What is it that sets New Trails apart from some other ministry support processes that are available to pastors today? I cannot tell you that our staff, me and my wife, are more highly trained or dedicated than anyone else. Everyone I know of who is involved in caring for and supporting pastors and others in full time ministry is dedicated, trained and devoted to the calling to this ministry. I also cannot claim to offer a unique counseling perspective. You see I have studied a lot of them, and am certified in a few of them, but at the end of the day it is not a tool or a technique that is going to help you find your place and renew your passion for ministry or support you in the times of difficulty and challenge. There are numerous ways and processes in place that have been used successfully, so we don’t have a much better tool.
If a tool were all that was needed, we could easily find a place in the Bible that would show us what to do in every situation. Take for instance the well known verse of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (I chose that verse as we all learned that in Sunday School) and find the “tool” to master the challenges of life. You know as well as I do there is no one verse to master all of life. What is needed in our walk with the Master as well as to master change is a relationship. At New Trails we don’t offer you tools or processes, we offer you an opportunity, a place and space to renew your walk with the Master. We offer the supportive environment for you to do the work that God has for you.
If all it required was a tool or a technique to deal with the challenges of ministry and life, there would have been no need for God to record his dealing with humanity down through the ages beginning with Adam and Eve because all he would have had to do is write the biography of his work with say, Noah, or Abraham and we would know how to connect with God. But have you noticed that God records account after account of how he reaches out to people individually? What about Gideon, a guy who is hiding out from the invading armies, when God calls him a “Mighty Hero” (look at Judges 6). I could go on and on about God’s individual dealings with his people, but you cannot read long in the Bible until you know that God deals with us individually and uniquely and not from a tool and technique approach.
At New Trails that is the difference that makes a difference? When you seek out a Wilderness Sabbatical at New Trails it can entail a three day back pack trek through the Black Hills of South Dakota, or a five, to ten day retreat based on our property near Custer enjoying the beauty of that area, with short “day hikes” to different places to listen and reconnect with the God who has called you. If you like we can plan a 5 day trip out the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming where once we leave the trail head we don’t find “civilization” until we get off the trail. But the constant in all these approaches is that we focus on listening to God and his word. Each and every day, and throughout the day, we pause to ask “What is God saying to me?” “What is God trying to help me understand about himself today?” I know the challenges and distractions of ministry, there are times when we get so busy doing the work of God that we forget to spend time with God! That is not meant as condemnation, it is merely a reflection of my life experience. Then there are times when despite your best efforts it seems that nothing is good enough and you wonder if this is really what God has called you to do.
My role at New Trails is to walk alongside you through the process of hearing from the God who called you. You and your relationship with God is the primary focus of your time at New Trails. You hold the key to unlocking the challenges of your past and the place God is calling you to go in the future.
At New Trails we have been called by God to provide the support you need to hear from God. While we don’t have a rigorous agenda, I do ask that you consider what we ask you to do while with us, as we have learned a few things about the wilderness that can enhance your time with us. While you are here, I ask that as you come to spend time in the wilderness, you consider what it is that is driving you. I ask that you allow yourself the freedom to adjust to a more “natural” rhythm of life. You see Thomas Edison didn’t do us any favors in giving us electric lights so we can ignore the natural rhythms of our bodies. When you in the wilderness, life takes a new rhythm that allows us to reconnect in a more organic way to our bodies and the world that God has given to us. The wilderness has a different rhythm than the city. The wilderness has its own set of expectations and as you immerse yourself in that place, you find that not only does your body change, but so does your thinking. While there is nothing magical about the wilderness, there does seem to be something beneficial about the outdoors for our mental and emotional health.
There is one last thing that I think sets New Trails apart and that is that we believe God has frequently called his people to the wilderness to rest, and rest is an integral part of what we offer. Our location is located in a remote stretch of the Black Hills surrounded by National Forest and blessed with some of the most beautiful sunsets. For better or worse, there is limited technology here. At the cabin, if you had a TV the best you could hope for are two stations. So bring a good book, a comfortable chair, a good pair of walking shoes, or hiking boots, your Bible and a desire to listen, and learn what God has to say to you.
What sets New Trails apart is at the end of the day, is we offer you an opportunity to explore where God is calling you. We have no set program (we tailor the program to your needs), no rigid expectations, we offer you our love, our support and care. We offer a listening ear and a knowledge of the wilderness that allows us to enjoy that space in safety and security. If you find the trail you are following has become faint, come and see what a Wilderness Sabbatical can do for you. Maybe together we can help you find a new trail!