The Rest of the Story: More Adventures Await

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More Trouble and Destination Disappointment

There’s more to last week’s story about my misguided adventure with a busload of students. After negotiating through an additional seven miles of bumpy dirt road, we came to a water crossing within sight of a paved road.

This time, I stopped the bus and the boys hopped off and built up the banks of the road with more rocks BEFORE I attempted to drive over. When we finally turned onto a paved road, the students cheered. Four miles later, we arrived at the entrance to the campground. At last! We would have a hot supper enough sunlight left to set up camp after we ate.

I pulled in to the group camp area and looked anxiously around for the advance team and the tables laden with food. When I saw nothing, I wondered if I had pulled into the right spot. Unfortunately, I had.

We let the kids off the bus, and they stood around in dazed groups. Our six-hour trip had turned into a twelve-hour odyssey. Just then the advance team pulled up in the Tahoe—without the trailer full of food.

It turns out that Google Maps had led them on another, equally perilous journey. Eventually, they abandoned the trailer and headed to camp to find help.

We gathered the kids together and explained what had happened. A few of them groaned with disappointment, but they quickly got to work unloading the sleeping bags from the bicycle trailer.

The staff decided to serve what little food we had and send the kids to bed. It might take all night to rescue the trailer contents, one load at a time. Fortunately, we actually had a little food in the back of the Tahoe.

A Handful of Fruit and a Cookie?

That’s how we ended up serving a supper of nothing more than cookies and a handful of cut-up fruit. We had no bowls or spoons or even napkins. After blessing the food, the kids shivered a bit in the wind and settled down to eat. They laughed and chattered about the day’s adventures, and came back for more cookies.

Around that time Pedro drove up. He had arrived three hours earlier, but when none of us showed up on time he got worried. After setting up our tent and exploring the campground, he’d driven eight miles into the nearest town to find cell service. Unbeknownst to him, none of us had cell service on our unimproved dirt roads.

He and one of the Tahoe drivers headed back out to the trailer’s location (about 45 minutes from camp), and the rest of us started setting up camp with what little we had.

It turns out that the girls had more stuff than the boys. They had followed instructions that morning about putting their sleeping bags AND tents in the bicycle trailer. The boys, on the other hand, ended up with just their sleeping bags. No one had toothbrushes, pajamas, or more warm clothes, though.

Nevertheless, they cheerfully set up camp with that they did have. Some of them chose to sleep on the bus out of the wind. We settled down to sleep and hoped that Pedro would figure out the trailer problem in one trip.

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More Than Enough Attitude

The next morning, I went over to the group camp to help out. Pedro had arrived around 11 with the trailer in tow, and some of the kids had woken up long enough to grab their suitcases and extra bedding. Others had just conked out for the night.

The temperature hovered around 38, so we set up the cook stove first thing in order to heat water for hot chocolate. Boys rolled out of their sleeping bags and started setting up their tents and helping prepare breakfast.

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We discovered that in loading the trailer the previous day, someone had forgotten to bring the cups. The kids drank out of cereal bowls for a week.

You’d think that after spending the night sleeping on the ground without tents, or slumped over on a bus seat, the kids would have a bad attitude. Not so. They woke up happy and laughing over the previous day’s adventure. They had attitude all right—positive attitude in spades.

How often in my life do I whine and complain when little things go wrong? I make mountains out of mole hills and spread my sour attitude like mustard at a picnic. It stains and taints everything it touches.

My poor students had a handful of fruit and cookies for supper. They camped under the stars on a cold night without all their comfort items. They drank out of bowls for a week and never complained. Their positive attitude humbled me.

I’ll take my kids camping any time—they’re good to ride the river with! Speaking of riding the river…just think of everything we could learn on a week-long rafting trip down the Colorado…

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

When You Plan a Trip, Check a Map!

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It Seemed Like a Good Idea

I should have known when I passed the sign that said, “Unmaintained Road.” And we should have just turned around when I blew by the sign that said, “Road Impassable When Wet.”

But it had been a long day. After a late night wrangling the final details for outdoor school, I had arisen at four. I had to finish packing and load my stuff and shepherd everyone aboard for our outdoor school adventure.

When we started within thirty minutes of my planned departure time, I gave myself a pat on the back for my planning acumen and cheerleading skills. I waved goodbye to the three staff members in a Tahoe pulling a U-Haul trailer full of food and luggage. They would have no problem reaching camp in plenty of time to prepare supper for the rest of us. Shoot, they might even have time to string up their hammocks and relax for a few hours.

Through judicious packing and rearranging, the men in charge had managed to fit everything but two pans of brownies, a container of cut up fruit, and six-dozen homemade cookies into the trailer. They stuffed the rest of the food into the back of the Tahoe.

The kids had tossed their pillows, sleeping bags, and blankets on top of the bicycles in the trailer that I would pull with the bus. Everyone settled down and we had prayer before heading out to Kodachrome Basin State Park for a week of school outdoors.

When Plan A Fails

Twenty miles down the road the check engine light came on in the bus. I pulled over with a silent groan. The mechanics had just replaced the water pump the day before. No sooner had I hit the emergency blinkers than smoke started to spew out the front of the bus. The kids groaned good-naturedly, and the more mechanical minded men got off the bus to investigate.

