I had the privilege of growing up every summer at a Christian camp in Ontario, Canada, where my parents served as key volunteers for 30 years. It was my home away from home. I love the impact of Christian camping in a residential setting and have committed my life to this ministry.
Adventure is a core part of going to camp. Whenever you have unknown outcomes, you have adventure, and there are lots of unknown experiences when you go to camp. What will it be like? Who will be there? Yes, adventure is a natural part of camp.
But I like taking adventure to the next level, and for me, that usually means heading off to the wilderness where the degree of adventure significantly increases. Some of the best personal learning experiences of my life have been on canoe trips, and Ontario is world-renown for its wilderness waterways. On canoe trips I have learned to push my personal limits physically, stretch my mental abilities of decision-making, and increase my social skills of successfully living in community – all while encountering first-hand the majesty of God’s creation. Canoe trips have literally changed my life for the good.
I also love to lead adventure experiences where I can help others grow too. Let me share with you one story of a canoe trip that resulted in significant learning for one young lady. Although this trip was only four days long, the circumstances were difficult for the entire group. The first day we fought a headwind up a large lake, stopping on a beach where we battled swarms of biting insects – mosquitoes, black flies and sandflies.
The next day it rained, and by the time we reached our campsite, we were all wet and tired - and more biting insects greeted us. We were all uncomfortable, but throughout the first two days, one particular girl continually complained, making it even more difficult for the rest of the group. We all tried to encourage her, but nothing seemed to help.
On the third day when it was still drizzling, I took her aside to speak with her about her attitude. I spoke with her about a life principle: we can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can always choose how we will respond to them. With God’s help, she could choose to have a good attitude if she wished. All through the rest of that day she had a complete change in attitude. She was learning to choose joy regardless of her circumstances. I seriously doubt if she would have ever learned this life-changing lesson in the comfort of her home environment.
Here are a few concluding thoughts about the power of adventure experiences:
- Adventure experiences remove people from their comfort zones and that helps them become more aware of areas where they need to grow.
- Skilled leaders can enhance adventure experiences to help people learn from them.
Adventure experiences truly have the power to change lives.
Bruce Dunning is the Executive Director of Medeba in Ontario, Canada and serves on the board of CCI Worldwide. He recently published “God of Adventure” showing the biblical basis for adventure as a teaching tool.