Soon, all seven of us are sitting at the ready, waiting for Dustin to jump in and guide us out into the current. We see him exchange a few words with Jay over by the pile of PFDs, saunter over to our raft, and then with a quick, “Good luck, guys!”, he pushes us out into current. Our heart rates skyrocket…

A look back at a day in my life in the Rock-N-Water Summer Volunteer Program

Group of campers getting ready to go raftingThe river is gorgeous today. As part of Rock-N-Water’s summer volunteer program we do a lot of training, the seven of us are kept busy splashing down the rafts with cold river water to protect them from the relentless July sun. We have been assigned to bring the lunch in our boat for the campers who are going whitewater rafting on the Upper half of the South Fork of the American River. Under the guidance of Dustin, our leader and volunteer coordinator, we are used to setting off ahead of the group and having the meal prepared along the bank of the river, buffet-style, when the campers come floating by. Jay, the head guide for the day, is giving a safety talk to the group, explaining how to put on the PFDs, (personal flotation devices, or lifejackets), what to do if someone falls out of the boat, all that jazz. We are just about ready to head out, so we pile in and double-check to see that the lunch bags are properly strapped in. As Brian finishes coiling up our bowline, or anchoring rope, he dunks his head: the river feels great in this heat.

And that’s when we see Dustin, who has always been with us in the boat on the river, talking with Jay…

As we start to float away, Dustin laughingly explains from shore how we’ve graduated to guiding the lunch boat down on our own. He’s given us enough training, and even though we might not realize it, together we are ready to guide each other safely down the river. He just thought it would be funner to not tell us until the last second. Thanks!

Present Day

That was two years ago. Our volunteer team managed to successfully navigate the Upper Half, shakily at first, but then with growing confidence. The campers were fed, and our raft floated us into camp several hours later, tired but smiling.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at our initial shock, knowing that we would be navigating the waters on our own. But to grow in our rafting skills, we needed to get out of our comfort zones. Could you imagine us as third year guides, still afraid to tackle a Class III rapid without our volunteer coordinator? It would be ridiculous! This concept applies to spiritual maturity, as well. In a letter to the Jewish Christians in Palestine, the author of Hebrews reveals a need for growth:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14)

The author thinks it’s ridiculous that these people who should be teaching others are still in need of what he considers “baby Christian” teachings. The analogy of “milk” versus “solid food” is a comparison to basic Bible truths versus their complex applications; in rafting terms, knowing the physics of rafting versus being able to actually guide a raft through a river. The author of Hebrews calls Christians to move beyond a stagnant, shallow understanding of faith, to a deeper relationship with God. This active push towards growth and maturity is what can deepen our relationship and commitment to God, as well as shape us into much gnarlier rafting guides.