SROM Blog: Wilderness, Ministry, Leadership


November 15th, 2018

By: Audrey Stelzer

Will you try something with me for a moment? Will you, please? It won’t take long!

As you read this paragraph imagine what my words are describing.

You are laying down in a field of grass on the most perfect day. The sun is shining on your face as you breathe in the smell of flowers and hear the bees happily buzzing around. There is a stream bubbling in the distance and the leaves are dancing ever so slightly in the breeze. You let out a big stretch and settle back into the soft, pillow-like grass…


  1. What, if any, memories did that bring back for you?
  2. What is “perfect weather” for you?
  3. How did your senses react when imagining these things?


Now, try this:

It is fall, what are the correct answers:

You are laying down on

  1. Grass
  2. Leaves
  3. Cement
  4. Trampoline
What animals are flying by

  1. Bees
  2. Birds
  3. Bats
  4. Chickens
The sky is

  1. Cloudy
  2. Sunny
  3. Partly cloudy
  4. Partly sunny


Thanks for participating! There was a pretty big difference, huh? I dramatized it a bit, but these are contrasting examples of how people are being taught. The first is Experiential Education (EE), and the second is a traditional classroom style. There is much to say about both, but today I want to introduce you to what experiential education is, and its benefits.


The Association of Experiential Education describes both the process and definition of Experiential Education:

The Process:

Challenge and Experience followed by Reflection leading to Learning and Growth

The definition:

A philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.

The process and definition sound great, but how does it actually work? To understand this, we first need to understand how the brain learns. The brain is constantly acquiring information. In order for it to remain functioning it immediately wants to dismiss or store that information. Initially, the brain will put all information worth storing in its “short-term” memory. Neuroscientists have determined three main factors that aid in acquiring information from “short-term” to “long-term”. These factors include: urgency, repetition, and the most influential, association.



Let’s briefly visit each of these factors:

Urgency– This can be when you are fully immersed in a task that is time sensitive. Looking back on this task, you will remember the feelings, general information, and who was involved. Example: You are writing your final paper at 11:53pm… and it is due at 12:01am.

Repetition– Doing something over and over. Practicing a skill, doing a science experiment multiple times, reading a poem to memorize it.

Association– Moments that you can recall that have informed your decisions of today. Ex: Placing your hand on a hot burner for the first time.





So how does Experiential Education fit in with all of this? Good question! Experiential Education engages all of these factors to get someone to truly learn new information. For example, in my first paragraph I used association to call on experiences you are likely familiar with, and combined it with a new experience I was facilitating. Then, after, I asked questions so that you could provide words to this new experience. I could then use repetition by having someone else read the paragraph to you, and then you do it for someone else, and then you re-read it, so that repetition is happening through different experiences! Urgency? Say whoever recited the visualization first would get $100.


The traditional side of things requires very little engagement with all three factors, and very little depth within the factor it is touching on. Let’s take the third question from above:

It is fall, what are the correct answers:

You are laying down in

  1. Grass
  2. Leaves
  3. Cement
  4. Sand

This calls upon your experience of fall, so association. Great! But… this question implies that everyone has the same experience of fall. Yet, someone in Florida will have a different fall experience than those in Michigan or inner city New York. One of these options has to be right though… right? The experiential visualization is not perfect, but it does allow for questions, it enables others to teach others about their fall experience, and to discuss a new experience.


Overall, Experiential Education is making a new wave. More and more studies are suggesting that the brain learns best through facilitated experience and reflection, and that a lecture with note taking is not benefiting the learner in a significant way. Experiential Education is opening up new doors for creativity, teamwork, long term recollection, communication within an era of technology, and increasing overall levels of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. So why is this important to an outdoor company like Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM)?

Here at SROM we take experiential education seriously. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” If we do not experience him through the senses He has given us, if we do not taste and see Him, if we do not educate ourselves in more than just reading and religious regulations, how will we know and experience the refuge of God? We must have a personal relationship with the Lord that welcomes the experiences He wants to give us to learn and grow. So, at SROM, we strive to do just that on our courses.Throughout course, we provide facilitated experiential education with pointed debriefs to keep our courses open to God and His movement. Experiences, with God at the center, change lives.


Folks, this is only the surface of experiential education. There are so many resources- articles, books, videos, even classes to dive further into! I encourage you to continue to learn about this amazing teaching method and apply it in a Christ-centered way to your friends, families, and communities. Who knows, maybe next time the sun is on your face, you hear happy bees, or are laying in a soft, pillow-like grass, you’ll think of the power of experience and remember to share it with others.


