By Joel Bates
We are taking some time over the next several months to share some of the stories, situations, and meaning behind each of our Core Values and how these values have come to shape the ministry of Discovery Ministries. Constructed with Our Staff is our final Core Value. We continue to find these to be relevant to our current way of life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s what I don’t see that really inspires me. I was instructing a rock climb the other day and had set up our more challenging climbing route. Try as they might, none of teens could make the crux move to get to the top. After exhausting all their energy on failed attempts, they turned to me and said, “Let’s see you do it.” I have scaled this familiar climb many times, so with graceful effort I hauled myself up the face, past the crux, and to the top. There were “O-o-oh’s” and “A-a-ah’s,” and one fellow remarked, “He’s got my respect!” That comment hung in my mind. What a tempting morsel to feed my ego, but how empty that morsel would become, leaving me hungry for more!
The truth is respect so easily gained can become easily lost. What those students saw really impressed them because I could do something they could not. No matter that it was my umpteenth time…no thought that I’ve had ample training…with these advantages over the campers, it wasn’t a fair comparison. However, in that moment my practiced ability was a monument of success to them. I’ve noticed how common it is in the work we do at DM for people to admire and be impressed with an outward appearance projected through our skill as instructors or our training in outdoor pursuits, but when I consider the building blocks of success at DM, I’m more impressed by the quiet, behind-the-scenes work I notice the staff doing.
Our last core value is Constructed with our Staff. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We look for this is a quality in our staff, and it is an attitude we embrace. A few years ago, I was interviewing a girl for summer internship and she said, “I don’t know much about the outdoors, but I love Jesus.” Practical skills are easily taught to the mind, but a Christ-like character in the heart is born through the long journey with Jesus. At DM, we value one’s relationship with Christ so much because at the end of the day, we want to communicate life in Christ to our participants more than a life of chasing the wind of self-glorifying adventures.
I’ve been so personally blessed by working at a place constructed with godly staff. Just the other day, Robert stayed later than everybody else to settle accounts for the day and write our paychecks in readiness for the morrow. Last week, I saw Logan judiciously navigating ankle-deep sewage as he worked tirelessly and without complaint to unclog a drain for one of our RV campers. Leah often schedules others for more of the exciting field work as she stays in the office to administrate the next program. She has a habit of asking others what assignments they would appreciate. Nearly every day, Ronnie can be found cleaning, mowing, or weed trimming so the camp will look good for the next guests. We have been blessed over the years with many wonderful interns whose ready service springs from a vibrant relationship with Jesus. And I cannot forget Julie, whose long hours cooking good food in the kitchen provide a celebratory feel to day’s end after the adventures are through. She always greets us with a smile.
I’ve been wowed by many great athletes and outdoor professionals, but the staff at DM convicts me by their Christ-like conduct, teaches me by their attitudes, and ensures this ministry is built on something that will last longer than a few fleeting moments of passing fame. It’s what you don’t see that really matters most—living stones of God quietly, faithfully building His Kingdom.
By Leah Fuller
We are taking some time over the next several months to share some of the stories, situations, and meaning behind each of our Core Values and how these values have come to shape the ministry of Discovery Ministries. Crafted By Facilitation is our fifth Core Value. We continue to find these to be relevant to our current way of life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Do you believe that God is with you, right now while the lightening crashes overhead and the creek rises below?” The two college students I addressed had been leading all through the long hard day, and they glanced around them, their eyes wildly looking for some sense of safety and security. We had evacuated an ill member of the group earlier; rain had fallen all day; and the valleys around us were flash flooding. Now, as darkness began to settle, lightening flashed as yet another wave of storms threatened us. These two young men had led well, but felt disoriented and unsure of how to lead any longer.
One looked at the ground, shame overwhelming him. The other glanced up with rain dripping off his hat and said, “I’m really struggling to trust that He even knows that we’re out here.” The statement was honest and vulnerable, not the kind of answer you get when sitting in a comfortable chair in an air- conditioned classroom.
"Do you remember when the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up? What did Jesus ask His disciples?” I prodded. The one who had been silent looked up suddenly with tears in his eyes and said, “Why are you so afraid?” I paused taking in the holiness of the moment, “Sounds familiar. Why do you think Jesus asked them that question?” There was another pause before one of the students said, “Jesus was right there with them in the middle of that storm. He was inviting them to trust that He is good and that He would take care of them.” I smiled as we bowed our heads and prayed to the only One who could help us.
A leader’s well-aimed question and willingness to listen potentially unlocks a greater awareness and a true experience with God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry on this earth, we see countless examples of His directing concise questions to the disciples, the crowds, and the skeptics. But what he offered was more than a question with a plain answer. He was issuing an invitation directly to the heart, offering His very presence, and allowing space for individuals to discover something very true about Him, themselves, and the world around them. With questions and statements that turned their world upside down, Jesus created conditions that enhanced the probability that change or transformation would occur.
As a facilitator, I marvel at the invitations Jesus offered with one well-aimed statement or question directed at an individual or group. Questions like: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matt. 8:26), “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt. 9:28), and “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Jesus doesn’t ask these questions with a spirit of superiority or judgment; He asks with genuine curiosity born out of love. To answer His questions, we must reflect and willingly, humbly searching the depths of our hearts. And what is He inviting us to? He is inviting us to a place of surrender, a place where we may need to relinquish our previous understanding and self-sufficiency in order to fully experience His power, love, and truth.
