MMS Boundary Waters Adventure—Pastoral Challenger Program!
Several months ago, Frank Dunkle, who heads up the Boundary Waters Adventure (BWA) Challenger Program for young adults, approached me with the idea of having such an adventure for some of our full-time men in the ministry. To me, this was an intriguing proposal and one in which I immediately saw strong merit.
The pastoral ministry is considered by many as a highly stressful occupation based on a variety of reasons. The ministry also has a great deal of impact on the overall health of God’s Church. These are two of the main reasons why I felt it would be beneficial to move ahead with this proposal. It is my belief that the better we know and respect one another in the ministry, the stronger the bonds of brotherhood and the greater unity we will surely have as a ministry.
Frank was having an “off year” from conducting the young adult BWA Challenger Program and he volunteered to be our guide on what may become a regular occurrence—a Pastoral Challenger Program!
I decided it would be good to gather several in the ministry who were more recently hired for this opportunity. On Wednesday morning, July 7, Jeff Lockhart, Doug Wendt, Paul “Skeets” Mez, Michael Fike, Paul Moody, Chris Rowland, Frank Dunkle and I embarked on our wilderness adventure.
The first day was a bit grueling as we pushed on farther than we had anticipated due to the difficulty of finding a suitable campsite for our group that wasn’t already taken by others. We managed seven portages and 13½ miles that first day. A portage is where we needed to carry our canoes and all our supplies over land between bodies of water. The portages ranged in size from a few hundred yards to a half mile. Challenging as it was, the men all did their part and worked together to accomplish the task at hand. God blessed us with a wonderful campsite and we were able to get settled and even catch a few fish for dinner. The fish were excellent and the beauty of the waters and wilderness unparalleled!
The mosquitoes are somewhat legendary in the Boundary Waters and, as expected, showed up around sunset for their evening meal! We didn’t want to make it too easy for them, so we went to bed early as we were all exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep—as good as one could expect to get in a crowded tent, in a sleeping bag, on the hard ground. Mind you, not complaining—just stating facts!
The next day, Thursday, we enjoyed a more leisurely morning getting to know each other better and about mid-morning a few of us explored the watery border between the United States and Canada by canoe. Four of us took the other two canoes and satisfied a real desire to do some serious fishing. We met back together in the evening to enjoy a very fine feast of walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass cooked in olive oil and corn meal. It was delicious and we greatly appreciated God’s blessing of fine cuisine in a beautiful setting!
The next morning, we were all up early at 5 a.m. to break camp and find a new campsite where we could get settled in for the Sabbath. This was a much easier day than our first day, as we had only three portages and didn’t travel as far. Again, we were blessed with a fine campsite and a good many more mosquitoes to battle!
That evening we had dessert consisting of one of the finest tasting fish of all—crappie.
On the Sabbath, we spent most of the day in a circle discussing topics related to the ministry—greatest challenges, greatest rewards, reflections on our calling as ministers, lessons learned and how to better serve God and His people. It was a truly rewarding day as we all grew closer to each other as brothers in Christ. In part, Skeets Mez had this to say about our trip and our Sabbath conversations, “I had a very rewarding and fun time. I especially liked our discussions on the Sabbath. I found them very useful to me and my ministry going forward.”
Sunday morning we were up and at it very early as we broke camp, canoed the remaining miles, and completed three final portages.
It is difficult to assess the true value of such an awesome shared experience. I have no doubt that the eight of us are much closer now, having grown in understanding and respect for one another.
May you all have a very rewarding Sabbath and weekend!