Youth Ministry: August 2017

The trail is like an impassioned preacher; each year bringing a different sermon. Even though it is usually a message exegeted in pain and blisters, it usually bears sweet fruit that stays with us all for years to come. Three years ago, the trail preached that each hiker has a character gift that only becomes apparent when things get hard. Last year we learned what it means to be a true team, when one of our team mates struggle. This year we learned how God’s spirit ministers to us through “Trail Magic”.

For the uninitiated, Trail Magic is defined as an unexpected act of kindness. Trail Magic is a quintessential part of the Appalachian Trail experience for many long-distance hikers. With Trail Magic, a regular every day event is elevated to something that is transformative. I think the bittersweet part of Trail Magic is that, not unlike life, you usually go through a bit of suffering before you experience it as magic.

Our course this year was hard. Now ever year is hard in its own way, but this course included not only two days of some of the steepest uphills our group has done, but we did it in 89 degree heat at 90% humidity. Our bodies were pushed to the brink those first two days and most us questioned why in the world we agreed to this trip. When we finally crested the top of Mt Greylock, a mountain straddling Vermont and Massachusetts, there was some Trail Magic disguised as a snack stand!! After experiencing the thirstiest thirst and burning in our lungs, we drank deeply the spring water our Sherpa, Bruce tenHaken, lovingly brought us, before inhaling burgers and ice cream. Funny how something we usually see as “every day”, cold water, burgers, and ice cream, became like manna to the Israelites.

The second episode of trail magic came soon after. We knew that on our final night, before our last day of hiking, we had to be a bit creative with our campsite. Since there were no nearby campsites on the trail for that portion, we pre-arranged to stay on the lawn of Cheshire First Methodist Church in Cheshire, MA. As we approached the church after our day of hard hiking, the aspect of the church that excited us most was knowing we could set up camp on a lawn with no boulders or roots. But when we arrived, we were surprised by some of the kindest hospitality we could imagine. Not only was their lawn flat and cool, they had baked dozens of cookies for us, made trail mix and banana bread for the next day’s breakfast and snacks, and the best part, let us use their bathrooms!! Running waters and flushing toilets! Again, the beautiful reminder of how blessed we are; that our daily routine back home allows us to cook treats in our ovens and use indoor plumbing. I pray that this sermon is one etched in our hearts for years to come.

~Beth Carroll, Assistant Pastor of Discipleship