The following is a short excerpt from the second draft of Journeys; the adventures of a Nomad. Hope y’all enjoy!
The summer following my sophomore year of high school, I received the opportunity to journey alongside forty of my classmates and friends to a weeklong summer camp at Young Life’s Saranac Village in upper state New York. …
In the early morning hours, we boarded the bus and I began to open my eyes to those that surrounded me; we were an eccentric group of high school kids. We had the jocks and the preps, members of the marching band and drum line, shy kids who kept to themselves, drug dealers and users, skaters, punks, and everything in between. And as we began our journey towards the hills of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, we began to form a bond that crossed all the lines of our high school society.
We slept throughout the night as the miles flew beneath us. After a quick stop midmorning, we continued on our way, somehow ending up heading in the wrong direction for several hours. By lunchtime, when we were supposed to be arriving at camp, we were completely lost and still several hours from our destination. After receiving directions from one of the locals in the area, we headed back onto the road hoping to catch the first night’s activities.
I don’t know if our bus driver missed the turn or forgot where we were going, but we were forced to make a quick turn around when we spotted a sign that simply stated “Canadian Border 5 Miles, Have Passport Ready.” As night fell around us, we entered the wilderness and back roads that surrounded the Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes. For several hours we continued to wind our way up and down roads that we were sure contained our destination, even as someone shared that this was exactly like a scene out of Jeepers Creepers.
Unbeknownst to us, the light that stood at the entrance of the camp had burned out, leaving the driveway shrouded in darkness. Although we had found the correct road, we continued to pass by the entrance, unaware that our destination was within reach. After stopping to ask for directions from a cop standing in the rain under a lamp post, we arrived at Young Life’s Saranac Village.
We piled out of the bus, unloaded our things into our cabins, and fell asleep after an exhausting twenty three and a half hours of traveling, to wake several hours later to see the beauty that surrounded us.
As I stood outside the cabins the next morning, looking out over the path that led down to the shores of Upper Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Mountains beyond, I felt a physical presence that I had never felt before. Within the golden rays of the sunrise reflecting off the waters, throwing a golden hue over the camp, I felt something looking over the islands and mountains that rose out of the waters before me; it was a physical presence up on the hill beside me. Everything seemed small as the air moved in peaceful breaths around me. It felt as if a friend was standing at my side, welcoming me back with open arms.
It wasn’t until I returned to this place, three years later, that I discovered the words to describe what I felt as I stood there. There are places where the beauty of nature and the untamed wilderness allow us to feel a spiritual connection to something bigger than ourselves. These places where it feels as if the physical and spiritual worlds intertwine together were described to me as “thin places.”
And in that first morning at Young Life’s Saranac Village, I stumbled into one of these thin places and knew that there was something more.
I write this because it was just over 11 years ago that this adventure with Young Life changed my life. There is so much more to this story that is yet to be written out in words, but it has remained in my heart and has shaped my life.
I share it today because this morning, I was frustrated. I was upset and angry. And yet, I have been surrounded by the beauty of nature each and every day for the past six weeks up here in Montana. When times our rough, we each need a reminder that God is and will always be present. Especially in the Thin Places.
This also goes out to an amazing man who showed me what it meant to give your life for something bigger. He has continued to be a positive influence in the lives of the youth and a pillar of faith in my life, even though our paths parted years ago. He was and is more than a Young Life Leader, but a mentor, friend, and brother in Christ.