Connecting in the Wilderness

It was the second day of this year’s high school mission trip to Crownpoint, NM. There was no Wi-Fi, sparse cell reception, and absolutely zero chance that I would be checking my overdue work emails. To my delight, our young folks were content with a weeklong break from their preferred social network. I was not. The busyness so many of us pack into our daily lives followed me all the way to the deserts of the Navajo Nation.  

Two of our team members were on their way to Crownpoint from Albuquerque, and we had to coordinate to pick them up. I needed cell reception, so I left the little red house we were painting and ventured out into the wilderness.

Eventually, the call went through! I was so glad to get a connection that I barely noticed the rumbling of the ground beneath my feet. The vibration grew more pronounced as a ferocious sound resonated behind me. I turned and saw a stampede of wild horses barreling in my direction! Shouting, I bolted! I made a beeline back to the house, narrowly escaping with my life!

Betsy Miller, one of our wonderful adult leaders, laughed uncontrollably as I tried to catch my breath. She had a front-row seat for the entire show! When the dust cleared, I quipped, “This is a perfect metaphor for youth ministry; sometimes you’ve got to be quick on your feet!”

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced this little story is as much a metaphor for life on the Main Line as it is for ministry. Sometimes we have to be quick on our feet; sometimes we lose sight of all that is going on around us. We’re so focused on networking with others that we may miss out on making authentic connections.

Maybe it even feels like the ground beneath our feet is shaking as our schedules and responsibilities chase us across the countryside. We want the young people we know and love to learn ways of embracing the moment, and connecting to the people around them, but we find it difficult to model these hopes in our own lives.

The youth of our church understand. Many of them already know what it’s like to carry tremendous responsibility on their shoulders. They, too, long for authentic connections, deep relationships, and the chance to serve others.

This year’s New Mexico Mission trip provided each of our teenagers with opportunities to take their faith seriously, ask tough questions, and work hard. It gave them a respite from the monotony of their busy lives. They taught me a lot about what it means to follow Jesus out into the world with the kind of vigor and commitment that characterizes lives full of possibility. May we all come to embrace such a faith.