We met Mr. David at the barn where he let us put all our gear on his pick up trip so we could ride to our campsite. Once there we unloaded, set up our tents, and gathered to discuss the itinerary for our overnight camp. We then began to hike to a cave on Mr. David’s property. As soon as we began hiking, Ladarius shared with me, “I think we are going to have fun here.” One of the things I appreciate about Ladarius is that he nearly always says exactly what is on his mind–even if it’s not relevant to the context. This expression, however, was held unanimously by this group of six boys and two adults and set the tone for a hopeful adventure. We explored as we walked to the other side of the property where we found the cave. We made it inside the cave about five feet when we saw the first bat. After showing the campers this bat and the narrow hallway that was muddy enough to ruin Kenneth’s Jordans, we decided we had had enough of this phase of the exploration and retreated to more familiar experiences–capture the flag and football in a beautiful meadow which doubled as a cow pasture.
We made it back to our campsite and split into fire starters and cooks to prepare for hobo stew. We all agreed with Ladarius’ assertion that “this beef is bustin'” followed by “this broccoli is bustin'” and later “these s’mores be bustin'”. Everything tastes better when cooked on a campfire.
Thankfully no one froze during the 35 degree night and the fire started early as the sun was rising on Sunday morning. Following a vespers service, clean-up, and a few drops of rain, we finished our campout together with one more football game. On the way back from the football field (cow pasture), Ladarius remarked, “I’m going to miss this place”. “Me too,” I said knowing exactly what he meant. We got to do things that we normally don’t do. Not just the campfire cooking and the tent sleeping; not simply the long hike in the open air or the fresh air, but we got to confess to one another, share prayers with one another, put our arms around each other and mean it. We got to make memories and build resilience. We got to build confidence and trust. We deepened our friendships. We did all of this without gun shots or sirens, with unfiltered starlight, and far from the heaviness of living in a low income city neighborhood. Like these students, I crave experiences that tap into my longing for God and connection with others. I am as thankful (if not more) as they are for the opportunities for outdoor adventure (and the generous volunteers and supporters who make it possible).
**If interested in joining in a PTM Outdoor Adventure group, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.