Haiti

Friday morning I woke up around 5:30 A.M. in a bunkhouse in Fonde Baptiste, Haiti. I fell asleep around 11:30 P.M. in my own bed in Chattanooga, TN. I think my mind is still struggling to figure out where I am and what I am doing. As I sit at home and try to process the past two and a half months, I am at a loss. It’s hard to encompass a life changing two months into a few short, concise ideas. So for now, I am not going to even try. What I can do is reflect back on the magnificent 9 days I got to spend serving the Lord in Haiti.

On July 30th, we woke up around 3 in the morning and left Outdoor Mission Camp by 4. We arrived at the Atlanta airport around 9 and we boarded the plain for Port Au Prince, Haiti at 11. We landed around 2 and loaded up into the back of a diesel pick up truck for a four hour car ride up a mountainous road to the village of Fonde Baptiste.  We didn’t have much time to do much else than settle in, eat some dinner, and catch up on some much needed sleep.

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Pre-flight selfie in Atlanta!

The next day, Thursday, was market day. Before we left for Haiti we had prepared a few skits that outlined some basic tenets of the Gospel, and that was our chance to put them into action. The market was crazy. There were stands lining a narrow pathway selling all kinds of food, trinkets, and clothes. Pigs, cows, and goats roamed the market and squealed and groaned as they were led away by their new owners. Animals in all stages of the butchering process were out in the open for all to see, including the severed goat head I accidentally made direct eye contact with. Yikes. Anyways, as the only white people around the village it was pretty easy for us to draw a crowd.  Without much of a formal announcement we just dove into our program.  Two skits, with each of them being followed by a brief explanation and presentation of the Gospel. Honestly, this was one of the most stretching experiences of my entire summer. In general, I hate the idea of drawing attention among a big crowd of people. That, coupled with the idea of encroaching on an area we didn’t necessarily belong and my hesitant attitude towards up front evangelism, made for a very uncomfortable me. But we did it, and it was good, and it was certainly a growing experience for me!

The next two days we hosted a VBS program at two local churches for kids in the area.  This was an awesome time of personal interaction and a wonderful opportunity to simply love on some Haitian children.  I absolutely underestimated the difficulty of the language barrier, but it was inspiring to see the power of simply holding a kids hand or kicking a soccer ball back and forth.  As hard as their living situations might be, or how dirty their clothes were, or how worn out their shoes were, their smiles were priceless. I had the opportunity to teach the Bible lesson at the VBS.  Speaking with an interpreter was certainly a new experience, but I actually kinda liked the moments in between phrases where I got to think about what I would say next. I have no idea how much of what I said stuck or even made sense to those kids. All I know is that we showed them God’s love through our actions and spoke truth into their lives. It was a challenge walking away from those days not knowing what kind of difference we made, and I had to learn to trust that seeds had been sown.

On Sunday we attended a local church service. I am not sure what was said for most of the four and a half hour church service, but I know that God was praised. There was a supernatural joy among the people in the congregation, and they certainly didn’t seem to mind the length of the service.  Their exuberant praise songs made the songs we tend to sing in American churches seem like somber ballads.  Their singing and their dancing revealed such a heart of praise. They also spent part of their service simply memorizing scriptures and challenging each other to memorize certain verses. At one point we had the chance lead a couple worship songs and one of the SHERPAs shared a message.  The graciousness with which the church accepted our offerings to the service was truly humbling. As much as my sore tush and hungry stomach disagreed, my heart was sad to see the service finally come to a close. I have rarely felt the Spirit so closely.

Monday through Thursday we spent the mornings doing work projects around the missionary base and the afternoons training and discipling a group of teenagers in the area.  At some point in my first couple days there, I got bit or stung by an insect of some type, and by Monday my right leg was swollen up to about twice its normal size. Not wanting to take any chances, I was sidelined from doing any manual labor that day.  I hate sitting out, and I hate not doing my part in something, so this was a challenge.  However, because I wasn’t doing any physical work, I got the chance to focus on the teaching for our discipleship program that afternoon. I got to dive into the idea of 3-story evangelism and lay out the foundation for the rest of the week.  It was an amazing opportunity and looking back, I am thankful for whatever in the heck bit me. It was just yet another example of God’s provision in all circumstances, and his ability to redeem an unfortunate situation. For me, the discipleship training part of the week was the most encouraging aspect of the whole trip.  I got to meet some young men who were on fire for God and had a desire for the people around them to encounter God’s love.  I also got to see the love of God actively filling these students with an abundant joy. Beyond that, I really enjoyed being able to invest in people who could further invest in their community.  Those young men and women can do far more good than we ever can, so it was neat to play a small part in enabling them to lead effectively.

