A Journey Up the Mountain and Back

For the fourth year in a row we have taken a group of High School juniors and seniors on a backpacking trip. Many of the youth have never been camping, let alone backpacking, and so this is a time of new experiences and a shared journey.

And what a journey it was.

While the trip itself was a rather brief three day event, we tried to pack a lot in the experience. We ambled uneventfully by way of a caravan of cars to Franklin, NC, headed twelve miles west and pitched tents in the shadow of Standing Indian Mountain. Nightfall was upon us and with it came colder temperatures. Some of the guys voluntarily built a fire while the rest of us were looking for nice spots to set up a small village of tents. Each was responsible for their own meal, which by the evidence of the detritus of wrappers seemed to be ramen noodles and beef jerky. That night as the tents were zipped up and folks were nestled deep in their sleeping bags I glanced at the thermometer and it was 33 degrees. “Not bad,” I thought.

The next morning it was 21 degrees and some of the water bottles of the youth were frozen. The irony is that was the nice part of the day. I guess I am exaggerating…a little. While we did not cover many miles up the mountain and along the Appalachian Trail, we found beautiful spots along the way for viewing, resting, exploring and eventually for sleeping. Our final night was a bit warmer – upper thirties – which gave everyone the fortitude to face the next morning as we hiked out of the mountains in the steady rain. The Huddle House because our Promise Land of hot food and hot coffee.

In spite of cold, rain, and for some the discomfort of hiking with a backpack, it was a great, shared journey. Each year I look forward to spending time with our youth and sharing in their pride as they face obstacles and in their earned sense of accomplishment.

Most of the journeys we take in life, after all, are best when they are shared. Pictures tell part of the story, but when you can experience something together it takes on a particular significance. Israel wandered through the wilderness for forty years not as a collection of individuals, but as one people. Hardships and celebrations were shared. Peril and deliverance came to all.

Today we find ourselves on the early side of Advent, in the shadow of the Nativity. While we all have our individual ways of celebrating and decorating and observing our unique traditions in this season, it is in the end a shared journey. We hear the stories of prophets longing and the anxious populations migrating for an imperial census, and so we share our own desires and anxieties. We read about the terror of Herod’s edict that every male child shall die as he sought out the one that was rumored to be the “King of the Jews.” We also get to share in the shepherd’s joy and the wise men’s ponderings and the angels’ celebrating.

Each Sunday of Advent as well as all the other Sundays of the church year we are invited to come and share together the stories of God’s people as God’s people. In the sharing of the journey we discover that we have a story to tell too. We also share from our abundance with those who have needs and longings that have left them woefully alone.

What is keeping you from sharing your journey and telling your story? You too have an experience to share and you too are part of this larger communion of saints and fellowship of sinners.

Advent peace,



  1. While I am tempted to comment on the backpacking trip, the sharing of stories in the congregation is the most interesting question. Seems worth a discussion in the church of all the ways this can happen. There are some who would feel comfortable standing in front of the group alone telling their story, some who would do it around a church supper table, some who would do it only as part of a music ensemble, some only in one-on-one conversation, and probably more ways still. The church needs to make room for and encourage all of those people to BE a part of the collective story even if they are not the storytellers… I wonder what you and others think.


  2. Well said Robert. When everyone has a chance to “tell” their stories – good, bad, and otherwise – we get a better picture of the different ways God is working and moving. I think around the tables are good venues to help people relax and simply share how God is working. Others might even share the more difficult but authentic observations of how they wish or hope they would see God working.

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