This week I was back on the river with our High Adventure program. Because there is still so much snow in the mountains, the rock climbing portion had to be canceled because the roads are all still closed due to being covered in snow leaving us with no access to our rock climbing site. This means that we all had an extra day on the river and what a difference one day can make.
White water rafting is a very tiring activity for people who are not used to doing it every day and when you are dealing with Jr. and Senior High students who are more interested in anything but the physicality it takes to keep the raft moving where it needs to be going, things only get more difficult for everyone.
I was fortunate to have a pretty solid group of paddlers the days I was guiding down the river, but that didn't prevent our group from having a few minor mishaps. The first day, the first group we sent down missed their take out point and had to raft another five miles down the river to get to the next one, which by and large was the most difficult take out on the river to drive a trailer down to. The second day we had a girl slide head first 15 down a cliff into the water from one of our jump rocks. She was fine, just a bit bruised.
The third day on the river is where we had the most trouble. Everyone was tired, even to the point where that morning the Women's Staff Counselor, Kelsey, came up to me and told me that she just didn't have it in her to go rafting that day and had been praying about it and just really felt like she should stay back and rest. This actually worked out really well because then she could come and pick us up at our take out point and help us shuttle at the end of the day. After about an hour of rafting we came to a rapid called Rattle Snake which is currently running at a 3+ level and all of our boats made it through just fine. Unfortunately we were in the second group of boats that went out that day.
After we pulled around the corner after the rapid we found the first group waiting for us. This was a bad sign. This means that something had gone wrong, and as we pulled in, our worst fears were confirmed. One of our guides had been pretty seriously banged up, (thank God it was a guide and not a camper), and needed to be evacuated from the river and get to a hospital. This task fell on me and another guy. We hiked our injured guide out of the canyon and started to look for a car. There were none around so we had to hitchhike back into town.
The first car that came by was a forestry truck. Awesome, the forestry service work camp is right across from the clinic in Happy Camp (the town we raft from) this would be perfect. He drives right past. The next car also drives past without hesitation. Not many cars drive this road so we were beginning to worry a bit about getting our friend to the clinic. Just as I'm walking a little ways down to see if there is anyone that can help us, I hear a car stop behind us. It was Kelsey, on her way to help us shuttle at the take out point.
God is always working on our behalf, and this week has been a great testament to just how much he cares for us. The first two days on the river I had a guy in my boat from a youth group in the bay area. I could tell by some of the things he would say and even by the music he would talk about, that he had lived a very difficult life up until this point, and that he was desperately searching for something to bring him peace. On the way back to camp after we were done rafting that third day, I heard him tell about some of the atrocities that he had had to deal with in such a short time in his life and I just began praying for him, that God would get a hold of his heart.
Thursday night in the middle of our campfire session, a thunderstorm began. It was short, but enough for us to move our "campfire" indoors. After worship and before the speaker spoke, this young guy pulled me aside and we went outside to talk. Fortunately it had stopped raining by that point but the only places there were to sit were soaking wet, but not wanting to stand I sat down on the wet table anyway and came down with a serious case of wet butt. He asked me why I believe in God.
This was the beginning of a really long and powerful conversation about who God is and how He so greatly desires that everyone come to know His love and forgiveness. I got to hear some more of his story and what his life had been like growing up and I was able to listen to him as he honestly told me about the brokenness that he had experienced and the pain that he had been through. He let me work through a lot of that with him and by the time we were done talking I asked him how he was feeling. He said that he thought he had heard all he needed to hear, but he wanted to sleep on it. I told him to come and find me the next day to tell me what he was thinking.
The next day at staff meeting, I found out that he and his counselor had talked for a long time afterward as well, and that night at dinner he came up to me and thanked me for talking with him. He told me that I had changed his perspective on the world and I gave him my contact information so that we will be able to keep the conversation going in the future.
When I was talking with him about God, faith, and all of that stuff, I was able to share with him the story of how Kelsey had chosen to stay back and not raft the morning before, and how it was her who God used to get us off of the road and back to safety that day.
Our guide was back at camp that night, he just needed to be stitched up a bit, but he was fine otherwise.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28. Sometimes though I think God likes to remind us just how true that is.