It is hard to believe that just 48 hours ago I was in a plane flying home, looking out over the concrete structures and asphalt roads that outline most American cities.  I remember how orderly everything looked, and felt myself already missing the humble Haitian mountains I had so quickly grown accustomed to. I felt a sudden sadness about my summer coming to a close and the idea of going back to a life of school work and traditional ministry. Thankfully I was reminded of something I had been thinking about all summer.  No matter where you are, or what you are doing, there are people all around you who so desperately need to be shown God’s love. I am thankful for a chance to share love with some of God’s children in Haiti, but I am also excited to put a summers worth of ministry experience into practice during the coming school year. This was an experience I don’t plan to soon forget, and I know that as time goes on and I continue to process I will realize even more of what God was showing me in my time in Haiti.  Thanks to all who supported and prayed for my trip and my summer as a whole.  It was not only quite an adventure, but I know it equipped me for whatever God has for me next.

Off We Go!

It’s a chilly but sun filled morning here at Outdoor Mission Camp. The rest of the SHERPAs are clumsily making their way down the stairs one at a time as they soak in some of the last minutes in a real bed. Luggage bags are scattered throughout the cabin and every whiteboard is filled with schedules and travel plans. It is July 29th, and tomorrow morning at 4:00 A.M. we are loading up in our vans, driving to the Atlanta Airport, and flying out to Haiti. Our time here this summer is coming to a close, and our trip to Haiti might be seen as the grand finale. It is hard to believe that I have already spent ten weeks in this place, and I still haven’t fully comprehended the reality of going home.

This past week I got the chance to lead a group in our last Wilderness 101 camp. My group was actually more of a family. Well, no, it literally was a family. It was a grandpa, his 16 year old son, and his 14 and 16 year old grandkids. Then of course there was myself and another fellow SHERPA, honorary family members for the week. They really treated us like such. As we went through three days of backpacking, some of which was done in a torrential downpour, I really started to feel like a part of their family. They trusted us to guide them safely through the wilderness. They were open and vulnerable with us and were quick to tell us their stories. They were exceedingly gracious with us in spite of our mistakes, and they happily scarfed down meals that didn’t exactly go according to plan. More than anything, they allowed us to love them. The tough and guarded exterior of the grandkids broke down pretty quickly around Day 2 and their complaints about being here were replaced with jokes and laughter. So much laughter.

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Sunset from Mt. Sterling, our Day 1 campsite.

At the end of the week, we like to have a time of reflection on the past week and encouragement. Each of the family members expressed one common sentiment: It was a time for them to finally just have some plain old fun. The past two years had not been easy for any of these guys. Parents split up, kids had gotten kicked out of houses, drugs and alcohol had ravaged lives, bitter step-dads had made life exceedingly difficult, and brothers were even separated. Now, finally, this broken and hurting family, with a hodge podge of ridiculous experiences in the past year, was together once again, reunited in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, having fun. We got to sit around the campfire and have many fruitful conversations about Christ and the importance of being rooted in Him. We even got to hear one of the grandkids tell us that this was the first time in a long time he was able to have fun without being high. Praise God. I couldn’t have asked for a better week to close out my time as a guide here at Outdoor Mission Camp.

I have never been out of the country before, and I don’t know what to expect out of these next 10 days. Haiti is sure to be yet another adventure to cap off my summer. I know we are going into a hurting and broken area. I know that we will be putting on a VBS for 150-200 children for three days. I know we will be delivering water filters to a couple of households that otherwise don’t have access to clean water. Outside of that, I will just have to take in the rest as it comes. I am confident that my experiences so far this summer have fully prepared me to serve in whatever way I need to. I know that God has had his hand on me this entire summer, even through the process of getting me here, and I know he will continue to do so through the remainder of my trip. One thing I know I have learned this summer is the power of prayer, and we could use plenty of it this week. Prayers for safe travels and smooth logistics. Prayers for open hearts and wisdom to speak truth into the lives of the people we will be ministering to. Prayers for joy and peace in the face of adversity. Prayers that we will be able to bring light into a dark place. I can’t wait to see what this next week holds. Until then, I’m going to go attempt to pack a summers worth of junk into two duffel bags.

The Beauty of Creation

At Outdoor Mission Camp, we talk a lot about the beauty of God’s creation and how we can learn so much about God through his creation. When you see the sun slowly settling down for the night behind a vista of mountain tops, or hear the birds chirping and feel the sun shining on your face early in the morning, or see the layer of fog that hovers above the Nantahala River, it is hard to deny the truth in that.  Some of my most powerful moments with God have been walking down a lonely trail, or silently watching the waves of the ocean crash onto the beach. But until this week I didn’t realize how much I had been overlooking such a huge part of God’s creation and the glory that could be revealed through it: His people.

