“Just like the best gifts sometimes come in messy packages at an inconvenient times, God brought me back to Rock-N-Water 10 years later,” Eden Morlet tells me over the phone during an interview this past fall.
“I didn’t want to leave,” she explains, “and I left to do something that I felt really strongly God was asking me to do even though I was really sad to leave.”
Eden has been connected to Rock-N-Water for over a third of our camp’s history. She originally worked as a guide in her late teens through her early twenties and then spent 10 years in Alaska with her husband doing youth ministry in a church and as a therapeutic foster parent. Lucky for us though, her and the family (she’s got 3 kiddos of her own now) have returned to Rock-N-Water these last two years and we anticipate seeing her this coming summer as well.
In the time I’ve known Eden we’ve shared many great conversations, a lot of them having to do with ministry, what it’s like to follow Jesus and of course, adventure. I usually leave a conversation with her excited about getting to do life with Jesus and the grand adventure He has me on. One of the topics that I really enjoy is when she tells me stories of Rock-N-Water back then and Rock-N-Water now. It’s fun and fascinating stuff to hear, but in the end I often find myself inspired, and if you know anything about me you know that I love being able to share that inspiration. There’s been so many great things I’ve learned through my interactions with Eden that I thought it would be fun to let others in by doing this interview.
I hope you enjoy hearing from Eden as much as I do!
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What made you want to work at Rock-N-Water at first?
There were other people just like me! I thought the adventures and ministry of Rock-N-Water were really neat, scary and they fit me!
What keeps you coming back now?
There’re two big things. There isn’t a place that I’ve been to that does ministry with youth quite like Rock-N-Water does. I’ve been to a lot of camps and none of the other camps are doing things in the outdoors quite like Rock-N-Water is. I really think what they’re doing with youth is valuable. I really believe that and I’m behind it 100% (she laughs), even more so now than when I started.
Rock-N-Water is a place that challenges me more than anywhere else in my own life and spiritual walk. Every summer that I’m there I feel like I’m being refined and grown. In one way it’s like home and I’m comfortable there, and in another way I’m always being pushed out of my comfort zone in a way that I would have never expected.
What are the some of the differences for you personally in returning?
One of the biggest differences is returning with my family. Before, Rock-N-Water always felt like my thing. Then to come back with my family and it became our thing. Rock-N-Water is a family thing now. It’s not just about my experience and me wanting to be there and the ministry that I do at Rock-N-Water, it’s become very much a family experience and even family ministry.
What are some of the differences between working when you were single and now that you are married and have a family at camp too?
It’s fun to have a partner. It’s even better that he loves youth ministry and adventuring as much as I do. Nick has his own ministry perspective and finesse in my trips and in the different ways he’s involved at Rock-N-Water. It’s really fun to have a partnership with somebody. I know he has my back. It’s really great when he could be part of a trip’s campfire or connect with another youth pastor.
What have you enjoyed the most about returning?
The community. The events that led to me returning to work full time this past summer were really messy, discouraging and hard. The other people who work at Rock-N-Water, pray for Rock-N-Water and just are around camp were extremely encouraging and supportive. There is no where in the world that is like the Rock-N-Water staff community. It’s different because now I’m old (she laughs). My relationship with the staff in some ways is really different, but it’s still Rock-N-Water community. A lot of it isn’t different, like that camaraderie and the way we lift each other up, worship together, adventure together and have fun together, even though it’s with different people.
How has your time in Alaska changed how you work and do ministry at Rock-N-Water?
I think Rock-N-Water provided a really good foundation for youth ministry and work in general. I felt like my time in Alaska really refined that Rock-N-Water experience. My work in Alaska was the first time I had to rely on God 100% to help me do the ministry that I was doing. At Rock-N-Water there’s a part of me that relied on God but I didn’t have to 100% rely on him to do the work through me because I had skills as a guide, I could relate well with the people coming, other staff were encouraging me every step of the way and I had people mentoring me in the basics of youth ministry. But when I was working in Alaska, everyday of fostering teenagers in my home was so far above my head that there was no way I was going to accomplish it on my own. When people would ask me how I was doing it, I would tell them “by the grace of God because he asked me to do it.”
I can’t remember a time when I was younger going into a Rock-N-Water trip and saying “God please help me because I can’t do this,” but that was pretty much how I started every day during our ministry time in Alaska. Now I start every trip with that prayer – “God show me what you want this trip to be. Show me what direction to go, show me how you want to do it and give me the ability to do what you need done here.” I gained complete understanding and experience that it is 100% God who does the work no matter what our credentials are or what we can accomplish on our own.
Is there anything that was easier back then that is hard now?