Happy Experiencing.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

-Phillipians 4:9



The Case for Crocs

November 1st, 2018


By: Audrey Stelzer

It is time to bring up the very real and pressing issue of the lack of Crocs in the backcountry. I ask, as a concerned outdoor woman, where have they gone? I realize that some outdoor industries will not allow traditional crocs in the backcountry due to the shoe having holes, and a loose hold around the foot while doing river crossings. Yet, I can only assume they do not know about the large variety of Crocs available! Shoes like the Swiftwater Cross-Strap, Offroad Sport Clog, LiteRide Lace, or LiteRide Pacer are perfect camp shoes after a long day backpacking, crushing at the craig, coming off the whitewater, coming down from a backcountry ski (Blitzen clogs or the Shearling Boot are good for this), or crossing a river while hiking. There are good Croc options for students in professional industries, and for an everyday outdoorsmen!

Crocs dry quickly, protect your feet, are light, have comfort soles, can be adjusted, have a backstrap (I call it the adventure strap), float, are nearly indestructible (my dog chews on them daily), and, contrary to common belief, are very fashionable coming in a wide variety of designs and colors. These shoes are completely functional for the outdoors! Trust me, I can vouch for my Crocs…


In a last ditch effort to my fellow outdoor folk, I have made guidelines for “How to Croc in the Backcountry”.

  1. To reduce sweaty feet on hot hiking days, wear socks with the Crocs. As you put on the socks and slip back into the Crocs, the people left around you are your true friends. Yes, Crocs hold the power to help distinguish true friends.
  2. Use the adventure strap/ankle strap. The adventure strap is an important tool when facing tough sections of a hike. All you have to do is move the strap from above your foot, to behind your ankle. This allows for further stability in the Croc.
  3. Crossing a stream is now a dream! Tighten your Croc, or put the adventure strap on, and cross the stream using whatever safety method is appropriate. On the other side, set the crocs in the sun while changing back into socks and boots. The Crocs will be able to dry quickly and be near ready, or ready to pack once you are back in your boots.
  4. So easy. Since the Crocs are so light, you can easily store them in an accessible area when backpacking and keep them much cleaner than shoes with cloth fabric. The weight will be minimal, and when you get to camp the shoes will be breathable, comfortable, and easy to get on (no straps to worry about going between your toes or by blisters).
  5. Know your limits. Wearing Crocs may make you feel limitless, so remember, they are just a shoe. Still use good judgement calls to ensure safety and fun in your Crocs.


Would You Join Me?

October 25th, 2018

By: Emily Cable

What if I told you my job is to spend 60 days out of each year experientially teaching people how they can safely enjoy spending a few nights outside. What if I told you I frequently don’t shower for 10 days at a time because there’s no faucet in close proximity and the weather is just too cold to get wet sometimes. What if I told you I carry a backpack, which frequently weighs half my body weight, up steep slopes for many miles only to come down them again. What if I told you I still get bruises on my hips and blisters on my toes every time I lead a trip.

What if I told you I like it! What if I told you those few nights hold some of my favorite moments!

Would you believe me?

Would you join me in relishing the thought because you’ve been there too?

Would a longing spring up in you to join me, perhaps for the first time, because the mystery of adventure draws you?

Would you think I’m crazy?!

What if I told you I’ve seen stars too bright to look at for longer than a few seconds; so densely covering the sky they pierced the darkness putting it to flight. What if I told you I’ve been caught in a blizzard in the middle of July while crossing a 12,800’ mountain pass forcing us to hike late into the night. What if I said that was the coldest I’ve ever felt.

What if I told you I’ve stood on the highest point in Wyoming and watched a butterfly flutter overhead in the perfectly still air.

What if I told you I’ve half swam/ half squirmed my way through a muddy slot canyon in Utah so narrow in sections you have to turn your head just so in order to fit.

What if I told you I’ve stood in awe watching God set the sky ablaze night after night from the depths of the Grand Canyon and smelled the honey and strawberry of Monkey Flowers. Or swam an alpine lake fortified by snow and ice, felt lightning so close my hair stood on end, watched a family of mountain sheep graze the hillside, rejoiced when the first rays of morning sun began to thaw my nose.

What if I told you all these wonders are not why I go to the wilderness. What if I told you the reason I spend time in the wilderness is to seek the Lord and be found by Him, to encounter Him in ever deeper ways. I sit in the silence at His feet… sometimes broken hearted, sometimes weeping over the greatness of His love for me, sometimes in joyful song! I need the silence, the pause, to reflect, dream, and just be.

What if I told you every time I return from the wilderness I am never the same?

What if I told you time in the wilderness could change your life?

What if I asked you to join me? Would you?

