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Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

PS 133:1 ESV

Over the Christmas break we hosted a group of students from a local church in Austin for 5 days in the Big Bend country. It was one of the most challenging trips we have done in ten years of ministry. From a turned over canoe trailer, to a fender bender with a van, and record snow conditions the trip was a tremendous challenge for our staff and all participants.

Due to the pandemic we split into 3 separate “patrols” that had very minimal contact with each other. I lead a patrol of 5 middle school boys along with a volunteer adult leader from the church. One of the things that struck me is the sense of community and comradery that quickly developed in our little band. I was impressed with the maturity the boys showed and the ways that they constantly encouraged and lifted one another up. Because they functioned in unity as a team they were able to take trying circumstances and make the very best of them. It seemed to me that the boys grew significantly over a short time as they encountered challenges and faced their fears together. It also seemed that their friendships deepened and strengthened quickly through shared experience.

One of our core values at Ascend is community growth. I’m often asked what that means, and although it is a relativity simple concept, it can be difficult to articulate. To put it simply, we regularly see communities grow and strengthen their bonds in both tangible and intangible ways on our trips. We prayerfully and thoughtfully endeavor to utilize outdoor activities to encourage this growth. In many ways this is an art form.

During this unprecedented time of pandemic, community is more crucial than ever. We’ve talked to so many who are struggling with a deep sense of loneliness and even despair as a result of the disruption of a multitude of social structures and support groups. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to continue to help build and strengthen faith communities through the outdoors.


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