Two hours later, the mechanic who had ‘fixed’ the bus the day before finally arrived and determined that the water pump had a crack in it. Time to institute Plan B.

My mom happened to be headed out of town, and she stopped to help. She took one of the CDL drivers back to pick up a smaller bus, and someone volunteered to bring our other small bus out as well. Thirty-four students and six staff members wouldn’t fit on either of the other busses, so we resigned ourselves to continuing with two busses instead of one.

Our mechanical woes set us back almost three hours, so we had to forego our guided tour of Glen Canyon Dam. As we passed through Page, AZ, I told Siri to “Navigate to Kodachrome Basin State Park,” and kept on driving. I hit the ‘Go’ button and glanced down at our arrival time, shocked that we wouldn’t arrive until 5:30.

I had forgotten about the time change in Utah. When Siri told me to turn right on Johnson Canyon Road, I obediently did what she suggested. I had to pull over because the other bus lagged behind. When they blew by me, I flashed my lights and honked until they turned around.

Plan B Turns into a Nightmare

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Odd that Siri had us turn on a road that didn’t have a sign about Kodachrome Basin. But the kids had languished in the bus all day and I wanted to arrive at our destination. When Siri told me to turn right on to County Road, I should have turned around.

For some reason, I figured that perhaps since Kodachrome Basin didn’t have any cell service, perhaps no paved roads lead into it as well. And those kids must be tired of traveling by now—even though not a single one had asked me, “Are we there yet, Mrs. Ojeda?”

Which lead us to our current predicament. Some thirty miles down a washboard gravel road, we started crossing small streams. “Good thing it hasn’t rained recently,” I quipped to one of the other teachers. At mile 36, the stream crossing the road looked deeper and wider than the previous four trickles.

I carefully angled the bus (a 14-passenger affair about the size of a Class C RV) across the stream and hoped that the trailer wouldn’t bottom out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see over the rock under the right side of the bus, and when the back wheel dropped dramatically, I knew we had a problem.

Two Choices

We piled out of the bus, using stones to step on and avoid soaking our shoes up to our ankles. I had basically buried the trailer hitch in the road. Oops. Pedro would not be proud of me. When I saw the sign for Willis Creek Trail across the road, I knew that if we went forward (IF we could get unstuck), the busses should make it the rest of the way.

A ranger had assured me just the week before that a bus could easily make it from Kodachrome Basin to Willis Creek. Funny that he hadn’t mentioned the 44-mile-long dirt road extravaganza leading into the park. I had crafted my plan so carefully, and despite our good start in the morning, everything seemed to go wrong.

Some boys went to work with all available tools (sticks, rocks, screwdrivers) trying to unbury the hitch. Other boys started carrying rocks to shove under the back wheel.

“This is so much fun!” one of the boys exclaimed. Bless him. I laughed and smiled and prayed that we’d actually make it to camp before dark. No one had eaten since we passed out an afternoon snack two hours earlier. Our supply of drinking water wasn’t that great, either.

With the students’ help, we tried backing out of the situation. Didn’t work. One of the other teachers found a giant metal crowbar, which worked wonders for loosening the dirt and rocks wedged under the hitch. (Note to self, all school vehicles should carry a shovel).

Finally, we tried pushing the trailer and bus forward—wonder of wonders, it worked! It seemed as if we had lost hours trying to get unstuck. I started to fantasize about a hot meal, AND the other staff members setting up the kids’ tents for them.

GPS vs. Maps

As we rumbled down the remaining seven miles of dirt road, I couldn’t help but think of the difference between GPS and maps. Sure, GPS services claim to keep a driver informed about road conditions and the fastest route. But getting stuck in a creek and wasting valuable daylight hours didn’t seem like a faster route to me.

When we arrived at a second expansive creek crossing, I stopped before we started across and we all got off the bus to assess the situation. The students carried rocks and filled in the drop offs BEFORE we drove over. Two hundred feet from the creek, we could see a paved road.

The thought that Kodachrome Basin State Park really DOES have a paved road leading all the way into it niggled at the back of my mind. I vaguely remembered passing it when we moved to Arizona four years ago.

I felt resentful that some GPS program had routed us through a so-called short cut that turned out to waste time and put our group in danger of spending a cold night on the road without food.

If I had just looked a map when I made my plan, I would have known that Johnson Canyon Road lead to an unmaintained dirt road. I would have chosen the logical route along Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon National Park.

The whole situation made me think about the difference between the Bible and books about the Bible. If I rely on the map—the Bible—I won’t have questions about the right route and how to get there.

Read the Book—Not Just Books About It

If I rely on books written by others about the Bible, I might think there’s a shortcut to heaven or that God promises beneficent prosperity to all who claim his name. The last time I checked the Good Book, God promises us trouble—not prosperity—but he also reminds us that he’s overcome the world, so we don’t have to worry.
Don’t get me wrong. GPS programs have saved me countless time by rerouting me around accidents and road construction. Likewise, books written about the Bible have helped me think more deeply and convicted me to strengthen my relationship with God.