Backcountry Gourmet: Deep Dish Pizza

October 11th, 2018


By: Laura Albert

Backcountry cooking is a passion of mine. I not only love the time on the trails and in wild places, but when you get an opportunity to eat a gourmet dish with an epic view, it always makes the food and the experience that much better! But, backcountry baking can be a bit hit or miss. This pizza recipe is sure to dazzle your senses and be the best slice of “pie” that you’ve ever had!


  • 2 c baking mix
  • water
  • tomato powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • cheese, and other pizza toppings desired sliced and diced!




The first big thing is to get your stove set up just right. We at SROM use a one burner MSR Whisperlite in the field. So we take the wind screen for the stove and make it tight around the burner so that the flat skillet is not on direct heat. Then, find a rock or use another pot to be able to set the skillet on both the wind screen and the rock or pot.

Once you have your stove system set up, take some water and mix it with your baking mix. You want a soft, pliable dough that is not too dry nor too sticky. Add little bits of water at a time in a u-line or ziplock bag to keep contained. Once dough is correct consistency, take the lid of the skillet and roll out dough to the size of the skillet.

Light the stove and put a little olive oil in the skillet and allow to heat up. Once pan is warm, place dough in the skillet and put the lid on to bake. Every few minutes, rotate the pan to keep with even heating of the pan so that the dough will rise and bake. No twiggy fire needed!

While the dough is baking, take 1/4 c of tomato powder, spices, garlic powder, olive oil, brown sugar, and mix in a small cup or bowl. Add water to mix to get the consistency of tomato sauce desired. Slice and dice pizza toppings. Check up on the dough and keep rotating it. Once dough is mostly cooked through, remove the lid and add sauce, pizza toppings, and cheese. Replace lid and continue the rotating baking system until the cheese is melted on the top.

Once the cheese is melted, remove skillet from stove and turn the stove off. Allow pizza to cool and then cut into even pieces for your cook group. Sit back with your pizza pie and your cup of tea and enjoy the food, the company, and the view!

To the Nations

October 4th, 2018

By: Rachel Engle

One of the core values at SROM is “The Nations” which comes from the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20.


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (emphasis added)


It is God’s heart that all people come to know, love, and follow God. It is a global movement.

Early this month we had three leaders who work in China or specifically serve Chinese students come do a custom, shortened version of our Wilderness Ministries Professionals Course (WMPC), in essence our instructor training.

It was amazing to hear what God has been doing in China and through Chinese student ministries in the states. Let us introduce you a little to each one:



Brent has been serving in China and Chinese campus ministries for the past 30 years

and currently serves with LeaderSource SGA. The executive director of LeaderSource SGA, Malcom Webber, is the author of many books on spiritual leadership. At SROM we use his 5 C’s model of healthy leaders. Brent has been reflecting on his past 30 years in ministry and starting to dream about what the next 30 years will hold.

Please be praying for Brent and what God will be calling him to do over the next 30 years – that he would be encouraged by what has already been accomplished and excited for what God will do next.



Ed’s story and coming to Christ is truly remarkable. More of his story and how our two ministries could come together next summer is below.



Sue Hong is a pastor in China. He understands the power of outdoor experiential education and they have been leading 2-3 day trips, sometimes taking 100 people on a single trip! They are in need of developing spiritual, outdoor experiential education leaders and expanding this part of their ministry.

This is why Sue Hong came on this trip with SROM – to experience how we develop those leaders and start thinking about how he will develop leaders in his area and start his own development strategy.

Please be praying for the work that God is doing through Sue Hong and that he would continue to fearlessly proclaim the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19-20)




Ed grew up poor in China but excelled incredibly in school and got into Bejing University. Bejing University is like getting into the Harvard of Harvards. It is the best college in China, period. His future wife also got in.

It was here that he got involved with a mountaineering club. When he joined the club, he was very shy and had very little confidence. He got to experience first-hand how outdoor experiential education can dramatically impact one’s character, confidence, and leadership.

After getting their undergrad degrees in China, both Ed and his wife decided to pursue MBAs in the states. Ed got into the University of Michigan and it was here that he met Brent who was running a campus ministry to Chinese students at the time. Ed had little interest in learning about Jesus, except for more cultural knowledge and information, which was fairly common for the Chinese students. However, Brent and Ed developed a friendship.

Fast forward to after Ed and his wife receive their masters and are both working at prestigious companies. Ed and his wife were living in two different states, far apart, and neither wanted to switch their jobs so they could be living in the same place. This added great tension to what was already building in their marriage and Ed’s wife asked for a divorce.