The past week was an unusual week here at OMC.  We had a group of middle school students from Greensboro Youth for Christ who were staying with us and helping serve at a day camp for kids with special needs, Camp Ability.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to this week at all. It is hard for me to admit this, but I have never really felt comfortable around children with special needs.  I’m not entirely sure why, and I feel incredibly insensitive even saying that.  I guess I just never knew how to act around them.  Do you just treat them like completely normal people?  Do you go out of your way to be overly nice to them or does that just make them feel even less “normal”?  Honestly, another part of me just had trouble grasping the thought that this could be part of God’s plan.  After a week of serving kids with special needs, it’s embarrassing to even say that I had those thoughts.

I spent the week co-leading the 6-8 year old age group at Camp Ability.  We had 5 outstanding little guys as our campers, and 5 incredible middle school girls to serve as their “buddies” for the week. It was tough. Two of our campers were mostly non-verbal, while a couple of them became violent pretty easily, and one of them refused to participate in any kind of group activity.  I feel like I spent most of my week crouched down, negotiating with one of my campers. “First we need to go to arts and crafts, and then we can go play with Legos.” “I know you are hungry and want lunch right now, but first we have to get out of the pool and then go to lunch.” It was certainly a test in patience, but it was also immensely rewarding! I saw kids who didn’t talk at all in the first couple days open up to conversation with their new “buddies”.  I saw pure joy on kids’ faces as they sang silly songs like “Bananas Unite!”  I saw some of the biggest smiles on kids faces as they splashed around in the pool and did epic cannonballs into their buddy’s arms. I saw the lives of middle school students changed as they gave everything of themselves to children who wanted nothing more than to have a friend who loved them. Through it all, I was still plagued by sadness by the fact that these kids were faced with immense challenges in life that they had no control over, and never would.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night, sitting around a campfire, fully immersed in God’s creation, that it all clicked.  We were eating dinner around the campfire with our middle school students from Greensboro and a local church’s worship team was leading us in a few songs.  After singing “How Great is our God,” the worship leader stopped and told us to take a look around, at God’s creation, and just see how great our God truly is.  I glanced around at the trees towering over us and the roaring fire in front of us.  Yep, His creation never gets old.  But as I looked around, I saw something else: The people I was sitting around this campfire with.  I saw the SHERPAs who I have been serving with all summer and have become intimately connected with.  I saw the middle school students we were leading who were perhaps connecting with God for the first time. I thought about the kids at Camp Ability and their giant, jubilant smiles.  All beautiful, wonderful, marvelous. And all part of God’s creation.  We talk so much about seeing God in nature, and how is glory is revealed in the mountains. This is all so true.  But I think sometimes we forget about the fact that we are all part of God’s creation.  We don’t have to look for God’s creation, we ARE God’s creation. And so is every single person around us.  If we truly believe that we are all created in God’s image, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then we have to see the beauty of His people.

I still struggle with the fact that a God who is as sovereign and loving as ours can allow for people to have so many challenges in their life.  But I know he loves us, and I know his creation is infinitely beautiful, and His glory is revealed through his creation, including His people. I’m thankful for a God whose image can be revealed as much in a 6 year old with Down syndrome as a beautiful mountaintop sunset. One thing I have been reminded of this week is something my mom told me about called “people first language.”  Essentially, it is the idea that what a person has does not define them.  So, instead of referencing someone as an autistic child, it would be a child with autism. It’s not a Down syndrome child, it is a child with Down syndrome.  As much as this is just a politically correct and polite thing to say, I think it has some really cool spiritual implications as well, because it is exactly how God sees them.  God does not limit people to the diseases that afflict them, and sees them first and foremost as His children.  In the same way, we began to see these kids as just that: kids.  Kids whom God loves and cares for and desperately wants to be His.  I’m thankful for a week to serve and to love and to see more of God revealed in his creation.  I’m thankful for the beauty I now see in each of His children, no matter what challenges or disabilities they may have. It’s a lesson I hope I don’t soon forget.

An Abundant Life

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

This verse has been a constant theme over the past couple of weeks. It has shown up in a book that I have been working through.  I have heard numerous speakers refer to it. One of my campers brought it up in our group discussion around the campfire. I can’t seem to get away from this idea of not just life, but life abundantly. What does that mean to have life abundantly, and why don’t we experience it more often?

