Last spring, I attended The Navigators’ Base Camp training program at the beautiful Snider Mountain Ranch in New Brunswick. When I arrived, I stepped into the main hall and instantly felt at home! There was a cozy, crackling fireplace, a James Taylor album playing over the speakers and plush leather couches where a napping Sarah Abarbanel lay wrapped in a sleeping bag, human-burrito style.
By the end of the week, this hall had become a place of refuge, growth, rich connection, delicious meals, loving community and above all, a warm space to talk about and encounter our Heavenly Father.
One of my favourite days of the week was our Adventure Day. What an incredible day that was! Here are a few of my personal highlights:
- Convoying to each destination – being part of a convoy makes me feel like I’m in the Secret Service.
- Walking on the beach at Hopewell Rocks, where some of the world’s most extreme tides occur. This is where the Bay of Fundy is located. Way too cool!
- Getting five-star service from Sheila and Josh Lebrun, as they hand-delivered fresh (and still warm!) sticky buns to each vehicle. These are the best sticky buns in New Brunswick, we were told. After tasting one, they certainly lived up to the title!
- Having a BLAST during Hoppy Hour at the Sky Zone trampoline park.
- Refuelling and recovering from the trampoline park with a home-cooked meal of pastas, salads and desserts, graciously prepared and hosted by Phil Anderson’s parents. Please note I’ve mentioned food three times already. So much yummy grub throughout the week!
An impromptu 20-minute jam session
After our day of adventure, we returned to the ranch later in the evening for some down time. I was hanging out in the main hall when I picked up one of the guitars near the fireplace and started softly jamming. A few minutes go by and the worship team’s drummer came up and joined me on the box drum.
The two of us casually played a few songs together, and before long the pianist and another drum player came up to join the fun. This casual jam session eventually turned into a band practice for praise and worship the next day.
I didn’t even make the connection until Dakota (the pianist) started talking about the sets and songs she and Kyle (the first drummer) were thinking of playing. I slowly came to the realization of, “Okay… I think I’m part of the worship team tomorrow.” This honestly freaked me out because I hadn’t been part of a worship team before, and didn’t have much experience playing or singing in front of people.
Then I remembered earlier in the day, Phil, the worship team’s lead guitarist, had mentioned their band practice to me. In the moment, I didn’t realize he was maybe asking if I wanted to help lead worship!
After we finished practice, the hall was empty and the four of us were the only ones left. We wrapped our arms around one another and prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide us and fill every corner of our hearts, that we might lead others into His glorious presence through praise and worship. This calmed my nerves, and as Gage so aptly said at the end “Lord, I pray that we melt faces tomorrow”.
The next day, the worship service was such a special time for me, as I hope it was for others also. I truly felt the Holy Spirit flood into the room. After a couple rough days beforehand, where I was wrestling and being angry at myself and God, I was brought to a place of full surrender. It wasn’t me being up at the front, it wasn’t the musical instruments and it wasn’t anything or anyone else. It was the raw power of the Holy Spirit penetrating into the hardened centres of my heart.
I’m not sure how the others felt in the lead-up to worship practice that night, but I thought it was special how our group formed so organically. I believe God, in His infinite wisdom, brought four people together who didn’t know each other well to lead a 20 minute worship service for a uniquely divine purpose. I desperately needed those 20 minutes and I know I will deeply treasure them for a long time. I still think about it today. My chest softens and my spirit comes to ease when I recall the memory.
I hope to share more stories from Base Camp with you because this week deeply transformed me in many ways. But for now, I have no other words that can better sum up the experience than by simply saying God is so good! If we allow Him to, He can take our deepest hurts and our ugliest selves, and transform us into a garden of flowers.
So that’s it from me. Hope to see you at Base Camp next year! I would love to meet you.