a redemption story.
so i realize that i haven’t written much this summer. AND i warned you of this, so you can’t yell. well, you can, but it would be unfounded. unless it was a “i’m SOOOOO desperate without reading peter’s blog.” then that would be flattering – and i could live with that kind of yelling.
BUT anyways. i’ve been trying to think of how to share about my summer – really, i have. but as anyone who has worked a summer with LaVida knows, it is difficult to communicate to others just what it is like to be part of this powerful ministry. i rarely have words for people, other than “it was challenging and great”. but i think i have an experience to share that may convey a small taste of the power in this ministry, and in particular what this summer held for me.
i have always felt a bit of an outsider with LaVida, right from the very beginning, as i came into it as a completely non-Gordon College affiliated person (rare for LaVida). and over the number of years i have been involved, this fringe feeling hasn’t been helped by that fact that i am largely an insecure person with regard to the thoughts/welcomings of others. this summer was one of great challenge for me in really knowing a tangible purpose for why i was part of this ministry. i often felt off on my own simply doing a lot of seemingly mundane things just because they needed to get done. don’t get me wrong, i knew that a number of things i did had great, direct purpose – like running our rock climbs, leading a lot of worship, etc. but most of my days were filled with washing dishes, making minute repairs for the NY board of health, fixing toilets, mowing lawn, moving around stone, etc. BUT, it afforded me a tangible opportunity to KNOW what it means to be a humble servant, offering my doings to God and ministry oriented toward the Kingdom. NEVER has this been such a painful and challenging lesson. but amazing.
the most powerful part of this summer came during our final session, just a few weeks ago. our final session – “Fall Trip” – is a sessions dedicated toward Gordon College students, that serves as a sort of pre-orientation experience. LaVida (or it’s less intense alternative, “Discovery”) is required for all students before they graduate. there were some stellar, young students as this session began – most of the 68 of them were incoming freshmen. about 4 days in, we got a call from jared, one of our sherpas (trip leaders), letting us know that his knees were shot, and he needed to come off trip. it is not entirely uncommon that this happens. our sherpas are human (despite what some of the trip participants think), and sometimes cannot go on. we hung up with him to discuss who would go in for him. he was on the McKenzie itinerary, hiking a number of peaks, heading around the north end of lake placid, and culminating in the full-pack summiting of Whiteface.
flashback to the summer of 2004. it was my first summer with LaVida, i had just completed my first year at seminary. i had been leading trips that summer. my fall trip that year began with a group of incoming Gordon freshmen, leading with a sherpa named Allison, and hiking the McKenzie itinerary. that trip started out great, with a great group of participants and a great co-sherpa. but 5 days into the trip, at our Bartlett pond campsite, our director hiked in that morning with some news for me. unbeknownst to me, a good friend from seminary had needed to have some presumed-to-be-routine corrective heart surgery. the news that was shared with me was that he did not make it out of the procedure. scott schuller, dear seminary classmate and friend of ours, had died at age 25. i immediately came off the trip to attend the funeral and to my grieving self and friends. i missed the final four hiking days of that trip.
back to the present – it came down to me going in for jared on this fall trip. his crew was heading to Bartlett pond, and i would meet them there, and hike with them for the next 4 days until he could meet them at their end point and spend the last couple non-hiking days with them. now, if you haven’t put two and two together yet, i’ll detail it for you: i was about to hike in to the exact spot on the exact same itinerary, to hike the exact 4 days that i had missed while attending my friend’s funeral 4 years prior.
while i realize that the impact of that previous paragraph may in fact be lost in the short words it takes to describe it, i want to assure you of the power that i felt in the whole of the orchestration. scott’s death is unresolved for me in a number of ways – from the relatively simple fact that a dear friend had to leave us so young in his life; to some more complicated things that i won’t go into here. so this opportunity God set before me this past august was one of redemption – God allowing me an opportunity to redeem the events from 4 years ago. powerful and redeeming is what those four days were, in virtually every aspect: the transition of me into the group, the co-sherpa relationship between myself and mary ramsey, the unbelievably welcoming nature of the participants, summiting whiteface – all to name but a few. and i feel like i haven’t even begun to process exactly what it all means. but i almost feel like the experience as a whole is enough to begin with – all the particulars will come with time and processing. i feel at peace – and it was a perfect end to a challenging and amazing summer. thank you mary ramsey, jeremiah, lauren, matt, chris, sarah, landon, caitlin, christina, and of course jared.
so instead of sharing with you my typical response to “how was your summer?”, i feel like this entry will share a little bit more about what LaVida is like. as i said, it’s always a challenge to put into words what we experience by working there. but this comes close i think.
as i enter the fall, i hope to be a bit more in communication – both here and personally. i’ll be at my parents’ in Vermont for the time being (with no cell service), so email is probably the best quick contact. peace to you all…