There have been a handful of moments over the past month that have given me a taste of what I think Jesus means when he talks about life and life abundantly.

1) Experiencing meaningful, heartfelt worship in an intimate setting with an incredible group of people.

2) Taking the time to walk by yourself on a trail, hauling a heavy backpack, and thinking of nothing but God’s goodness.

3) Spending my 20th birthday on a backpacking trip with 7 solid, Godly guys who love and care about me.

4) Seeing the joy on an unathletic teenagers face when he accomplishes something he never thought he could.

5) Spending extended periods of time solitude in nature, just listening for the voice of God.

6) Laughing and screaming as we tumble through a rapid, and the breathtaking moment when the shock of the cold water hits your system.

7) Waking up to the cool mountain air and sipping a hot cup of coffee on the back porch of our cabin.

8) Joining my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in heartfelt prayer for immediate needs and things far off in the distance.

9) Spending 6 days in the backcountry with a fellow Sherpa and 4 high school aged guys, knowing that we are responsible for their well being.

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Day 6 on the trail selfie.

 

10) Telling a kid that I wasn’t going to let him come down from the rock because I knew him could make it to the top, and hearing the excitement in his voice as he told others about what he had done.

11) Having natural, casual conversations with fellow Sherpas about what God has been showing them over the past month.

12) Sitting around a campfire with my campers while they made remarkably deep parallels about their experiences in nature and what that has shown them about God.

13) Sleeping in a real bed after 11 days of camping.

14) Reading my Bible outside. Seriously, you have to try it.

15) Spending much needed time with my family and wonderful girlfriend after two weeks with campers.

16) Hearing God’s voice in the stillness of the woods.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been challenges and roadblocks along the way.  After all, as Christians we have to recognize that the thief is real and he indeed comes to steal and kill and destroy.  He can be divisive among believers.  He can cause people to doubt themselves or find the worst in every situation. He tries to crush every hint of joy inside of us and is threatened when we encroach on having abundant life. Thankfully, we also know that the thief was and is not victorious. I have come to understand that Jesus’ offer to have abundant life is always there, and those moments happen all around us.  The problem is that all too often we let the thief have way too much leeway.  We get discouraged when the rain comes instead of embracing its beauty.  We are annoyed by silence and fill it with noise instead of listening for the voice of God.  We get frustrated by people and choose bitterness instead of Grace. In just about every situation, there is an opportunity to have life, and have it abundantly, and there is an opportunity to allow the thief to steal, kill, and destroy.  If I have learned anything this summer, its to choose life.

 

 

 

 

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!

Here Goes Nothing

I can’t believe that the time has finally come.  I have said my goodbyes, I’m packing my bags, and in less than 24 hours I will begin my summer at Outdoor Mission Camp. In January when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do this summer, the SHERPA program at OMC was just a thought. A possibility. A pipe dream.  It stayed in the back of my mind as I looked around for other options that seemed a bit more feasible. I applied to a few other positions along with the SHERPA program, and ended up having a choice to make.  I had great options, and I knew that I couldn’t really go wrong, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was pushing me towards the SHERPA program.  It was perfect.  Spend my summer backpacking, climbing and rafting? Get to talk to kids about Jesus while I do it? Go on a mission trip to Haiti at the end of it? What in the world could hold me back from this?!

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Oh yeah. The program would cost 3000 dollars. Yikes.  I have been around ministry all my life, so the idea of fundraising was not new to me.  But it sure was daunting.  I thought about all of my friends and family and connections and tried to map it all out. Let’s see, if 6 friends gave 500 dollars each, that’s 3000 dollars. Or if I got 30 friends to give 100 each, that’s 3000 dollars.  Okay, 100 friends who give 30 dollars, that’s 3000 dollars. Wait, do I even have 100 friends? Do I have 30 friends? Do I have 6 friends with 500 extra dollars just laying around?  It seemed like no matter how I did the math, it just didn’t add up. Yep, sorry, sounds like a great program and all, but that’s just too much to ask. Besides, I could just get paid to do something else all summer instead.

I expressed my concerns to a few of my mentors and friends, and I kept getting the same answer: “Don’t let money be an issue. If this is where God wants you, the money will come.” Uhm. What do you mean don’t let money be an issue? It’s 3000 dollars worth of an issue! I continued to pray about it, trying not to think about the money, and no matter how hard I tried not to, I kept feeling this gentle nudge and a quiet whisper, “Just go for it.” I thought to myself, Wait, God, come on, not you too? I bet you don’t think money will be an issue either huh?  I kept asking other people for advice, hoping somebody would tell me not to do it. No such luck. Finally, I gave in. Okay God, if this is what you want me to do, well, here goes nothing. 