The physical aspects. I consider myself to be pretty fit as a thirty-something-year-old lady but I have to work really hard to be ready for Rock-N-Water season. The first summer I came back I was so sore the first 2 weeks, I couldn’t move. And I was in shape! I worked out, I played sports, but it’s brutal. I have to really take care of my body in season and out of season. It used to be really easy to be in shape and it’s hard to let it go because I’m a competitive person. There is a part of me that still wants to be the strongest and the best among the staff at Rock-N-Water but I am learning to let that go because I’m not 19 years old anymore and it isn’t helpful for the ministry. The technical aspects, like actually guiding, setting climbs or belaying those aren’t harder, it’s the doing it everyday all day kind of thing. The toll it takes on my body is a lot harder than when I was younger.
Is there anything that was harder then that is easier now?
Yeah, the youth ministry part. When I was younger I think I was really distracted by being the cool guide or being the person that youth could relate to. My priority was different then, than it is now. I can see the needs of kids and youth leaders more easily now and how to help youth leaders meet the needs of kids in the group, instead of being a distraction from those needs. When I was younger I was caught up and prided myself in the hard skills of guiding and making sure that everything was just the way it needed to be. But now it’s easier for me to let some of those things go in order to connect. And it’s nice because I can completely let go of forcing that cool guide connection because like, I’m a mom! (she laughs) I’m not going to fall into that category anyway.
It was hard for me at the beginning of the summer because I didn’t want to embrace this nurturing role, but I really learned to embrace that I am a mom, with both the kids that come to camp and the staff. Something that I’ve really learned this last summer is to embrace that role and go with it because 90% of time there’re kids in my group that just need a mom when they’re on that rock face.
Tell me what it was like being a mom not only with campers, but with staff. How else did you embrace it? How else did being a mother manifest itself at camp?
I think it manifested a lot in working with some of the guides, especially guys (she laughs). I’ve often been introduced as, “this is Eden, she’s the toughest girl I know,” and I’ve always been really tough emotionally, physically and mentally. So when working with other staff I think the way I used to be as a leader, was being hard on people, having high expectations and being blunt. I learned a lot this summer about how people don’t really need that, they need someone, especially in the role of a leader, with a more nurturing approach and they will respond better to that approach as well. I had always felt that if I took the more nurturing approach that they wouldn’t respect me when I made important decisions. I learned that the nurturing approach was much more effective especially with younger guides. They don’t want somebody to be tough with them, they want and need someone to encourage them.
What are some differences you see at Rock-N-Water when you compare the first years you worked there to now?
It’s bigger. There’s more kids and youth groups that come, there’s more programs and more details. There is more adventure options and more staff to run those adventures. Before we only had one canyoning trip! In some ways it’s more complicated. But in some ways we have gotten better about getting back to the basics, to the root of what Rock-N-Water was designed to be.
We’re much more intentional about using adventures to point back to Jesus as a whole. The entire time we’re on adventures, whatever challenges and whatever exciting things happen we’re pointing back to Jesus and I feel like that is really different. I really love the way that camp staff and camp culture in general has shifted towards a focus on living worship. This attitude that permeates camp is really powerful and creates a culture that cultivates growing in intimacy with God.
What do you think that the changes you’ve seen say about Rock-N-Water’s trajectory? About the direction Rock-N-Water is going?
I think the biggest thing that Rock-N-Water does is it raises up not just people who are going to be churchgoers but people who are going to be followers of Jesus and lead a generation that way. I think that applies to both the campers and staff. Kids who come here don’t just stay churchgoers when they give their heart’s to Jesus, they want to follow him and it leads to big decisions they make in their life. Camp provides experiences with God that people don’t forget. Those moments in the outdoors, actually talking with God are memories that take root. These experiences become landmarks to our journey of faith. Things we look back on in our moments of fear, doubt and loneliness and remember that time with God. Obviously we see that with the staff but even with the campers we see that. So it’s really a place that grows leaders. It grows people who are going to be to be fully devoted followers of Jesus and they’re going to live a life that way. Rock-N-Water is pretty young as a camp and I’m really excited to see in what ways it grows in the next 5 years. I think Rock-N-Water is going to be the kind of summer camp that offers something very different from other places and meets some of the desperate needs of young people.
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We’d never learn any of this if Eden hadn’t left for Alaska back when she did. We’re really happy to have her back at camp though. Of her return she says,
“God brought me back in a way I could never even imagine. I get to live at camp with my family and it’s a hundred times better than I could have ever dreamed of. I’m in a hundred times better place to do the role that I’m needed to do there. It’s a gift I never expected.”