“E” is for “Explore”
My “ABC’s of Explore” blogs will cover various aspects of the Explore Program. Today’s blog is a quick peak into history. This spring, I emailed Tom Collins and Tim Fodor, the original creators of the Explore Program, a few questions about the origins of Explore. Tom currently serves as the CEO of Camp Bighorn, and teaches many classes for our Explore students and interns. Tim is currently pursuing is Doctoral degree, and works with Miranda care-taking a beautiful ranch in British Columbia. Tim and Miranda (pictured top left) were the original Directors of the Explore Program, and Tom and Terry (picture top right) originally Directed Camp Bighorn.
In 1998, Explore was spearheaded by Tim Fodor, a then-25-year-old Prairie Admissions Counselor, in partnership with Tom Collins, the Director of a Christian adventure camp, Camp Bighorn. I asked Tom and Tim for their responses to three questions:
1. “Why did you start Explore?”
2. “What current cultural need does Explore respond to?”
3. “What is the Explore Program’s overall purpose?”
Both men were only too happy to have a short email conversation with me. I took our conversation and condensed it into the following series of questions and answers.
“First, ‘Why did you start Explore?’”
“I was greatly influenced by growing up at a camp on the B.C. coast, which shaped my passion for education. At camp in B.C., I saw that a social learning environment could use nature and the wilderness as powerful “classrooms” because these contexts strengthen close community, which enables holistic change in learners.
“An outdoor-based social learning environment also provides a learning context of responsibility, where learning requires members to be accountable for their actions. As a young adult, I went on to attended Prairie Bible College, where I fell deeply in love with the wisdom and teachings of God through the scriptures. I prayed that one day I would be able to incorporated Bible teaching in a formational wilderness education environment.”
“My wife Terry and I had served at Bighorn for several years, during which time God developed a discipleship ministry at Camp Bighorn. We use environments of uncertainty (outdoor and experiential activities) coupled with debriefing participant’s experiences through the lens of Scripture in order to teach participants about who God is and to promote their growth.
“At an annual Christian Workers Conference held in Spokane, WA, I met Tim Fodor while he was working as a road rep for Prairie Bible College. For a few years we talked about ministry. Tim said he always wanted to meld college academics with the things we were doing at Camp Bighorn. I kept encouraging him to pursue his dream. When Tim called and said he had a budget to start a college program, the program was a hand-in-glove fit for us at Bighorn.
“We were, and are, called to invest in young people. As Tim and I formulated what this new program would look like, it became the ultimate expression of the Bighorn ministry – all of the things we do wrapped up in one program. Explore is a fit with our vision, values and calling.”
“What cultural need does Explore respond to?”
“Culture by-in-large breeds a form of leadership that is self-seeking; focused on power and acquisition. The form of leadership modeled to us makes it difficult for Christians to integrate the teachings of Christ into our lived expressions of leadership. As a young adult I was grieved to hear that many Christians failed in ministry and leadership because they could not work with one another, even though our faith is meant to be a living expression of God’s love.”
“I believe education needs to affect the character formation of people and that we need to learn to embrace the feedback and input of others. A social learning environment builds into us the humble, critical/self-evaluative, and authentic notions we need in order to mature our characters.”
“The Bible should positively shape us and our society. I am energized to know that the teachings of scripture and our trust in God’s love for us can so impact our lives that we will serve others with our leadership. Explore is designed to be a place of learning that sparks enthusiasm for “leadership as service.” Explore teaches people to work powerfully together to do great things as God’s servants.”
“Our culture has developed values that eschew responsibility, as seen in divorce rates and the breakdown of families. We have become a reactive and blaming society. We need leaders without position that affect the fabric of our society and move members of our culture toward a desire to take responsibility for their personal actions and decisions. We need leaders who will lead through influencing their communities. We hope our students will be people who live as positive members of their communities and who influence their communities toward godliness through their commitment to Christ.”
“Last question,’What is the Explore Program’s overall purpose?'”
“The Explore Program seeks to instill wisdom into the lives of people so that they can become living expressions of God’s grace to others. This maturation process happens in Explore as people humbly and earnestly seek after God and His message of grace, which has powerful effects on our earthly relationships. In Explore scripture is not engaged as a merely academic exercise.
We seek to engage scripture in a social context that is authentic and open, where we can immediately integrate God’s teaching into our everyday lives. I believe learning about, and living out, scripture within a like-minded community is part of the process that shapes people into leaders who will be a positive and powerful influences as they serve their communities.”
“The Explore Program positively affects the maturation process of students and staff as they become men and women who can stand firm in truth, and thus affect the culture around them. In short, Explore is one tool God can use to help form people who can be non-anxious influencing presences within their communities.”
I am encouraged to share Tim and Tom’s perspectives with you all, because their vision for the Explore Program continues to be maintained. The values that inspired Explore are the same values we continue to follow, and we continue to see the Lord touch student’s lives. We have enjoyed over 15 years of adventure and good fruits, and are thankful for the leaders who formed Explore early-on!
Hannah M. Landon
Hannah and her husband Dennis direct the Explore Program. 2012-2013 was a wonderful school year, and they are proud of all their graduates!