In each of the above scenarios and in our present situations, Jesus does not just ask a question and leave us to flounder. No, He remains present with us as we allow His questions to really sink in. He watches with eyes of love, listens without judgment, and responds by directing us toward the truth that comes through experience. What a gift He gives us as He promises, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20)! His presence allows struggle.
He does not rescue us from adversities, rather He walks with us through them and redirects us to see the world from a new point of view. He provides accountability and truth when we get off track. And He is patient with us, willing to wait, not providing answers, but allowing space for discovery. When we consider that the disciples, who struggled with doubt and fear and uncertainty as they followed after Jesus, were the same ones Christ sent into the world, we can only exclaim, “What a transformation!” His invitation to us is no different. We struggle with fear, uncertainty, and doubt and yet He facilitates our journey farther into His loving presence.
At Discovery Ministries, we utilize the craft of facilitation and seek to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as we invite believers to discover the adventurous life in Christ, asking questions that create space for them to respond to and experience His invitation. The morning after the storm, our group awoke to discover that those two young men had landed us less than 100 yards from our destination. Their eyes were wide with wonder as they experienced God’s personal invitation not to be afraid and to trust that He was with them, guiding them, and caring for them. God’s love and the ways He intentionally facilitates us on our journey with Him are truly a gift! “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
Questions for Reflection:
Have you had an experience with God that created greater understanding of His Word?
What is one question God is inviting you to consider?
Who do you say that He is?
By Joel Bates
We are taking some time over the next several months to share some of the stories, situations, and meaning behind each of our Core Values and how these values have come to shape the ministry of Discovery Ministries. Committed to the Process of Wilderness is our fourth Core Value. We continue to find these to be relevant to our current way of life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wilderness exists in many forms. We call the high up, way back regions of Alaska and Canada “wilderness;” if the altitude and extreme cold don’t getcha, then the grizzly bears will. Beware of the Australian Outback wilderness—that waterless wasteland where fire ants, dingoes, and dehydration pose daily threats. And let’s not forget the 70% of planet Earth’s surface—the high seas—a wilderness where squalls materialize out of thin air, waves the height of buildings crush sailing vessels, and predators beneath the surface indiscriminately feed on plankton or people. These regions immediately portray “wilderness” for us. But, I think wilderness can also appear as apartheid alienation, pain and abandonment in the loss of a loved one, or uncharted chaos during a worldwide pandemic that separates people and threatens our well-being.
I think we can all agree that wilderness is scary and often lies closer to home than we think. By definition, “wilderness” is as an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region, but I think it is more than that. In fact, I believe everyone experiences a wilderness trial at some point in his life, and many of us are wandering in a wilderness right now.
I take people orienteering. Now, some of you love getting lost between the pages of a good book. For others it’s losing yourself in a sporting event or in a deep conversation with an old friend. But, when I take people orienteering, we lose ourselves in the forest. No really, we get lost! I mostly know where I am because I’m the facilitator. The group, on the other hand, has no idea where they are. They have to use their tools—a map and compass—to get themselves unlost and out of the wilderness.
I had given one team of students a destination atop a hill directly in front of them. They looked at the map skeptically, turning it round, squinting their eyes first at the map and then at the hill before them and then back at the map as they tried to gain some piece of perspective. Once satisfied with a plan, they set off to go around the hill. On the backside of that same hill, they glared at the map, annoyed that the hill remained imposing from their new vantage point. They set off again to skirt the base of the hill until they could get a better view of yet another steeply sloping side. They repeated this process for hours until, after exhausting all other options, they simply marched up the hill to the top. When I asked them why it had been such a difficult decision to go to the top, they responded that they thought there had to be an easier way. The truth? There was no easier way!
Real life can intimidate us this way sometimes. When we are faced with an unfamiliar path, something out of our control, or a situation we don’t understand, we’d rather just avoid it. We become masters at avoiding the uncomfortable or unwanted inconveniences as we distract ourselves, trying to find another way around. Usually with God, there is no other way. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” That’s a pretty black-and-white statement that leaves little room for argument. Ah, but consider how good this destination is. All of God’s destinations are good!
Using the wilderness as a tool to grow His people is hardly new for God. For instance, we all remember His leading the faithless, rebellious Israelite's into the Sinai wilderness. They ended up wandering around for 40 years, and most stayed there in shallow, desert graves. But the new generation, who had grown up in the wilderness, facing its adversity on a daily basis and seeing God’s deliverance as commonplace, confidently stepped into the flood water and crossed the Jordan, marched around Jericho and captured the walled city, and overtook their enemies to conquer the Promised Land. When God’s people emerged from the wilderness, they were a very different people from the previous generation that entered the desert.
And let’s not forget king David. He is known as the greatest king of Israel, but prior to his coronation, he spent years running and hiding from Saul. We can read many of the psalms that record his struggles during his time spent in isolation and exile, his wondering if God was ever going to see him through to his promised anointing. No other king of Israel experienced this tremendous trial of wilderness wandering, but no other king of Israel was as great as David.
There’s a correlation: great biblical heroes often went through wilderness adversity in preparation for their calling. God knows that whether you’re facing giants in the land, economic uncertainty, or crisis in a difficult relationship, you just have to trust Him with your life—hand the fears and identities over to him, lay everything at his feet—and go through. Most wilderness produces dread and fear in us, but on the other side of the wilderness, we find a door by which we enter a vibrant, dynamic life.
Here are some truths to consider as you deal with the process of wilderness:
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.