This is when Ed turned to Brent to save their marriage. Brent told Ed only Jesus could save his marriage but he would be willing to sit down with them both. However, they would have to both meet with him together. So, Ed’s wife flew in to meet and after both of them shared, Ed reiterated that he could not fix their marriage, only Jesus could, and asked them if they would like to hear about Jesus. They said yes and Brent shared the gospel with them both and they both accepted Christ that day.

After the two of them accepted Christ, Brent told them that they had to be living together. Ed asked who should move and Brent said they would have to pray and ask Jesus about that. Ed was convinced that Jesus was going to ask him to move as his wife is a very strong-willed woman, what he called a tiger wife. It would practically be a miracle if she moved. You can imagine Ed’s amazement then when his wife told him that she felt like Jesus was telling her to move to be with him.

Now they are both working in Austin, TX and God has led Ed to start a ministry to Chinese exchange middle school and high school students. Ed, having been part of the mountaineering club at Bejing University, understands the power of outdoor experiential education to develop character, confidence, and leadership and now spiritual transformation.

Ed eagerly desires for these trips to be a part of the exchange students experience and we are looking at creating some custom trips for them next summer.

SROM would be honored to partner with Ed to further change lives through encountering the living God in the wilderness, learning who God is and who God created them to be, that they may become points of light through all the nations!



It is exciting to see what God has been doing in and through each of these men’s lives. Please continue to pray for them and for China, that God’s work will continue to grow and flourish – that more leaders for the Kingdom, sons and daughters of light, will be born.

Understanding Generation Z

September 27th, 2018


By: Andrew Arnold

For 35 years SROM has influenced youth and young adults ages 14-35.  It has not been the only demographic we have reached but given the demands of wilderness programming our courses have primarily served this age group through the years. In the United States today there are essentially 6 distinct generational demographics that comprise the population of the country.  


Using a broad brush stroke, those generational demographics are approximately defined as follows:

  • The Greatest Generation–born between 1910-1924 this generation grew up during the Great Depression and were the ones to enlist and fight in World War II. Many came of age as soldiers during the War and few are still alive from this generation.  
  • The Silent Generation–born between 1925-1945 this generation was born during the Great Depression. Their early lives were often marked by severe hardship. They were not an outspoken generation but one marked by a silent work ethic.
  • The Boomer Generation–born 1946-1964 this generation was the result of American soldiers returning from war to marry and begin a family.  Boomer’s grew up during a time of prosperity and relative peace (until Vietnam) and became a generation of consumers. Many Boomers challenged status quo norms, giving rise to major social and cultural movements both positive and negative. The consumerism of the Boomers in many cases led to a certain narcissism.
  • Generation X–born 1965-1979 this generation is smaller in size with lower birth rates than previous generations.  Generally marked by pessimism, skepticism and angst this generation experienced the latent self-interest of their early Boomer parents and found themselves angry at the status quo.
  • The Millennial Generation–born 1980-1994 this generation grew up with the advent and popularization of the internet and internet connected devices. Millennials are the most technologically sophisticated of any prior generation and one of the first generations to grew up in a globalized and post-modern world.
  • Lastly Generation Z–born 1994 to 2012 this generation has also been labeled iGen.  The first generation to grow up with handheld internet connected devices from infancy, Generation Z is a truly “wired” and “global” generation. They have grow up with more access to global information than any prior generation.


So why does all this matter to SROM?  As a ministry that is primarily serving the youth and young adult demographic at some level it is imperative that we understand the broad themes, interests, challenges and realities of the people we serve.  Each generation has been shaped by historic, cultural, social and economic factors that impact the worldview, paradigm and hearts of the generation. It would be presumptuous to think that we can operate, lead and facilitate a SROM course the same way we did in 1983 with a group of Generation X students as we would a 10/10 Teen course today with Millennials and Generation Z students.

In light of that reality, it is important to understand some of the distinctives and patterns that are emerging among Generation Z. Furthermore, it is important to understand how wilderness ministry and the work of SROM meet the needs and address some of the concerns of this generation.

The Barna Group, a leading research group that studies and identifies trends in American life, recently conducted research to better understand Generation Z.  You can read more about the findings from the study by clicking here. I highly recommend you take a deeper look by reading the full article.  One aspect of the Barna research was to understand and survey the religious or spiritual beliefs of Generation Z. The findings are summarized in the list below.

