Unexpected Spark: BWCA Adventure Youth Trip

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by Tim Balow

On this year’s trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in August we embarked on a 30+ mile canoe adventure through Fall Lake, Pipestone Lake, Basswood Lake, and ending in Moose Lake.

Flexibility isn’t just a mindset, it’s a way of life in the BWCA. Between late night conversations in the tent, doing the extra half-mile for a portage because a campsite is taken, or just changing up a meal, it is part of what can be expected in the Boundary Waters.

This led our students and me to another level: an unexpected spark of life.

One night we got ready for bed, fully expecting it to rain overnight. No big deal in the BWCA as it rains all the time and you get used to being wet. We fell asleep, deep in slumber after a hard day’s paddle. Sometime in the middle of the night, lightening started to strike. It got closer, and closer. Our guide finally woke us up and got us out into the middle of our campsite in the rain, thunder and lightning, positioning us to get into a lightning pose. A lightning pose is a crouch pose with your big toes touching the ground and the weight of your body on your heels – not exactly comfortable.

bwca-kids-canoe-lake-210x21010 minutes go by. Then 20 minutes. After a half hour I asked our guide, “What do you think, how long do we have to keep doing this?” The response weakened my knees all the more – 30 minutes after the final lightning strike! An hour went by. I was about to hit my breaking point. I was cold, tired, wet, frustrated, disoriented, but I knew I couldn’t give up in front of the students like I wanted to. So I kept waiting.

Then, the unexpected spark: the students began singing worship songs.

BWCA kids canoeThere is something remarkably beautiful about a group of teenagers singing worship songs in a thunderstorm at night in the middle of the BWCA. It’s a situation we never would have planned or expected, and that’s what sparked our family of students to go deeper.

All week long we had similar unexpected sparks. You can’t plan for them. They just happen. Discomfort is often a theme of the boundary waters, but at the end of the week we were all comfortable in our own sense of connection and depth with one another, something that we will never forget. We had to let go of our expectations and our sense of control in order to let our lives grow in aliveness with God and others.

Tim Balow is the Student Ministries Director at Prince of Peace. He can be reached at 952-898-9341 or by email.


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