Out of the Wild: Kaleo Teen Camping Trip

At the beginning of November, The Oaks staff was able to facilitate a leadership campout for young adult guys associated with the Kaleo ministry in LA. This is part of how the West Coast Camping Ministry is walking alongside leadership development in the cities. They were able to raise funds to sponsor each member on the trip and coordinate the curriculum with LA staff.  Justin McKinney, Paul Meitler and Scott Quay were the primary leaders for this trip. It was another way to enforce the experiential learning which trips outside the pavement can provide.

Saturday morning: rain, rain, and, rain. This is normal for most parts of the country, but not Los Angeles in the middle of a drought! Scott, the youth pastor at our Kaleo Teen Center, received texts through the early morning – “I'm not coming, it's cold and raining outside.” After multiple calls, texts, and driving out to pick up teens, we had a group 7 from the Kaleo Teen center.

All the teens packed their own backpacks, starting with an exercise where they could select anything and everything from a large pile of equipment.  Hebrews 12:1 came to life before their eyes as we paired down extra supplies and packed only the essentials. This shedding everything but essentials kicked off our weekend theme – getting rid of all unnecessary hindrances that keep us from running the race.

Driving just 40 minutes north of downtown, we arrived at Big Santa Anita Canyon. We hiked thin trails with 40 ft. cliffs, enjoying waterfalls, pools, and winding streams along the way. It rained and sleeted. And then, half way along our 4-mile, 1800 ft. elevation gaining hike, we took on another object lesson. Everyone was required to carry a 15-20 pound rock for 2 miles to our campsite. Sheer, agonizing effort! Talk about unnecessary weight!

It was a weekend of many firsts: setting up a tent, hunting for firewood, filtering drinking water, firing up a backpacking stove, and being shrouded in complete darkness. It would have helped if they had packed flashlights!

As the teens shared, they learned about forgiveness, burdens, carrying grudges, weaknesses of judging and perfectionism, learning how to be at peace, not living under the judgment of others, and more. Everyone had chosen to enter into God's presence and He spoke to our hearts. Adrian, one of the teens, said it was an awesome experience – it was a place to be challenged and grow in his faith in a way that just doesn't happen in the city.

In the words of one of the teens:

“I'm so beat! This weekend was a true test of my strength. I don't think I've ever been that cold in my life. However, I do feel that I am stronger for it. I also feel I've grown a bit closer to my brothers. Three guys sharing one tent is a bonding experience you don't forget. We got to share our struggles and share our cookies, but most importantly, God shared some very important wisdom with all of us. On our trip we learned about the story of Elijah and how God restored his faith and strength to continue his calling. I hope He does the same for me so I don't miss school tomorrow.”