Despite the restrictions put on indoor ministries, due to COVID-19, the Men’s Hike ministry is still going strong. A Men’s Hike is a wonderful, safe way to do ministry outdoors.
This past November, 19 men of various ages and backgrounds joined in St. Paul’s, Summerville’s Men’s Hike at Walnut Bottom just outside of Waynesville, North Carolina. We began our journey departing Summerville at 7 a.m. on Thursday, November 12, and we arrived at the parking area of Walnut Bottom around 1 p.m. With packs loaded with gear enough to last us until Sunday, we began the adventure.
We prayed at the trail head and asked the men the first of a series of questions which would be posed throughout the weekend. “Why am I here?” For what reason has the Holy Spirit opened up this time for me to be in God’s wonderful creation for the next few days?
On a Men’s Hike we hike in and out with spiritual purposefulness.
Later that night, we sang and worshipped around a campfire. We heard testimonies from seasoned hikers who had had profound, life-altering experiences on prior Men’s Hikes. We then discussed another question. “What is getting in the way between me and God?” Is it anger? Pursuit of wealth or status? Perhaps pornography or alcohol dependance? This was a profound time of sharing with genuine transparency. The Holy Spirit moved and there was a willingness in each man to become vulnerable with one another.
Friday, we went on our first big hike of around 11.2 miles, half of which was on the Appalachian Trail. We began our journey with another question. “What is holding me back spiritually?” Are there family wounds, particularly “father wounds” in my past that have negatively shaped my relationship with my Father in heaven?
That day we saw some absolutely wonderful vistas. On one side of the ridge line we saw North Carolina and on the other side Tennessee. What an amazing artist God is!
After lunch we prayed over Holy Scripture verses that had been printed, cut into strips and laminated. Then we walked for the next hour or so individually with no other hiker in sight. For this hike each man walked alone with God, with God’s holy word in his hand. Each man was instructed to ask God to speak a word to him as he walked.
Around the campfire Friday evening, we discussed what God was impressing on their hearts. That night the men heard a teaching on “What is the Gospel?” We took time to unpack Ephesians 2 (justification) and Galatians 5 (sanctification). A thoughtful discussion ensued.
On Saturday we tackled a bigger hike of around 14 miles pondering the question, “What will I leave on this mountain?” Unforgiveness? Lust? Anger? Impatience? Father wounds? As before there was a Scripture walk that day and a discussion that night.
Saturday night there was more worship and honest sharing around the campfire as we processed what we would leave on the mountain. We later took a rock, symbolizing the burden we wished to leave behind, and we tossed the rock in the fire as men gave witness to their burdens. We ended with healing prayer and the laying on of hands.
Sunday, we broke down camp in gusty winds of well over 20 MPH! We celebrated Holy Eucharist and unpacked the Gospel teaching of Jesus’ parable of the talents from Matthew 25. The men were challenged to think about their stewardship of time, talent, and treasure as they hiked down the mountain to reenter their lives back home.
After each hike, I am always in awe of how God uses the Men’s Hikes to transform lives. Sure, there is the physical aspect. Much like a boot camp environment, when a man is pushed physically, he is often willing to go to places emotionally, places he would not have gone in the comfort of his normal life.
But there is more to it than that. On a Men’s Hike the Holy Spirit descends powerfully and fulfills the promise of Ezekiel 36:26 in the lives of men. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Men come home, better men–better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better churchmen.
The name “Lost Soles” is directly related to a guy who insisted on putting his boots near the fire to dry them out. I knew this wouldn’t end well! One day they got a little too close and he melted his hiking boots and had to sit out Saturday’s hike. But our adventure was also a “lost souls” hike, where men who had fallen prey to spiritual apathy and perhaps lost their way in life, became whole again as they regained God as their center. “I once was lost, but now am found.”
Why not consider sending your men on a Men’s Hike? It’s a great adventure! I guarantee they will come home blessed.
If your church does not currently have a Men’s Hike Ministry, St. Paul’s would be glad to share more with you about this. Contact the Rev. Tripp Jeffords at firstname.lastname@example.org
By The Rev. Tripp Jeffords, Rector, St. Paul’s, Summerville