A couple weeks ago I met up with Clayton, one of my best friends from camp this summer, and we drove over to Maggie Valley, NC for a SHERPA ski retreat. You see, I spent my summer serving as a SHERPA (a way cooler name for guide or counselor) at Outdoor Mission Camp in North Carolina. As we hung out with old friends, got updated on each other’s lives, and did our best to shred the gnar on the slopes at Catalooche Ski Resort, I couldn’t help but to reflect back on this summer and what a great experience it was. The staff of OMC are gearing up for the coming summer, and are always looking for solid people to serve as SHERPAs. It is so hard to put this experience into words, but here are 7 reasons why you should be a SHERPA this summer.
1. It is a chance to come face to face with the creator of the universe. I firmly believe that God is around us always. In class, at the dorms, at work, God is with you. But for me, I always seem to see Him more clearly through His creation. At Outdoor Mission Camp (OMC), most of your time is spent outside, and many of your nights are spent under the stars. When you go on a backpacking trip, you start to develop a rhythm that seems to be more in tune with God’s rhythm, and you start to hear His voice a little clearer. Throughout my summer I was constantly reminded of God’s power and glory through the beauty of His creation.
2. Be stretched and pushed outside of your comfort zone. This is probably an overused reason to do something, but perhaps that is just because it truly is so valuable. It is impossible to spend a summer at OMC without having been pushed at least once. It looks different for everyone. For some, it was dealing with heights while learning to rock climb and repell. For others, it was the challenge of being vulnerable with a new but close group of people. A few people struggled to take a step back in leadership and let others step up. For me, I was just super stoked about being able to backpack, raft, and rock climb, and none of those things were really outside of my comfort zone. But when we spent a week serving at Camp Ability, a camp for children with special needs, I was nearly stretched to the point of breaking. But I didn’t, and it was without a doubt one of the most positive experiences of my summer.
3. Learn a bunch of really awesome leadership and outdoor skills that make you sound really awesome on a resume. Team building, leadership development, small group leadership, project management, conflict resolution, whitewater raft guiding, belaying, backcountry cooking, Bible study techniques, discipleship, mentorship, servant leadership, initiatives, backcountry navigation, Wilderness First Aid, and the list goes on and on. Serving as a SHERPA at OMC encompasses such a wide variety of activities and experiences, that will absolutely equip you as a follower and as a leader. These skills have been so valuable to me this past semester as I have served my fraternity at UTC.
4. Be a part of a legitimate Christian community of people who will become lifelong friends. Spending 11 straight weeks with the same 12 people, while being stretched physically, emotionally, and spiritually can be incredibly training. But it is also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Honestly, I didn’t know what true Christian community looked like until this summer. It was a place where spiritual conversations flowed naturally, where days started and ended in the word, where people routinely prayed and worshiped together, and where all people were seen and loved as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have never felt so loved by a group of people, and it is something I strive to create and adopt in my everyday life. Once I was shown the power of Christian community, I can’t help but to want more of it.
5. Learn to rejoice always. A SHERPA summer can be incredibly hard, and the hardships of life, burdens from the past, and insecurities don’t go away just because you are at camp. Sometimes you just don’t feel like serving or being loving, and it can be easy to develop a bad attitude. Bryan, one of my great friends at camp, was a constant and encouraging reminder that the Lord calls us to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances. He was a living testament to this and an inspiration for all to do the same. This summer I learned to turn to Christ in the midst of hardship, and it has carried me through the past semester.
6. Have a ridiculous amount of fun. Seriously, so much fun. I mean, when a typical day consists of hiking through the woods, going rock climbing, doing a challenge course, whitewater rafting, and sometimes even a little foosball, its impossible not to have a lot of fun. Basically, I got to spend my summer doing some of the things that I love most in life, all while serving God with some absolutely incredible and super fun people. (Oh yeah, we even got to go Wakeboarding once. It was sick.)
7. Be temporarily adopted for the summer. Jamie and Ruffin Shackleford are the head honchos over at Outdoor Mission Camp, and they are magnificent. They showed us a beautiful picture of what it looks like to spend a lifetime following hard after God. Jamie is a strong and wonderful leader, who knows how to love and pour into others with a supernatural strength. Ruffin is the kind of man that every little boy should aspire to be. And they both loved us so well. They quickly became each of our adoptive Grandparents (or parents if that makes them feel younger) for the summer, and I know that for years to come I will always be able to count on them. Being a small part of their big family is a true blessing.
Serving as a SHERPA at Outdoor Mission Camp was one of the most important and outstanding experiences of my life, and there is no way this short list can do it justice. The only way to truly understand its greatness is to experience it for yourself. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more, I would love to chat with you. Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the camp on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OutdoorMissionCamp or go to their website a thttp://www.outdoormissioncamp.org
Applications can be found online at their website. DO IT!