It Always Rains

Tuesday morning as my fellow SHERPAS and I excitedly packed for 4 days in the backcountry, we were shown a video by Rob Bell titled “Nooma: Rain.” Maybe you have seen it. Basically, Rob Bell narrates a time where he was out hiking during a blissful vacation out in the woods.  He ventured out from his family’s cabin with his one year old son nestled safely in his backpack.  He describes a perfect afternoon hike, looking out over the shimmering lake and basking in the sunlight reaching through the trees.  Then out of nowhere some clouds roll in and it begins to rain, and he says something very poignant. “It always rains doesn’t it?”  Seems about right.  When things couldn’t be going any better, when all is right with the world, it rains. Stuff goes wrong, things happen, and everything gets wet.  If only we had known how fitting that video would be for the week ahead.

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View from Mt. Stearling Fire Tower

The first afternoon on the trail was absolutely gorgeous.  The trail meandered through massive trees and bordered a bustling creek. The sound of water rushing over the rocks was our soundtrack, and its beat kept our pace as we marched onwards. At one point we spread out along the trail and created our own personal sanctuaries to just be with God. It was perfect. You can probably guess what happened next.  As soon as we made it to our campsite, we heard the familiar roll of thunder in the distance and the pitter patter of raindrops hitting the trees. Of course it rained.  We set up camp in the rain and struggled to muster up a fire during a brief break in the downpour.  Pretty much everything was wet, and for the rest of the week it would be

Earlier today we tackled an orienteering challenge.  We had to find ourselves on a map, then find a certain location on the map, determine our bearing to get to that location, and get there as a group. A tough challenge in itself.  We scrambled around our maps, pointed compasses in all directions and tried to choose a consistent bearing. We bushwhacked our way up a scarily steep hill, only to find our desired location was on the other side of the hill.  About halfway through the sketchy descent, we heard the all too familiar pitter patter of rain drops.  Before long the sound of rain drops in the trees materialized into rain drops soaking us to the core.  With the rain came a rolling thunder and occasional flash of lightning.  Our orienteering leader called for us to retreat and we quickly went back the way we came and found shelter.  It always rains.

When Rob Bell was hiking with his son and it began to rain, it gave him the opportunity to pull his son close and whisper, “I love you buddy, we’re gonna make it, Dad knows the way home.” Over and over.  It was an intimate moment, and it strengthened their relationship.  The thing about rain is that it is temporary.  Eventually, the storms in our life will be over, and eventually we will dry out.  But that doesn’t always make those times when it does rain much easier.  When you are slodging through the mud trying to outrun a lightning storm while not tumbling down a hill, it sure doesn’t feel temporary. When you are hungry and tired and fumbling around with ropes and tarps trying to set up camp, you just can’t wait for the rain to be over.  Rain on the trail can be challenging, and even more so when the rain comes in your life.  When things come crashing down around you and your bad situation seems inescapable, it doesn’t feel like just a “trial.” When the storms come in our lives, it’s tempting to pull up our hoods, fold our arms, and just look at the ground.  But it is in these times we have to remember that God is silently pulling us closer saying, “I love you buddy, we’re gonna make it. Dad knows the way home.”  And when the clouds roll away and the elusive sunlight finally breaks through, you can’t help but to feel God’s love shining through.  Even those first few rays of sunshine are enough to make the downpour of yesterday seem like a small drizzle.

Just Look Around

As I floated down a flat stretch of the Nantahala River with my fellow SHERPA’s, I looked over to Matt, one of the Outdoor Mission Camp staff and asked, “Matt, does this EVER get old?” He looked at me, then looked at the trees surrounding us and the mountains that could be seen through wide gaps in the trees, and said, “Just take a look around man.”  And as I took in the view in the seconds leading up to the next rapid I knew exactly what he meant.  How could spending your day having a blast in God’s creation with incredible people ever get old?

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I have been at Outdoor Mission Camp for a week now and it has already been an incredible adventure.  I have 11 new friends who were complete strangers just 8 days before.  I got to spend two days being certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR.  I have eaten incredible food provided by some wonderful volunteers from the community.  I have been lucky enough to hear my fellow SHERPA’s share their personal testimony around a campfire.  I have shared my testimony in a room full of couches in a cozy mountain cabin.  I have been brought to tears by the love and passion for God displayed by my new friends.  I have been challenged and pushed by peers who seek to honor God in every single thing that they do.  I have experienced true worship in a small circle of people singing whatever song is on their heart.  I have taken numerous personality tests to discover my strengths and weaknesses, gifts and abilities. I have learned a lot about interacting with other leaders and tackling challenges as a productive team.  I went whitewater rafting for the first time ever, and in the same trip was given the chance to guide our raft (somewhat successfully).  I have been way too cozy in a tent full of guys, and been blessed to wake up to a bright sun and warm meal on a chilly morning. I have experienced true Christian fellowship, and am learning to live in community.

I went into this summer ready to hang out with kids in nature and do cool stuff with them. This is still true, and that time will come. What I didn’t expect is that God would move and shape me in such remarkable ways in such a short period of time.  One of the coolest parts about this past week is that everything we have done, all the training and fun and worship and companionship, has been to prepare our hearts to lead kids in wilderness adventures in a way that reveals the glory of the Creator. One week in and I couldn’t be more excited about the things to come. I ask for your continued prayer and support as I know things will not always be easy, people will get on my nerves, I will get tired, I will get hungry, and at times I will wish for nothing more than to be safe and cozy at home.  But that is not what God has called me to. God has called me to this adventure, and I intend to live it out!

Quick Fundraising Pitch: I still have about 700 dollars to raise for this mission to be fully funded, and donations are accepted until July. You can give online here. Just be sure to include “Scottie Hill-SHERPA” in the comments section. It would be greatly appreciated!