“C” is for “Changed Environment”
“If someone is not asking a question, then for Christ’s sake, please don’t give him an answer!” Red flags flew up in my mind, Did Tom Collins just use the Lord’s name in vain? I wondered in shock. Tom paused, my class sat up a little straighter, and I scrutinized his face. “As facilitators,” he continued, “Our job is to listen to people in order to hear their deepest questions. Our job is to respond to the questions they are trying to ask. As we respond, in truth, to the deep-seated questions of others, we can be confident that the Lord will work in their hearts—we don’t need to do His job! Our responsibility is to ‘be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us.’ Our responsibility is to answer truthfully, release control and let God do the work.” As a first-year Explore student, I let Tom’s words sink into my mind. He made sense. If God was responsible for the growth of others, then I as a person facilitating others within a changed environment was only responsible to witness to His truth and love. God would do the rest of the work. Tom had just taught me a very important lesson about how to walk with others in a changed environment.
We all have questions about God and our relationship with Him, and the Holy Spirit helps us grow closer to God when we work through those questions. The difficulty of growth is that we prefer comfort over discomfort, and we find that working through our questions is often uncomfortable. So we avoid our questions until either, 1) internal change, “discontentment,” or, 2) external change, “new contexts,” disrupts our equilibrium and makes us aware that we need to adapt to our new circumstances; at that point, questions often resurface. Changes like a new job, a new school, or a divorce push us to re-process how we fit into a new context. New contexts can prompt minor adjustments in our thinking, but they can also push us to seek a response for deeper questions like: “How can I honestly love this annoying co-worker?,” “Where is God’s love when I’m lonely?,” or “What does a life obedient to Christ require from me now?”
A primary teaching tool in experiential education is external change. Through nature, sports, activities and relationships, experiential educators have the ability to introduce participants to intentional new contexts that reveal the questions we ignore when our external world is predictable.
In Explore, we have noted the effect of a new context, and refer to it as a “changed environment.” Our goal is to provide a changed environment that is “conducive to the work of the Holy Spirit.” We believe that the Holy Spirit can work through anything, but we particularly strive to provide an environment where a student feels both cared for and challenged. Our environment blends the stability of a community with the challenge of the unknown. We walk through Bible and leadership curriculum, and Explore facilitators simultaneously stay open to the student questions that surface. When questions arise, our community commits to helping students process questions in light of God’s truth. Kayaking, facilitation training and winter camping are just a few adventures that catalyze questions. Classroom Bible instruction, mentorship and small-group debriefing all provide opportunities to process our questions in light of truth, and to move toward a deeper relationship with Christ.
Explore, Bighorn and Prairie Staff all teach and walk with students. We make ourselves “ready to give a defense” for our hope in Christ, and we strive to live out the same process we teach. We provide challenges for our students to face, and facilitate a community that supports our student’s walks with Christ. We pray that our changed environment is sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in each student’s life, and desire that each student leaves Explore equipped with the tools to grow regardless of the environment he or she encounters.
Hannah M. Landon
Hannah co-directs the Explore Program with her husband Dennis. She enjoys telemark skiing and sewing, and she excited about Explore because she loves helping young leaders experience adventure and grow closer to Christ.