Blog: December 2013
I recently saw a posting on Facebook from one of my Trekkers who is now a junior at Eastern University in which he shared his personal feelings on faith.
This is what Vincent wrote:
"I think I connect best with God through nature. It's something about the weather and wilderness that makes me believe even more. That and my personal day-to-day experiences.”
Vincent and I share a wonderful history of travel and Trekking during his high school years at the UrbanPromise Academy. Of course, our travels together were not always perfect nor without tensions. One experience that brings us both to laughter these days took place during his freshman year. We were spending a week in Florida visiting the Everglades and the Keys, hiking, canoeing, and snorkeling. One night, after all the students were supposed to be in their bunk rooms with lights out, I caught Vincent and a few of his fellow Trekkers outside their room. I confronted the young men and stopped them when they began to explain their reason for being up. My too quick and unfiltered response was, "Don't even give me any B___S___!” Vincent, surprised at seeing an angry Mr. C, responded, “But Mr. C, we're only kids!"
Vincent and I, along with his classmates, would later travel and experience some of the most amazing things to be seen in nature. We rode horses together up the steep, rugged mountain trails of Sierra Chincua Sanctuary in Mexico's Transvolcanic Belt to see the monarch butterfly in its winter habitat. We've hiked and camped along ridgelines on the Appalachian Trail. We've kayaked along Maine's jagged coast with Atlantic Harbor Porpoises and Minke Whales swimming past us. We've been awed together!
For a young man from the hardened and unforgiving streets of South Camden, where drugs, prostitution, and violence are often the experience that influence and define who children become, Vincent chose something different. I can't help but get emotional when I think of the role Trekkers has had in Vincent's life. I also know Vincent has been blessed with a loving and caring mother and father and an entire network of people throughout both his community and UrbanPromise that rejoice in who he's become.
And like Vincent, it has been the magnificent sunrises and mountain summits where God's power and majesty has been revealed to me. But it is through Vincent that I feel and see more than ever the face of God and his love even in the harshest of places.
Have a Blessed Christmas and a Purposeful New Year,
Jim and all the Trekkers
What an amazing year! It has been a year full of innovation and deepening of traditions for UrbanTrekkers. I’m overwhelmed with both gratitude and joy that I feel from being surrounded by staff, friends, volunteers, and students. As we work with our youth and deepen our relationships with them, we realize that we don’t just help to transform the lives of our students. We also see transformation in our own lives.
Those transformative relationships grow through nights around campfires, hikes in beautiful places, and hours working in the shop side by side building boats. These are the places where we find our true selves. These are the places we become who we were made to be.
Our youth and mentors reached new heights in 2013 as the year provided many new and exciting opportunities. This year for the first time ever, we held an expedition where UrbanTrekkers from UrbanPromise Ministries in multiple cities came together for a two-week, 2,500 mile expedition through five national parks in Colorado and Utah. We’ve begun to create a training and support model for UrbanPromise staff and interns to lead the way in outdoor education in their own cities.
More students than ever walk around campus wearing their Trekker Vest as a symbol of honor earned through hard work and grit. The walls of the UrbanPromise Academy high school display the student plaques with their badges of achievement earned over their high school careers for things like backpacking, paddling, and boatbuilding. From new student orientation to the Senior Rites of Passage, we mark the journey with time-tested traditions.
We now host over 50 students in the boat shop building traditional skiffs, cedar strip kayaks, and stitch and glue paddleboards and canoes. The students in our advanced build exhibit craftsmanship and a maturing confidence in the quality of the craft they produce.
All that being said, we could never build relationships and character in our students without your love and support. This year has been remarkable because of you. For this we are abundantly grateful.
Director of Experiential Learning