  • Generation Z is the first truly “post Christian” generation, meaning that they have grown up in a country where the influence of Christianity is on the decline and, for larger portions of society, is seen as irrelevant. They have grown up without Christianity and the Bible having a prominent role in shaping culture and society.
  • Consequently, the percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.  Atheism is on the rise.
  • Relativism–the belief that there is no absolute truth is on the rise, with Gen Z leading the way with the belief that is it not possible to know for sure God is real or that truth is objective–“what may be true for you is not true for me.”
  • Interestingly, many in Gen Z have a positive perception of church, but few attend believing God can be found elsewhere.
  • Many in Gen Z that do not identify as atheist consider themselves spiritual and find value in spirituality.  This is actually encouraging, because these individuals are often open and receptive to learning about “spiritual things” that will make a difference in their lives.

Additionally, Generation Z also self-reports as the loneliest generation.  In a recent USA Today article that can be read here, young people in the current Gen Z demographic report higher rates of loneliness than previous generations.  Interestingly, this sense of loneliness is not explicitly linked to increased technology use that can isolate people and erode quality communication.  It is also tied to the reality that Gen Z is spending less time interacting with others in public and traditionally social settings. Public spaces that have historically been places of interaction such as the workplace, neighborhoods, worship centers, and extracurricular opportunities are not being visited and interacted with as a places of social exchange.  Many in the Gen Z demographic cohort interact with peers in online spaces such as Snapchat and Instagram but the face-to-face physical interaction and socialization is increasingly absent. The lack of physical interaction, human contact, and human interaction creates an increasing sense of loneliness.

SROM and the wilderness based programming we offer has a distinct ability to meet these needs that are felt by Gen Z.  Although many self -report as either atheist or spiritual, the desire to discover and explore the possibility of a Christian God is present.  The outdoors and created world is a place that reveals the attributes and nature of God. It is a source of general or natural revelation. Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:20 clearly explain that creation is a context where God reveals to all of humanity who He is and what He is like.  To be surrounded by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, unplugged, and unconnected from the common distractions of life such as school, job, and various technologies often has a life-changing impact and paradigm shift for SROM participants.


When a person is removed from a world predominately created and shaped by humans and placed in a world created by God for His glory, it is hard to deny the reality that: there is a God, I am not God, and my life is small compared to His existence.  One is confronted at some level with the truth that God is real. So what does that what does that mean for my life, my identity, my purpose, and the lives of those around me? We help students to discover these questions, and mentor them as they begin to answer these questions for themselves. 

Who is God and what does He do? In light of those realities, who am I and what I am called to do? We have found that both the Millennial Generation and Generation Z are longing to know and discover these questions. In the context of authentic communities, many young people sincerely want to have meaningful conversations and discover Abba Father and His son Jesus.  Many want to know God, understand His plans for their lives, and how He can make sense of the world around them. We have found that when young people can get away from the noise of the world and into a place of majesty and wonder surrounded by a loving community, they want to be seen and known. At the same time, they want to know who is the God of the Bible and who is His Son Jesus.


Pray for us, that whenever we speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19)

The Quiet Places.

September 20th, 2018

SROM Copy Right 2017

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”-Mark 6:31

Has you life felt like people coming and going more as of late? Or perhaps day to day life, deadlines, and schedules have taken over a normal schedule that brings balance, nutrition, rest and time to process. Obligation often prevent us from pursuing the quiet places that we so desperately need to be able to pause and process. As a human being we very easily get overwhelmed and consumed by everything around us if we do not practice “the pause”. Today there is even more need and lack there of because of social media, longing for white noise, anything to drown out and ignore the things we are not allowing ourselves to take the time to pause, process, heal, grow, move forward.

Pinterest: “Internet Addiction”

As a millennial myself, I understand the wanting to zone out, numb myself and just scroll. As an outdoor professional and someone who has experienced it first hand praise and preach the need for intentional unplugging and solitude in wild quiet places. More and more our minds and bodies become addicted to social media, the corruptions and emotions of what we see on the news and continual needs to go,go,go. In all of this perhaps we loose track of ourselves and loose track of where we are headed or even where we have come from.

There are many reasons why people stray away from this common practice:

  • Boredom
  • Overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Consumed by worries
  • Running away
  • Denial
  • Laziness (huge one)
  • lack of prioritizing

There is something extremely rejuvenating and life giving about getting to a quiet place. How often now-a-days do we stray away from the quiet places, from the solitude, the “pause”?

SROM Copy Right 2017

Positive Outcomes in practicing going to a quiet place:

  • Processing
  • Growth mentally and Spiritually
  • ability to problem solve
  • Decompression
  • De-stressing
  • Contentment.
  • Gained focus
  • Renewed perseverance
  • Renewed vision
  • Renewed Passion
  • New understanding
  • New perspective
  • Quality time
  • rest
  • rejuvenation
  • relaxation
  • Humility

Why rob ourselves of this incredible learning opportunity? To take the weight off our shoulders and give it to Jesus as God intended? Why do we feel the need to own these things, these social status’s or mindless cat videos or songs on repeat? Why is it only when and if things like cell phones, television, computers, fashion design, politics or anything else we find takes up our time instead of centering ourselves with the Lord, why is it only when these things are physically taken away from us, after a little bit of time, we finally see the value in NOT spending all of our time with these things? And why is it that we so easily fall back into old habits? That’s a great question.

