What started as a quick cool-off in the Arkansas River turned into an amazing spiritual moment. Chris was dunking kids into the river in a goofy way only a youth pastor can get away with. “Ehem, be baptized!” “I dunk you in the name of the Father…” Until one of the students asked, “Can we do this for real? I’ve never been baptized.”
It was a lot like the evangelist Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). And Chris’s response was just like Philip’s, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Then heck yeah, we can do this for real!”
It had already been an incredible week with the 14 students and 4 youth workers from the Roots Youth Group. They came to Journey Quest for a week of adventure, team-building, and fun. But most importantly, they came to grow closer to Christ. After the first, several more students followed, proclaiming their faith in Jesus through baptism!
The group arrived on Monday and we started with a number of challenging games and initiatives. Tuesday we packed everything into the bus and headed up to raft the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. Browns Canyon is really pretty and offers nice peaceful pools and exciting class III-IV rapids. We took our time floating a 9-mile stretch of the canyon, stopping for a delicious lunch, mid-day journalling, and jumping into the river. After setting up camp near the take-out, we gathered around for supper, worship, and some Biblical teaching. The stars above Colorado give an amazing show nearly every night, and many of the students loved finding the perfect place to sleep out and enjoy it.
After some “Jesus Time” and an scrumptious breakfast, we walked along the river to our rock climbing & rappelling area. Here each student was challenged to put faith into action as they tried challenging rock climbs and rappelled a 150ft rock-face. Even getting to the rappel involves an adventurous traverse across an exposed ledge system. It’s a beautiful place overlooking the Arkansas River.
Our next day we rafted a few miles in upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon before switching to duckies for a milder 7-mile stretch of the Arkansas River. It was pretty entertaining watching some of the students learn how to control their boats and navigate the various class II and III rapids along the way, but they picked it up pretty quickly and only a few experienced an unintentional swim.
Our last day on the river started after an extended quiet time and the impromptu baptism service. We started out with Duckies for a few miles and then switched back to rafts to run 14 miles in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Bighorn has a lot of fun class III and IV rapids, and since it is our most popular trip we know the fun lines through the rapids and several great spots to jump and swim. We stopped about halfway for lunch, mid-day journalling, and a group photo.
That night was our last evening together, and around the campfire several of the students shared how God had worked in their hearts. Three of them received Christ, and a couple of them said that getting baptized was the highlight of their trip! It’s amazing how close we get to the students and youth leaders on trips like this, and saying good-bye is always hard. But watching God work through His Word, His Creation, and His people is such an adventure!