Geneva College
Pisgah cuts the clutterspacer.gif

Wilderness trips help students cut the clutter

The clang of dishes, the ring of cell phones, the clamor of the mealtime rush — the Alexander Hall dining commons gives a glimpse into the hectic pace of college life. While our society has come to classify efficiency and busyness with success, students’ jam-packed schedules can easily distort their perspectives on life. Sometimes students need to take a step back from everyday distractions to figure out what’s really important.

Spending time in God’s creation has a unique ability to refocus priorities. Pisgah, the outdoor education program at Geneva College, provides opportunities for students to remove themselves from structured academia and experience the wilderness. Over this year’s spring break, leaders from Pisgah took groups of students on excursions to the Florida Everglades and the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

A group of 10 students, led by Pisgah director Becky Case and Associate Professor of Student Ministries Doug Bradbury, traveled to the Ten Thousand Islands portion of the Florida Everglades. The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, the 1,508,571-acre Everglades National Park is home to a spectrum of rare and endangered species. The group packed all the drinking water, food and supplies they would need, and spent a week canoeing through the wetlands and islands. 

“The team had the chance to play in God’s world and learn what it means to be a good steward,” Case says. “It was a way for them to exchange commercial for conversation, i-pods for silence, the ring of a cell phone for the song of a bird, and wrist watches for listening to the natural rhythms of the body for hunger and sleep.” She adds that even after the trip, students are encouraged to “pursue God’s invitation to continually be a part of His big story.”  

The six students who hiked in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest had a similar experience. The trip was the culmination of a semester-long class called Backpacking as a Ministry. Backpacking 45 miles in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, students learned from the wilderness and from each other. Pisgah staff member James Whitacre and assistant director Patrick Emery led the trip, but gave students the opportunity to hone their own leadership skills by directing the group on certain days.

Because this group was made up of males only, they had a unique opportunity for spiritual growth. Together, they explored what it means to be a godly man, and were able to deepen their personal walks with Christ.

“Reading the Word and spending time praying is a very different experience when you are surrounded by mountains,” says Emery. “The only distractions may be some wildlife scurrying around or maybe the silence itself. Having fewer everyday distractions creates that space for us to hear from God in new and fresh ways.”

It’s one thing to take a break from routine, and it’s another to experience life-changing growth. “Stepping out of society and stepping back from life gave me a clear perspective on myself, my life and my heart,” says Josh Oestreich, a sophomore youth ministry major. “I was completely stripped of all comforts and any façade, and I saw me for me; no more covering or hiding. I came face to face with my Creator and my heart.”

Click here to see more photos from the Pisgah spring break trips.

– Leah Kiehl ’11

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