To seek God and allow him to take hold of our lives away from these various platforms can save lives! And they do on a daily basis, if we allow ourselves to be encountered by God. If we simply step into that desire of meeting him in the quiet places.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” Mark 9:2

Need some time away? Check out some of the courses we have to offer to help you refresh, rejuvenate and revive yourself!
SROM has a complete list of wilderness ministry courses to choose from! Apply today!
To learn more about us: Click Here!

A Grand Conversation about Wilderness

September 13th, 2018

A Monument for Stewardship

Grand Staircase – Escalante is over 1 million acres of land that is full of unique and resilient species of plants and animals. It is also easily the largest “museum” of natural and cultural history in the world to date. It has no walls, but those that were laid down and formed by time and the natural elements. And inside its borders it houses centuries of stories from the past that we are still discovering today.

But what about this particular national monument is so controversial? Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument has been a hot topic for over a year now. So you may be wondering, what’s this all about? And more importantly, how does it apply to me and to SROM?

The conversation is not so much about this national monument per say, but rather what we are called to as the Body of Christ.



Here at SROM, we first ventured into Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument almost a year ago. We sent a handful of our amazing staff to explore and “scout” the area as a possibility for future programming. Our staff were gone for almost 3 weeks route finding and talking with locals to get good and up to date information on this land full of high desert scrub and towering canyons.

Because at its initial size of 1.7 million acres, the amount of time, energy, and resources to properly get to know this landscape would take a lifetime! But our team only had 3 weeks! So they improvised and got the opportunity of a lifetime to be explorers and find out first hand what a place is like learning what rumors were true and what were less than accurate.


They were much like the children of Israel wandering through the desert and sending scouts into the land to see if it was occupied (Num 13). And like Caleb, our scouts reported back of an incredible land that was wild, beautiful, and full of the fingerprints of God. So we started planning and preparing to send future groups into the Escalante Wilderness in southern Utah.

But soon after our team returned, a war broke out over this wild place. Not unlike what Israel found themselves in when their scouts returned. See, many people see Grand Staircase – Escalante as the promised land, but for very different reasons.

  • Some people in our country view this national monument as the promised land for recreation. A place to get away from the crowds in both city life and many National Parks these days.
  • Some people view this national monument as the promised land for scientific research. There are treasure troves of archaeological discoveries yet undiscovered as well as the discoveries of new plants and animals living in this vast wilderness area.
  • Some people see this area as a promise land for commerce. A place where natural resources that our culture consumes can be harvested providing for residents of this area and an increase in economic opportunity where previously the recession has impacted them exponentially.

So many views of hope for one large section of land! And yet each of these views are in tension with the other.

A Command from Heaven

As you may know, SROM is an active provider and believer of Leave No Trace ethics. But, we also are on fire for Jesus and believe that the Bible is the Living Word of God. How do these two schools of thought come together? Actually, very easily! You see, because the idea of Stewardship was first commanded at the beginning in Genesis. (Gen 1:26-28)

The first man and woman are commanded by God to have dominion over all the earth, animals, plants, water, air, etc. Now most schools of thought think that dominion means to dominate, take over, and use however the user pleases. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

The root of the word dominion is Latin dominus which means “master” or sometimes it means sovereign. Another word that uses this same root is domain. A domain is defined as a region or section of land that is owned, most often by a royal party.

But English can be a finicky language, and all translations are not created equal. In researching this concept, I looked for wiser minds than my own and at the source: The Torah. Here is the original text from the Torah and the translation that accompanies it for Genesis 1:26:


כווַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙

וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ:


26 And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.” (source)


The Hebrew word that is being translated is radah ( וְיִרְדּוּ) pronounced “raw-daw.” It means to rule or reign (source). In certain contexts, it can also mean to chastise, tread, dominate, or subjugate when used elsewhere in scripture, usually in reference to a people or population. (source)

Ok, so how does this apply to me, stewardship, and Escalante you might be thinking? It is the essential and yet missing link in this conversation and many others like it. It gives us the answer of what exactly are we commanded as God’s people to do with the resource known as Earth.

We are commanded to radah: rule and reign.

