The outdoors is a sweaty, buggy place, especially if you live in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet, the outdoors can be a sacred ground for encountering God, connecting with others and experiencing personal growth.
Growing up, I was very shy and timid. I wouldn’t leave my parents’ side around strangers. I was terrified of public speaking, to the point where in elementary school I was shaking the whole way through my first 10-minute presentation. Near the end of high school, I began to relax a bit more and find more confidence in myself and the world around me, but it wasn’t until I got involved in Outdoor Education that my life really began to change.
One spring break, I went on a week-long kayaking trip to St. George Island, Florida. There were no toilets or showers on the island. We brought our food, gear and everything else we would need for the week in the kayak with us. I was living an epic adventure, exploring new territory, even though I was only a few miles from civilization.
That week was life-changing.
I ate food from shells and slept under the starry sky. I realized how few things I actually needed in order to live and I began to discover who I was without so many voices telling me who I should be.
One day a storm was coming in and the waves were crashing on the shore quite violently. To some it may have looked dangerous, but to me, it looked like a challenge. I decided I was going to make it past the ‘crash zone’ into the smooth sea, so I grabbed my friend and our kayak and headed to the water.
We paddled hard against the waves into the current for over an hour, it felt as though we were barely moving. We finally drug the boat across a small sand bar and hit the waves head on. The first couple attempts sent us flailing back to shore as the waves pummeled us; other friends tried and had the same outcome, but we were determined. After hours of hard paddling, we hit the waves just right and made it past the break point into the calm waters. I felt such accomplishment and victory!
After that trip, I noticed a change in myself. I was more confident, more fun to be around and much less uptight. I realized the lessons I had learned on the island had transformed my day to day life and I liked the change. I began to fall in love with the outdoors and how God was using it to transform me and build my confidence and help me find my identity.
Through the experience I realized I was capable of much more than I thought. It helped me create meaningful connections with people after getting to know them through shared experience and fewer distractions.
I have now been involved, seasonally, in outdoor ministry for over 15 years. I come alive in the outdoors. I enjoy kayaking, climbing and backpacking to name a few.
I have seen God use it to transform countless others. It’s amazing how a momentary victory on a kayak can translate into lasting growth and personal development.
We want to break out of our comfort zone, but often need a little push to get us past our comfort and into the uncomfortable. An outdoor setting can naturally provide the push we’ve needed.
At St. Christopher, we see God use the outdoors to help people grow personally and connect with others on a daily basis, mainly through the Barrier Island Environmental Education and Outdoor Encounters outdoor recreation program.
In Genesis chapter 2, God commands Adam in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it…” From the very beginning of creation, God wanted Mankind to have a healthy, mutual relationship with creation. In 2021, where most of us have technology in the palm of our hand, we can easily find ourselves losing that precious connection with creation.
Barrier Island and Outdoor Encounters exist to strengthen our relationship with each other and the natural world. It’s where ‘the glory of God meets the glory of His creation to revive the glory of man.’ I have met countless people who came to Barrier Island as a student over 20 years ago and comment they still have fond memories of their experience and hope others can create similar memories moving forward.
Now, more than ever, St. Christopher is looking to expand its outdoor programs to help people connect with God, each other, and creation. We have added family weekends, sunset kayak trips and island excursions to name a few. If you’re looking for a ‘COVID safe’ opportunity to make memories with family members, friends or small groups, St. Christopher can provide that place for you. Activities range from a few hours of fun, to day trips or overnights.
Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen…” Come see God’s invisible qualities on display at St. Christopher!
By Laurinda Rapp, Acting Director, Barrier Island Environmental Education, St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center