Two weeks ago I went on a journey in the Smokey Mountains with all of my fellow Resident Chaplains for the coming year at Greenville College. All 60 or so of us gathered in the parking lot behind West Oak at 3:00am for prayer before we all piled into the school people movers for the 10+ hour drive down to Tennessee. On the ride down there I curled up in the far back right seat of the people mover and attempted to sleep as much as I could before having to hike for eight days in the wilderness. As much as I tried, I could not. Partly because of how uncomfortable those silly buses are and partly because of how nervous I was for the coming hike.
Walkabout is a time when all of the school leaders of the coming year, mostly Resident Chaplains and the Student Government leaders. We hike out into the woods in small groups of about eight people seeking a spiritual retreat with God and to build relationships with each other. We march out with packs on our backs expecting certain things out of Walkabout, but completely open to whatever God might have to throw our way on the trail.
For many people, the most impacting and life changing moments come from our 48 hour fast alone in the woods that each group takes a few days into the hike. We are each placed in a small spot with an area to lie down and meditate in. Being alone with God for that long with nothing to do but think and pray is a rare experience in our cluttered, day to day lives. It is hard to explain what this pause in life is like. At first you pray and read some passages from the Bible given to you. You meditate on the coming year and how you play a part in it. You offer up to God your worries and fears, and then praise him for his grace in bringing you this far. But then… it is so easy to get distracted after that. I would find myself staring at a single ant crawling around my patch of dirt for hours without realizing the time. I whittled a stick to just about nothing in my time of pondering. However, despite the almost eminent boredom that sets in to the inexperienced “faster” and “solo-time-taker,” it is certainly a powerful and, if you let it, revealing time with God.
Personally, Walkabout was amazing because of the group I was with. Our little troop soon became a tightly knit force for Christ as we learned about each other and heard each other’s stories and struggles. We grew closer than just friends as we sat in the pouring rain together, huddled close together for warmth underneath a dirty tarp when we were too wet to use our sleeping bags. We sang Disney songs together on the trail, pumped clean water together, laughed together, cried for and with each other, and made memories that will last forever. The six other individuals who I hardly knew two weeks ago are now some of my most precious friends.
Walkabout was an journey that I believe more people should take than just the student leaders on campus. I know that given the option, I would do it again in a heart beat.