We are all aware of the qualities of good rulers and despotic ones. Good rulers take care of their domain. They take into account all the resources within their domain and they manage them to the benefit of the land and the people who live on it so that everyone will thrive.

Bad rulers do not care for their domain. They use the resources and the people for their own gain and purposes. They use and abuse the people and resources to increase their own power, authority, and wealth. In short, they take what they can for themselves.

I’m sure we all can think of many stories like both of these examples both biblical and in more recent history. And this is where we as believers need to start being a part of the conversation now.

We are all commanded by God to rule and reign on the earth. To use wisdom and manage all of the resources we have been given for the care of both the people and the land within our communities and our country. Does this mean you should go around hugging trees? Well, no. Not unless you really feel the need to hug one that is.

What it means for us is that we need to take into account all sides. We need to seek to understand the bigger picture and more long reaching consequences of our actions or inaction. And, we need to start thinking of the land as not just for use as we want in the moment, but how we can be good and wise stewards over the course of time.

This may seem like a huge undertaking, but don’t worry. God doesn’t expect us to be good at it overnight. That is why, in the parable of the talents, He says, “Because you have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” (Matt 25:14-30) I know I am constantly challenged to be a wise steward over what God has given me now, knowing that in turn He will continue to provide me with more abundance to manage wisely for His Glory.

Immunity to God’s Teachings Does Not Exist.

September 6th, 2018

Outdoor professionals in an often seasonal setting or any professional in a consistent setting, the profession can sometimes cause seasons of burn out. So what can we do about preventing this and other potential mindsets that come with the experienced or seasoned professional experience?

As I was listening to a friend tell me about a course she had instructed recently, she mentioned that her team was able to participate in a 4 hour solo. To her that didn’t seem like a long enough processing time to be able to dig deep and seek what all the experience had brought her as an instructor and outdoor professional. She was used to 48 hour solos that were very remote and even full day solos or 12 hour solos. She had become numb to the little things that for her students were extremely catalytic and impactful.

As she sat down initially for her 4 hour quiet time, she recalled a letter a friend had written her on one of her earlier courses of the summer. Very boldly her friend stated that “You’re not immune to this.” Her friend reminded her that although spending multiple days and nights in the backcountry and living off of what could fit into a backpack and seeing the views summer after summer, the newness of these skills and places can become mundane and the exhilarating shimmer can become a bit tainted or faded. However just because we have experienced something many more times and even for perhaps longer periods of time like a 48 hour solo experience instead of a 4 hour solo experience. We are not immune to the newness that comes with each intentional moment that we spend with Jesus. We have not become immune to his healing power in mind, body and spirit.

So why is it that we sometimes feel like we have become immune? Perhaps lack of goal setting? Perhaps a lack of motivation and physical tiredness. Perhaps it could even be a feeling of being devalued as a coworker, instructor, staff member. Perhaps it is a distraction of the current season or comfort levels in hard skills.

Not to mention that as a leader so many look to you as perhaps having it all together, really being able to practice what you preach and be seen as an expert in all that you do. Maybe we are afraid of being found out that we indeed aren’t always those things in a grand light. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by dynamics mixed with memories of past experiences and how they intertwine with you and your old self. There is so much that can go into these feelings of stale, rut, numb, overly stimulated or simply just tired.

Perhaps you’re feeling immune to your environments as of late. How do we get past this feeling and into a new perspective?

Here are some tips:

  • Get alone with God: Maybe you need to simply step away for 15 minutes and recenter yourself or literally step away from all distractions for a certain, longer period of time. Time ALONE with God means no distractions, no mindless social media scrolling or to do lists. If it seems painful at first, let it simmer. Through the feeling of boredom comes newness, creativity and opportunity for our spirits and ears to attune to what God is speaking.
  • Leave your phone behind: Don’t allow the temptation of your phone and talking to someone besides God tempt you into not spending genuine time with God. It’s amazing how quickly we realize “urgent” things that need to be communicated when we step into intentional alone time with God, isn’t it?  Don’t fall for it. Pursue God as he daily pursues you!
  • Be intentional about reflecting on what you’re learning in each season of your life: It is very easy for time to speed by and all the sudden your sitting somewhere and realizing or wondering how you got to this moment and what the significance of this moment in your life really holds. Ground yourself with goals, spiritual upgrades you wish to attain and community to hold you accountable.
  • Pursue and persevere: It’s easy to feel overcome or defeated by harder seasons that come into our lives. These seasons more than ever we need to remember to focus on God and perhaps seek what he may be teaching us. Not just biting the bullet and grinding through it. We are not immune to these seasons. We are not meant to pursue these seasons alone and find our own way. Truly.

