Nature is one of the greatest classrooms life has to offer. College students from across the United States would learn many lessons in just a short week of their summer in the wilderness of Montana. Although a challenge to literally unplug from their normal daily routine, they would discover new perspectives on leadership, finding happiness and purpose, and nurturing a relationship with God while forging strong relationships with each other.

One 19-year-old woman from Seattle, Washington shared her story on connecting with God through nature and her growth as a person and leader:

I personally feel that being in Creation is one of the best ways that I can more closely connect with God, so I really appreciate this time that I had in Montana.

In the mountains, we were without our phones and other man-made distractions. We were forced to use the natural things around us, to watch over and care for others, and ask for help if we needed. Even just after five days, I experienced that we literally had to live for the sake of others in order to survive. It is only natural that we worried for others and also depended on others.

“When out in nature, I also saw that it does not take much for us to live happily in this physical world.”

Pumping water at a lake with the backpacking team.

When out in nature, I also saw that it does not take much for us to live happily in this physical world. Even in the woods, God had provided us with everything we need to live. Besides the food that we brought with us (or could have gotten from hunting and fishing if necessary), we had streams for water, flat and grassy lands for comfortable shelter, trees to hang food away from bears, wood to build warm fires, and all of nature’s beauty to enjoy. As we hiked during the day and rested during the nights, we also had one another to interact with and learn from.

They say that people learn a lot about one another and bond closely when we live together in the mountains, and I think that is very true! It was very refreshing to talk to my brothers and sisters not just about how they are doing, but also have conversations on a more deeper level. It was very inspiring to see others talk seriously about their faith and have great interest in conversations about God and His principles and ultimate dream.

“People learn a lot about one another and bond closely when we live together in the mountains.”

In one discussion that we had during a break in hiking, everyone shared their own philosophy or way of leadership. Many said that it is to lead by example, to live for the sake of others, etc., but I was very inspired by one person when he said that ultimately, what he does, no matter what it is, should somehow connect to God’s dream. This makes even the most trivial actions very important. This, of course, is important for personal growth, but to connect this directly to leadership. This is not something I have really thought about. When it comes to leadership, I more naturally think about helping others and moving their hearts rather than improving myself, but it makes perfect sense that bettering myself and lining up my values to my faith in God will make me a better vessel for Him to work through, and ultimately, a better leader.

“A leader has to make difficult decisions to make everyone’s experience the best possible.”

Leading the team for the day.

During this adventure workshop, I had the opportunity to be the trail captain for a day, and the team medic on another day. Both roles had me experience some challenges. A leader has to take into account many different factors depending on the situation, and oversee everyone’s personal situation and try to understand them. In the mountains, some of these factors included safety, injuries, hiking pace, water resources, location of the campsite, etc. It was also difficult to try to satisfy everyone’s needs. Everyone came to Montana for a different reason. Some wanted to have the greatest physical challenge (like climb the highest possible peak), have solitude time, and experiences like that. A leader has to make difficult decisions to make everyone’s experience the best possible.

This area is special because people can fully experience God’s natural world and learn from Him.

The overall experience was amazing. I feel that I was able to gain some strength from this challenge for the coming year. I am going into my second year of college, and I want to make this a much better year than the last.