The Words of the Voelker Family

The Power of teamwork - 8th Montana Adventure Training

Lara Voelker
April 24, 2008

Hello brothers and sisters! How has your life been? Mine has been stupendous! 13 of us just had the chance to experience the Montana Adventure Training program in the Big Sky state. After the long winter months we were the first group to venture up there. I don't know what you've heard about this program; before experiencing it myself, even up until the day we stepped out of the van into the icy air by our humble cabin, I didn't really have an idea of what to expect.

To put it simply… it's an adventure. But it's also training. An adventure training program. And it's in Montana. One cannot sum up all the experiences we went through on one page. I don't know if you'd be willing to read through the novel such a tale would provide. But I can try to give a taste of what this was like. Here on STF one of our primary purposes is to develop a relationship with God and gain a certain sense of ownership over God's dream. Certainly one can do that when fundraising. Our parents are a testament to that. But this is Hyun Jin Nim's program, and one point that Hyun Jin Nim always emphasizes is the value of experiential education, particularly in nature. Nature provides the perfect environment for spiritual growth. Fundraising imitates that environment to a certain degree in terms of facing a situation where one must challenge oneself. But nature is ideal.

The essence of the 7 day Montana experience is backpacking in the woods and mountains for 5 days and 4 nights, carrying our lives on our backs. We took a step away from the ordinary life we normally lead, full of distractions and unnecessary conveniences. The basics for survival are air, food, water, shelter, and a nice spot in the woods to use as a temporary outhouse. We had that. And we had a mission: climb Brownback Mountain. Usually the Montana teams scale the icy heights of Mount Hollow top, nearly 10,600 feet high. But we had an unusually high amount of snow (the most in the history of this program) and so had to contend with Brownback, which was still formidable at 9,400+ feet high. We had our backpacks, we had our mission, we made our goals, and we had each other.

This team completely shocked me. I've heard so many times of the power of Teamwork, you know, 3+4 is 7 but 3 x 4 is 12 blah, blah, blah. But as Hyun Jin Nim says, you have to experience it to truly learn it. I've never been through anything or done anything or seen anything or even heard of any case where a group of people was so willing to push themselves for the sake of others; for the sake of the team. I'd say the pivotal point of the program, the most amazing experience, was scaling the mountain itself. At a later sharing / confession, we all shared how that had been the most miserable morning of our lives (physically) and we honestly didn't feel that we could make it to the top. Mr. MacMurdie, the organizer of this whole adventure, himself told us that the conditions were quite extreme, and under normal circumstances he would tell the team to stay behind. But he trusted us to go.

It's traditional that Mr. Mac doesn't come with the team on the final ascent, giving us a chance to embody all that we had learned from the previous days. Of course it was tough and I was so hemmed in by this concept that I can only go as far as my body can go. The ascent of Brownback helped prove me wrong. My body wasn't so comfortable climbing and the back of my mind was crowded with uncomfortably tempting thoughts of giving up or asking for a slower pace. I didn't quite believe it was possible, as did the brothers and sisters in line behind and in front of me. But none of us was willing to accept that. Maybe I didn't believe that I could do it, but these brothers and sisters had pushed for 3 days to get to this point. They deserved to reach the top, and seeing as we had to reach the top as a group, by golly, I'd do it for them!

When we saw that peak in front of us, so high that there were no trees, covered in crumbling rocks and buffeted by extreme winds, we all basically came to the same conclusion: "There it is. Go get it!"

Staying alive at the top itself was quite the adventure (to say the least). I've never been through such weather. I questioned why God would put us through that. "We're here! We made it! Why won' the wind stop?! What else do you want?!" I screamed into the wind. The only response I got was another blast of air that stole my breath and nearly tipped me over. And in the back of my mind I heard that still, silent voice quietly whisper: "If this is what it takes to wake you up dearest Lara, then get ready to face the wind."

But naturally, you can't claim victory until you're done. In fact, scaling the mountain was barely half of it. Even when we arrived back at the camp an hour and a half ahead of schedule, even when we hiked back to base camp the next day, it wasn't over. It's never over.

Brownback is just one hump on our way to Cheon Il Guk. What I realized this week was that this was an adventure TRAINING program. God gave us some pretty intense lessons, most especially in the area of teamwork and living for others. We were given the chance and the situation to push ourselves physically to grow our spiritual selves. We've got both for a reason, you know. Might as well use that physical body to push ourselves mentally and spiritually to a totally new realm of growth.

But these were lessons and training meant for something besides the happiness and fulfillment I feel at having gone through this. We are a team of Heavenly soldiers learning and training so that we can help our True Parents as much as we can, to finally let God rest.

I'm so grateful to Heavenly Father and Hyun Jin Nim and Mr. MacMurdie and our April '08 Montana team: Leon, Andrew, Kenmei, Emerson, Joe, Anna, Tammy, Johanna, Lisa, Kaori, Erica, and Roland oppa. Montana was so much more than climbing a mountain. It was about facing the best and worst in myself and realizing that I am so much stronger than I ever let myself admit. We all are. You too! We can do this. We have each other, we have much more than we technically need physically, we have a mission, and we have True Parents and Hyun Jin Nim. Mansei! 

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