Summer in Big Sky Country was a stretch for seniors

Posted on November 5, 2018

From the Lat45 Adventure Ministries website:

Lat45’s philosophy is that getting kids out of their normal environment, and away from all the modern conveniences of life, will allow them to be more open to receive the good news God has given everyone. Participants will be challenged physically, mentally, and spiritually. They will also develop an appreciation for the great outdoors and wilderness conservation….Lat45 adventure trips give participants the opportunity to learn outdoor, leadership, and teaming skills.

Joseph Long

Joseph Long of Anderson and Ryan Teems of Greenville, senior business administration majors who served as guides for Lat45 Adventure Ministries in Montana last summer, spoke about their experience at convocation Oct. 18.

While the guides were taught to “leave no trace” as they hiked through wilderness areas, their work with Lat45 left much more than a trace on their lives and those of the campers they led.

“You can learn so much by putting yourself to the side,” Joseph told students at convocation.

As they learned to put themselves “to the side,” their summer work as guides stretched the two friends physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Ryan Teems

Describing the effort involved in raising support for their venture, traveling to Montana for training, and of course carrying large packs for many miles through “crazy weather,” Ryan said, “It was worth it because it broke us down.”

“Even in everyday life, physical and mental exhaustion challenges you spiritually,” Joseph observed.

As Joseph and Ryan see it now, breaking down can be a good thing. What seems like “breakdown” can open a way for growth.

In training to become guides and then in shepherding campers through days of backpacking, Joseph and Ryan learned to look—and encouraged their campers to look— toward the next water break, the next 20 minutes. “One step, one goal at a time,” Joseph said.

Cooking fish on the campfire

Each Lat45 trip, with four to eight participants and a minimum of two experienced leaders per group, lasts five days and four nights, with some 25-30 miles covered during that time.

The endurance developed on the trail served them and their campers well. “On every trip it was awesome to see the guys hit the wall to the point that they felt like giving up, only to realize by the last day how much they had overcome and just crush it on the last hike,” Joseph said.

When they first considered the possibility of becoming Lat45 guides, “We didn’t know where this was going to lead,” Ryan said. “We didn’t know what God had planned for us.”

“Through many events and in God’s plan, we were asked to come and work for Lat45,” Joseph said. “This experience showed me that no matter what, God will provide if that’s where he wants you to be.”

On the water

Back in South Carolina to complete their college studies, they have led hiking trips for Erskine’s Onward and Upward (OAU) group, which Ryan serves as president and Joseph as vice president. But they are concerned about much more than physical endurance. Their horizons have been expanded by their summer in “Big Sky Country.”

“This experience has taught me to worry less about my plans for tomorrow, because ultimately God will lead me and provide if I am following his lead,” Joseph said.

His advice to students considering ministry options like Lat45? “Don’t go where you aren’t called; however, when God wants you somewhere he will give you the tools to get there.”

Joseph and Ryan concluded their convocation talk by urging Erskine students to “get out there” and “follow God’s calling.”