by Nan Pierce
My friend Judy approached me one Sunday after worship. She shared that Sundays were no longer the same since her husband had recently passed away. She told me how she and Bill used to take walks Sunday afternoons in local parks and to the countryside. I thought, “Lord, please help me find time to spend with Judy outdoors.”
For years I enjoyed outdoor activities, so the idea of hiking with Judy was appealing. We began hiking together once a month at nearby parks and nature preserves and invited other women from church. I printed informal brochures about upcoming hikes and soon eight to twelve women from three churches were joining us. We named our group, “Lead On: Outdoor Christian Adventures for Women!” Another friend produced a website to spread the word. Women were finding something they had not found elsewhere: fellowship in the context of outdoor activities with a distinct Christian flavor.
Our earliest hiking adventures were local and then moved into longer hikes with stays overnight at B & B’s in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Soon we included biking, kayaking and snowshoeing (one of our most popular activities). An additional blessing has been the quality time I spend with my husband as we scout out activities for the women and try the hikes ourselves first.
In 2001 our first “out of New England adventure” was a five-day trip to Siesta Key, FL with coastal exploration and sea kayaking. Since then Lead On has traveled to Colorado, Arizona, Virginia and North Carolina for horseback riding, river rafting, cave exploration, hiking, and visiting historic sites.
The spiritual highlight of each year is our Fall Retreat when women gather to focus on God’s Word. Past retreats in the mountains or seaside settings covered the Fruit of the Spirit, Book of Ruth, and Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Unglued.”
Not all of the women we’ve met over the past seventeen years have been followers of Christ, BUT during each outdoor activity Scripture is read or a worship song is sung. Unchurched women begin to develop an appreciation of prayer and the importance of God in their lives. Some have asked questions about the Scripture verses, giving us the opportunity to discuss things of God. Some women have felt led to begin reading the Bible on their own after attending our activities. This has led us to include several Bible studies each year.
Recently I celebrated my 60th birthday and a woman who has been with us for 13 years wrote of her thoughts on the group. Her words tell of special bonds that have come about over the years and wonderful friendships that have formed; how women who were once strangers have become dearest friends. Forever we hold close to our hearts, not only the fun in the out-of-doors, but the blessings that come from relationships the Lord gives us.
For the 65 or 70 women who have taken part in our activities over the years I am humbled by ALL the goodness God has bestowed upon us.
Of all the special times, one in particular stands out. Ten of us had sailed to Monhegan Island off the mid-coast of Maine for three days of hiking the spectacular cliffs. On our last day, we gathered on the 160 foot cliffs for Sunday worship. As we were closing our time by singing “How Great Thou Art,” in the ocean below a large whale breached twice right before our eyes. We all stopped singing and sat speechless, admiring the beauty of this “God Moment.” It has been a testimony that the Almighty is always with us. We are forever grateful to have been witnesses to His power and His majesty!
We continue our outdoor activities even though we are a bit older. There are still many skills to learn and places to see and we go forward with much eagerness.
As the leader, I am truly amazed with all the beauty that New England has to offer. I am very grateful for each moment in the great outdoors and blessed forever with the many, many faces, new and old, He has sent our way!
Our God is indeed an awesome God! Amen?
This article was originally published in October of 2014.
“Lead On” no longer has a website but they do have a Facebook page, “Lead On Adventures.” If you’d care to receive their monthly email newsletter about upcoming activities, message them on Facebook. They’d love to have you join them!