life.

Now, 27 years later, I find myself reflecting on the countless memories and experiences that words can scarcely capture. As an experiential educator, it’s fitting that an experience can best convey the impact of this program on my life. During the May College Expeditions this spring, I headed to Owl’s Head for one last rock climb with the Gordon students. A student approached the rappel station and hesitated, unsure if they wanted to commit to backing their body off the 50-foot cliff. It took some convincing, but they eventually agreed to get tied into the anchor system and listen to my instructions. I’ve done this thousands of times, literally, over the past 20+ years. Some, eagerly and almost without thought, back off and zoom down the cliff. Others, like this student, take much more coaching. After about ten minutes of me doing my best to assure them I have the credentials to keep them alive, they finally inched their heels to edge. Bit by bit the rope slowly curled its way through the figure 8 device, gradually lowering this student down the rock face. They reached the bottom and then gazed up, smile wide and eyes filled with amazement. “I did it!!!” “You did” I replied. “I knew you could do it, you just had to believe.”

I’ll miss those moments of triumph and being a part of someone else’s La Vida story. I’ll miss the conversations in the staff lounge around the woodstove on a cool Adirondack morning. I’ll miss the staff who invest so much of themselves into this program so that others can experience the same thing all of us have experienced in the past. I’ll certainly miss the peanut butter/chocolate swirl combination at Donnelly’s. The list could go on for quite some time if I let myself reminisce through the many wonderful things this program does and has provided for me over the years. Service trips to South Africa to build a ropes course, travels to China with Amber to lead a La Vida trip for high school students, trekking through the West on multiple WILD semester trips, collaborating with Waypoint Adventure to offer an adaptive canoe trip, and on and on the list grows.

I’ve seen thousands of students come through the base camp over the past 22 years as a full-time staff member and have been blessed by working alongside hundreds of passionate staff. More recently I’ve been able to help facilitate even more students through the Discovery program here on campus. The base camp property feels like a second home. Those 75-acres have given me more than I could have imagined. Doing all this work for the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of Christ, spreading his Gospel in adventurous ways has been an absolute honor. Thanks to everyone who has hiked, climbed, and served with me all these years.

So, now it’s my turn to hold fast, to make a commitment move, and to actually not be here now (ha ha). My journey continues with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro South where I will continue to work with youth and provide opportunities for kids to see they are valued and capable of so much more than they think or give themselves credit for. It’s hard to trust at times. It’s really hard to leave what is so comfortable and known. But, just as that student back in May learned, it’s important to push ourselves knowing we are supported and cared for no matter how nervous we might be for that next step.

Thank you to everyone who has shared in my journey and contributed to my story. Amber and I along with our kids have been absolutely blessed by this community and we will take those many connections with us as we step out into our next adventure.


Nate Hausman

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