Well, that was about two months ago, and after numerous letters, Facebook posts, Facebook events, pestering emails and phone calls, I am well on my way to reaching my fundraising goal. I only have about 700 dollars more to raise, and I am absolutely blown away.  It is humbling to ask people for money, but it is even more humbling when people respond with astounding generosity.  I know that for most people, money is tight. There are a gazillion people, causes, things, wants, and needs asking for your money. And yet so many of you have bought into this mission and supported me. I honestly can never thank you enough. I’m so glad that I finally decided to trust God and go for it. And I hope you never take for granted what a blessing your generosity has been.

As thankful as I am for all of the support, and this truly could not happen without it, now its time for me to step up to the plate and follow through on this mission God has called me to.  I don’t fully know what to expect out of this summer.  I don’t know if I will be good at what I am doing.  It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be challenging. And it’s gonna be wild. Keep me in your prayers, and check out this blog every now and then to hear how its going.  With all of that being said, here goes nothing.

 

2014: The SHERPA Summer

It’s May 12th. I finished my semester 14 days ago, and I leave for my summer long camp in 18 days. I am so thankful for this time of rest, recovery, and preparation. It never fails that a tough semester doesn’t take its toll on me until AFTER it’s finished, when I enter a few intense days of sleep intermixed with a little bit of TV and maybe even a good book. I have been fighting off a cold for a couple weeks now so my post-finals coma days have been extended into a week long process. Aside from recovering from a strenuous semester, this is also my time to get ready for the exciting summer ahead of me.

For those of you who don’t know, I will be spending this summer with the SHERPA program of Outdoor Mission Camp in Maggie Valley, NC. Sherpas in their traditional context are an ethnic group in Nepal who are known world-wide for their mountaineering expertise and have played a huge role in the success of mountaineering endeavors at Mt. Everest. While the original term sherpa was designated to a guide on Everest, the term Sherpa has come to be associated with anybody who serves as a guide or mentor. Hence, it is a very fitting title for the program I will be taking part in this summer. Essentially, the SHERPA program is a highly intensive discipleship/guiding program. I will spend about three weeks being trained in the incredible adventures of whitewater rafting, backpacking, and rock climbing while being certified in Wilderness First Aid. Coinciding with the training that takes place for these physical activities, and of even more importance, a large part of the training portion of the program will consist of spiritual disciplines such as scripture reading and small group leadership. After this three week training period, I will have a chance to put all of these skills to use as I lead various groups of at risk youth on adventures that will stretch and push them further than they ever imagined. Kids will be taken out of their element, whether that be an abusive family or a neighborhood where it seems like gang life is the only option for success, and be exposed to the rewarding experience that is found in wilderness adventures. Even more important than that, they will be exposed to the beauty of God’s great creation while being led in gospel-centered conversations. Something as simple as a whitewater rafting trip or a three day backpacking trip has life-changing potential. And oh yeah, at the end of the summer, after four weeks of leading adventures with numerous youth, we will head to Haiti for an all encompassing mission trip where we will further utilize our training and gain experience at ministering in a new culture while meeting some physical needs for a group of hurting people.

I could not be more excited about this summer adventure. I have a heart for youth ministry, and feel that God has a call on my life in this area. He has also blessed me with a passion for the outdoors and the ability to connect with Him through His creation. It is unreal to have the opportunity to combine these two passions for an eternal purpose. I am accumulating all the necessary gear. I am in the process of getting a passport for my first international trip. I am preparing my heart for a time of challenge and growth. It is hard to believe the process is finally coming together. Only one obstacle stands in my way: money. Because of the nature of the program and their desire to reach out to at risk youth, in order to finance the summer program there is a tuition fee of $3000 for SHERPA participants. I am in the process of fundraising this money. I have sent out letters and now must play the waiting game and prayerfully think about other avenues of raising money. Some exciting news is that there is now an easy way for people to give directly to Outdoor Mission Camp without having to mail in checks or go through my GoFundMe page! You can now simply go to the following link:

https://securegive.yfc.net/rshackelford

All you have to do is choose the gift amount, fill out the requested information, and designate “Scottie Hill” as the purpose of the gift. I don’t really know who all reads this blog, if anyone. But if you have stumbled across this page and were perhaps moved by the mission of the SHERPA program or feel inspired to support me, I ask that you would prayerfully considering a financial gift. This is something I believe in and something I think can make an eternal difference. If you are unable to give but are interested in the program, I hope to be able to update this blog throughout the summer and document some of my adventures. I look forward to hearing from anybody with feedback and can’t wait for the things ahead of me this summer!