Reading books about the Bible is like depending on GPS instead of a map to reach an unknown…

But the fact of the matter remains. The Bible and good old-fashioned maps give the most accurate information about the roads we travel. The next time I plan a trip for 34 teenagers, I’ll check a real map before I leave campus.

That way, when we arrive, we won’t suffer more disappointment (tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story).


Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it

What Happens When Students Feel Safe

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She stepped up to the microphone during the Monday night worship service and started to speak. “I didn’t know my dad until a few years ago when a man walked up to me and said, ‘So, I’m your father.’” During her first formative years, her grandfather held the family together and she loved him deeply. He loved Jesus, and tried to instill in his grandchildren faith and courage for the tough reality of their circumstances. But he passed away before she ever met her biological father.

Her father chose to take an interest in her life—and helped her smoke her first joint before she started high school. Her longing for an earthly father shaped her behavior during her formative years, yet left her angry and confused as his approval hinged on her acquiescence to things her grandpa had taught her were wrong.

“You’re nothing to me,” her father said at the beginning of the summer. “You’re not my daughter and I want nothing to do with you any more.”

Her revelation of hurt and betrayal shamed me, because many times I’ve felt impatience at her drama and frustration with the way she interacts with male students.

She shared with the crowd of 90 that she wants to graduate and go to college and do something positive with her life. Her leadership and act of bravery made what happened the next night possible.

But first, let me set the scene. Eighty-two students in grades 7-12 and 16 staff from two different schools met at Rocky Mountain National Park for a week of camping and outdoor education. The city kids and the rez kids and the insane adults that thought this sounded like a great idea.

But God stepped in and took our crazy plans and hopes and turned them into one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced. A moment when the rez kids said, “Yes!” to forgiveness.This act of forgiveness, confession and acceptance led to a Tuesday night miracle.

All week long, at the morning and evening worship services, students from the Tulsa school had shared a short speech about their walk with God as part of their school’s speech class curriculum. Our brave girl had joined the Tulsa students on Monday night to share her walk. On Tuesday, our last night, the final three students from Tulsa stepped forward to share their speeches.

One by one, students from our school stepped forward as well—forming a line that went from the back of our school bus backdrop to the door of the bus. The pastor said his last words while we watched in awe as the sun slipped over the mountains in a show of pinks and blue. The pastor invited the first student in line to come up and share.

He remembers the beatings his dad gave him on a regular basis—but he never remembered what he did to get into trouble. He’s mad at God because of the pain and betrayal he experienced from a young age.

She deals with the guilt of her younger siblings’ loss of a father—all because she turned in their dad, her stepfather, for raping her repeatedly over two years. Every time they cry, her mother turns to her and says, “It’s your fault that they don’t have their daddy.”

He doesn’t know what he thinks about God, and questions his existence. His parents neglected him because the siren call of alcohol trumped the natural nature of parenthood. His ‘friends’ invited him to join a gang. He joined, only to find out that the cost of joining included a severe beating and having his new posse urinate on him. He’s still searching for his identity.

She questioned God’s character when the doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of cancer on her birthday. She wanted to give up when the treatments and the pain seemed overwhelming—but a miraculous healing from a side complication—gallstones—showed her that God does exist and he does care for her.

By this time, the stars and inky sky wrapped a blanket around the brave students and enveloped the audience with a spirit of love. As the speakers stopped and struggled with their words and their stories, other students would call out, “It’s ok. We love you.”

A young man from Tulsa had joined the line, and shared how he struggles with anger at God and with the people that have bullied him throughout his life. Several students from both schools stepped forward to stand in solidarity and love as he struggled for words.

The next young man’s soft voice reached through the cold night with another story of anger and betrayal. He struggled to speak through the tears clogging his throat. This time, twenty or more students from both schools gathered around him—many of them with tears in their eyes. He finished his story in a whisper so quiet only those closest to him could hear his words.

The last young man stepped forward. He and his little brother survived for weeks on end on gravy—the only food he knew how to prepare as a seven-year-old. He never told anyone that their mom had left, nor how hungry they were because he loves her and wanted to protect her. They started stealing from the local grocery store in order to survive. Eventually, family members stepped in. One by one every student stepped forward to share his pain with him.

Only one of the students spoke of a conversion experience, but every unspoken word and feeling cried out for understanding and love from a yet-to-be known Savior.

We all share a deep need for others to know us fully and accept us despite our flaws, quirks and…

The students shared their stories of anger, betrayal and questioning the very existence of God because they felt safe. Safe in the embrace of nature. Safe in the embrace of the mountain top experience. Safe in the company of their classmates and new friends from another culture. Safe in the knowledge that they stood with fellow seekers and lifelong travelers. Safe in the love we adults try to shower them with on a daily basis whilst putting up with their shenanigans, disrespect and anger.

My heart filled and overflowed through my eyes. These kids, my kids—the newly met and the ones I’ve known for three years—they bear so many burdens. They handed me the greatest gift—to share their burdens with them. And while they continue their walk towards a Savior who shares in their suffering and grief, their stories cover my eyes with love-colored glasses.