God of Adventure

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA pastor recently asked: ‘Where in the Bible do you find camping culture mentioned?’   Well, I’m glad he asked because I’ve been reading an excellent book by Bruce Dunning called ‘God of Adventure’ which establishes the biblical validity of ‘Christian Adventure Learning’, arguing a case that liminality (conscious awareness) and adventure learning combine to be one of God’s principle tools to connect with his people, challenge them, and have them participate in his redemptive purpose for his creation.

The book takes the reader through more than one hundred biblical examples of adventure learning and camping.  For example:

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On being a camping Dad

Transcendent:  “Extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience.”

I spent the first ten years of life growing up in the midst of a civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).    During the time I was aged 5 to ten my Dad was drafted into compulsory military service as a chaplain, meaning that for most of those years he would spend three weeks on “call-up” away from home followed by six weeks at home where he’d frantically have to make up for lost time at work where he was National Director of Youth for Christ.

Transcendent memories are those that remain with us for a lifetime, moments where the ordinary is broken by something remarkable.  Some transcendent memories about Dad’s call-ups are the sorrow of the day he’d depart, and one particularly memorable day where he unexpectedly returned home early with tick bite fever (I’m not sure Dad was as overjoyed about this as Mum and I were). 

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Galilee, Ontario

Trying to keep warm in a Canadian summer!

“Communitas takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience.  It’s an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness.”

“Liminality is a state of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes.”

Earlier this year I toured three Provinces of Canada on a Christian Venues Association study tour.  I was one of seven of the tour participants fortunate to be taken on an overnight canoe expedition to Red Cedar Lake in central Ontario with the Director from Camp Norland.  Most of our tour group had not met prior to arrival in Canada so when we left for our canoe trip we were still very much in the formative group stages, even down to remembering each others’ names.

We may have only been away for less than forty-eight hours, but by the time we returned our group had experienced a powerful transformation driven by communitas and liminality, so much so that it was obvious to the remainder of the tour group.  Eventually this side-trip became a driving force behind our entire group breaking down the social barriers and getting to know each other on much deeper levels than might have been thought possible in a two-week period.

Our canoe expedition saw us paddling ten kilometers on the first day on a gorgeous and secluded lake, breaking for lunch and then soon after arriving at our camp site for the night.  We arrived at 2.30pm and with Canadian summer sunsets taking place at 10.30 or later I admit I thought it was a lot of time to be spending on an isolated spit of land in the middle of a lake, complete with bear whistles to combat the dangers of the local wild life. 

In the end it was this very lack of busyness and schedule that “made” the trip.  We set-up, we explored, we swam and then we sat and talked.  Around a smoky fire we joked about the day and then shared about our lives.  This morphed into a time of spontaneous group reflection on the Psalms and further deep sharing.  We ate royally and the hours flicked by.

Sometime deep in the evening it occurred to all of us that we’d experienced that afternoon something resembling a significant portion of Jesus’ ministry years, and the type of relationship and discipleship that must have been the mark of His time with His disciples. 

We’d short hopped across a body of water similar to Galilee to get away from the crowds, and then enjoyed unhurried time for sharing, reflection and teaching.  And it contained power, as though the divine nestled heavily around us amidst a very humble camp site in the deep wilds of a Canadian summer.

This extraordinary, yet very ordinary experience reminded me yet again about what it is we seek to achieve in our camping and expeditions programs here at QCCC.  As another Canadian camp Director puts it, our role is “to create the space that allows God to do His work”. 

One of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is the creation of time away from the everyday where reflection is encouraged, perspective is sharpened, relationships are actively encouraged, time is available over meals and the divine gets to work without the clutter of the everyday. 

If it’s been a while since you participated in a camp program, or went on a frontier expedition, you’re missing out on a lot.

Works or Words?

A couple of months ago I was at a Christian Venues Association (CVA) Outlook Conference (for leaders of the major Australian campsites).  Tim Costello was the opening presenter and together with several of his World Vision staff made a strong case for a social gospel, where the sharing of the gospel is integrally tied to a campaign of works and community involvement.

It provoked a lot of discussion about the approach to ministry and mission in the camping context, and bought on a collision between two different world views on what constitutes legitimate ministry.

Some sites have strongly held views on the primacy of compulsory bible teaching to all camps, where others are taking a more pragmatic approach to how they cater to their secular guests.

The internet age, and the rise of a virile and antagonistic secular humanism in the public school sector means that the day is not far off, if it is not already upon us, that twentieth century style bible teaching will become a barrier and stumbling block to secular schools and community groups accessing Christian campsites.

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Reserve Graders

On the fringes

Recently I heard a talk by someone celebrating the faithfulness of an orphan mission in Central Africa, totally reliant on donations and therefore operating “on faith”. The talk was of the numerous close calls, near misses, miraculous intervention and “God always coming through and rewarding the faith of the place”.

And it’s a fantastic story. I am in awe of people living on the edge like that, their bravery, their faithfulness and their ability to live completely reliant on God. But I did wonder that for every stunning story like that, how many other similar outfits out there that embark on a similar path and struggle for years or fall over? What thought do we give to the hundreds of faithful people who enter ministry with a full heart, wonderful intention, but end up burned out, broke or worse? Was it their faith that was lacking? I doubt we can judge but I suspect not.

On a few occasions I have been in the presence of earned celebrity. And when that has happened I have often been struck by the star-power, or the extremity of talent that these people ooze. I’m talking of entertainment celebrities and the wattage of their star-power, a celebrity that drips with extreme charisma.

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