There are so many opportunities. You are not immune. Perhaps you have built a skin to life than needs to be softened and shed to help bring meaning and fulfillment back into your season, your profession, your passion. Whatever it is, God is ever present and more than willing to give you all the time you want and need. Will you give Him the time He wants and needs with you?

Some Scripture to Inspire and encourage you:

Psalm 51:6

1 Corinthians 7:35

Matthew 6:33

Psalm 9:10

Psalm 34:10

Lamentations 3:25

Hosea 10:12

Luke 11:9


The Gift of Protected Spaces

August 30th, 2018

In our world, there is a dramatic increase in the dependence on media, social media, and technology for connection with each other.

The reality is most people spend very little time together in face-to-face communication.

We here at SROM see an increasing need for intentionality in the generations of students we serve. And, of course, we see the place of Wilderness in that intentionality more and more….

There’s a strong sense of abandonment in the generations we serve through SROM, and a deep need for acceptance and role models. That’s why we continue to be a firm advocate for intentional face-to-face time spent in authentic community. We consistently see this restorative community formed through the time spent and challenges faced on a wilderness course.


This is why we believe wilderness is so essential to every human being.

We believe we’re called to wilderness as context for ministry because it’s biblical, it’s intentional, and it’s necessary. Taking our examples from scripture, we see God took the Hebrew people into the wilderness to use trials and struggles to produce character and community.


September is the anniversary of the Wilderness Act being brought through Congress and signed by the President. This incredible act of legislation brings the importance of wilderness into this modern age, reminding us how wilderness is just as important in our lives today as it was to the Hebrews leaving Egypt.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. It was a historic day for many who had watched the beautiful places of our country continually fall into the hands of those who would seek to destroy and exploit these special and unique lands.

President Johnson declared in his speech while signing the bill:

“This is a historic occasion for all who love the great American outdoors, including me.” (audio clip source)

At the time of the signing, this bill set aside 9 million acres of wilderness for federal protection. There were 54 wilderness areas designated upon the signing of this bill.


The three designated in Wyoming were: the Bridger Wilderness (428,087 acres), the Teton Wilderness (585,238 acres), and the North Absaroka (350,488 acres). The largest wilderness area preserved in 1964 was the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, totaling 1,090,000 acres in Northern Minnesota. (source)

In the bill, the U.S. Government defines wilderness as:

(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value. (source)


Wilderness is a place of wonder.

A place that’s still wild and challenges our more modern way of life. It’s a place where we see the Majesty of God in all of its created glory!


“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)


It’s where the divine nature of God is revealed and stands out like mountains in stark contrast to a city skyline. Paul states in Romans 1:20:


“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (NIV)


God created the world to be in and of itself a witness to His Glory and Majesty! He created it in such a way that no one could deny His sovereignty.

Wilderness is a place to Encounter God.

It’s where all the “extras” are gone, and we can simplify our lives to hear Him. Moses first encountered God in the wilderness where he tended sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro. It’s when he witnessed a bush burning – but not being consumed by the fire – that he investigated and had an encounter with the God of his forefathers.


“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:4-6 (NIV)


God has used the wilderness to draw His children closer to Him.

Even in the times they turned from Him, He constantly pursued them, drawing them ever closer into relationship with Him. We see this all over the Old Testament, but especially in Hosea 2:14:  

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;

I will lead her into the wilderness

And speak tenderly to her.” (NIV)



God also uses the wilderness to humble and test the hearts and character of His children.

We see this throughout the Israelite Exodus from Egypt where they wandered from camp to camp, with God going before them.  When things became a little hard, they cried out. But within every test He gave them, He also issued a promise and provision to prosper His children and not destroy them:  

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:1-3


He knows that in giving us these tests and challenges in the wilderness we grow in strength, courage, knowledge, and faith.

James says it well when he says:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV).

God wants us to grow in relationship with Him. He often uses wilderness to teach and enrich our lives without distractions so we learn to rely on Him for our every need. His promises abound throughout the Bible. And it was through their own wilderness experiences the people of Israel knew God would provide for them. The story of their Exodus was told to generations upon generations after the actual event as a testimony for the character and promise of God. His promises never cease and He fulfills His covenant with us daily.


“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.” Psalm 111:5 (NIV)


“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever – holy and awesome is His name!” Psalm 111:9 (NIV)

So this September we celebrate our God and what He’s done in our country to protect those special places where we can go to witness the Earth glorifying God…


To encounter Him among the high passes and near the still waters…


To be humbled and challenged in our minds, hearts and bodies…


To be reminded and revive our souls to the good things God has done for us and continues to do for those who love Him.