When God was forming me He said, “This one will not be content indoors.” He designed me with a profound affection for creation. I long to be outside and experience my most intimate communion with God in the wild.
I remember one of my friends asking me if I wanted to apply to Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting & Adventure Company while in college. My response was, “they pay you to take people on the river, on the rocks and in the backcountry? Where do I sign up?” The trials I faced in the Colorado backcountry that summer forged my relationship with Jesus and I have since desired to start an outdoor ministry.
During the summer of 2006, I joined Daryl Phillips on the Wilderness Leadership Training (WLT) and the dream for a European WLT was birthed in my heart. In retrospect, the solitude was more of a joy than a trial and I knew that God was calling me to bring the same type of experience to Europe.
In 2007, we launched our first Euro Wilderness Leadership Training (EWLT). Like everything else in Europe, I knew it would have its unique challenges and need to be adapted to the culture. However, seven students participated and each one met Jesus in a personal and intimate way.
This year, two students returned from the 2007 expedition and three others joined us including one high school student. From the 4th to the 10th of August we sought solitude in a lush drainage above the famous “Valley of the Martyrs”, silhouetted by the glorious Mon Viso (12,600’). We extended the trip from three days of solitude to five, with three days of fasting and one entire day of silence. Fasting for so long was, by far, the greatest trial for the Italians because of their love for food.
One of the highlights of the trip was co-leading with Andrea Testa, one of our pastors in training, who returned from last years trip. I had been on furlough in the US until just three weeks before we left for the EWLT. Andrea’s oversight and preparations for the trip while I was away were critical to its success.
The longer period of fasting and solitude proved to be significant to the students. Many had a significant breakthrough towards intimacy with God on the fourth day of the expedition. For one student, intimacy came as God was able to strip him of his fears and preoccupations (Psalm 34:6) so that He could speak deeply into his heart (Romans 8:16). For another young lady, God exposed her sin and pride leaving her wonderfully vulnerable before Him. Not only has it changed how she enters God’s presence but it has also helped her to be more sincere in her relationship with others.
Personally, I met Jesus in an intimate way after I woke up from a nightmare on the third night. Then, as an act of His grace, He MIRACULOUSLY healed my camera after I had made a costly error. He gave me the following promise: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, … the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called (Isaiah 54.4,5b). God showed me that He wants me to be an agent of grace in Italy, where shame in relationships is thick and forgiveness is rare.
Andrea and I are praying about offering two EWLT trips next year so that Europeans from other churches can meet God through this unique experience. Since our trips are co-ed, we would like to invite a female to help us plan the next trip. A final thought is to that we would like to offer more guidance on spiritual training as a part of the preparation for each participant in EWLT.