Saturday, October 15, 2011

Journey Through the Wilderness

[Author's note: This is a long one! But it was so helpful for me to type out my thoughts...I hope they are helpful and insightful for you, too.]

We had a great time on our recent canoe and camping trip. We laughed, enjoyed the scenery, rested, and spent quality time together. But it wasn't always easy. There were tough portages when we carried the canoe further than we wanted to, sore muscles, tired legs, and long nights of sleeping on the ground. But we endured and we were proud to make it through to the end

As I've reflected on our journey through the wilderness, I've begun to see how our time in the boundary waters is similar to the journey we're on right now towards the mission field.

A long, challenging journey inevitably has ups and downs.
Throughout each day on the canoe trip, we would go from a relaxing morning, to a grueling paddle across a windy lake, to a long, intense hike, to an enjoyable evening in front of the campfire. Each day was a tumultuous series of highs and lows.

Similar to our days in the wilderness, our journey to Austria has been fraught with mountain top experiences and low valleys. Some days, we are excited, encouraged and focused on God's hand working in our lives and ministry. Other says, we are giving in to feelings of discouragement, rejection, fear and worry. 

The difficult times can feel long when you're in the midst of them.
When Nate and I were carrying heavy packs, paddles and a 70-lb. canoe for a mile, there were times when we thought we would never make it to the next lake. In the midst of a difficult portage, the road seemed endless.

And in this journey to Austria, we sometimes feel the same way. We find ourselves asking, "Will we ever make it? How will we stay strong and persevere to the end? Can I take one more step towards our goal? Will it ever get easier?"

A journey through the wilderness requires simplicity.
When you're backpacking or canoeing, you are forced to carry everything you need with you. To make the journey easier, simplicity is key. You pack light and you pack only what you need.

Our nomadic life has also forced simplicity on us, and this has been difficult but also freeing. To be living unencumbered by "stuff" helps you realize how little you really need and makes you more dependent on the Provider of all things.

There is strength in a unified team.
Our camping trip required team work and unity. If we were carrying the canoe together, we moved quickest when our feet were in step and we were communicating clearly. When we paddled across a large lake, we needed to work together to accomplish the job.

Every day, we work together as we pursue God's calling on our lives to move to Austria. And when we are unified, it shows. When we are encouraging each other, communicating well, and bathing the process in prayer, we strengthen each other as a team.

Surviving one "valley" better prepares you for the next one.
A portage is when you carry your canoe from one body of water to another. And our trip included a lot of portages. The first few were rough, as we experimented with strategies to best get us and our equipment from point A to point B. After working through a few of them, though, they began to get easier. We were better prepared as each portage approached, knowing the best means and methods to make it through.

Raising financial support has led me to hit a couple of difficult low points. There have been times when I've hit bottom, broken down and felt uncertain if I could make it any further. But God has carried me through and taught me something new about Himself or myself each time. And now, when I approach a difficult time or sense those feelings returning, I am better prepared to face them, knowing God will continue to be faithful as He has been.

It is the tough stretches that make the fun times that much better. 
At the end of a long day of canoeing and portaging, sitting by the fire enjoying mac 'n' cheese felt so fantastic! Working our muscles hard and pushing through made our times of fun and rest so much sweeter.

And that has continued to be true each and every day for us. In life, we experience joy and sorrow, ups and down, difficult times and celebratory ones. But if it weren't for the sorrow and frustration and struggle, we would not revel in the celebration like we do. We thank God for the lessons we learn in difficulty and celebrate the joys that much more! 


  1. Way to go, Nate and Bethany. I enjoyed your blog and thought it was a great analogy to your upcoming missionary work. I made a long comment yesterday, but it didn't seem to post. So I'm trying this one, and may redo my longer one again if this one goes through.
    Lynn Moore Hampson

  2. It went through, Lynn! Thank you for your encouragement. It's great to know that people are reading our thoughts here!


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