Paddling for Jesus

For this young canoeing enthusiast, attending Higher Challenge Wilderness Adventures camps helped set the right course (from Issue #492)

For this young canoeing enthusiast, attending Higher Challenge Wilderness Adventures camps helped set the right course

As this article was being written, our Mission was well into another busy summer of camping ministry.

It’s exciting to see youngsters respond to Christ’s love and offer of salvation. But there’s more! We could call it icing on the cake (or maybe syrup on the pancakes?).

It’s when some of these campers come back … to help! Take Alex Smith, for example.

Alex is from north-central Saskatchewan, and attended his first Higher Challenge Wilderness Adventures canoe camp when he was 13. “I laughed a lot and met new kids,” remembers Alex. “I heard about God, but didn’t really pay attention,” he admits.

The next summer Alex attended two HCWA camps — a canoe trip and a mountain trip. “That’s when I started thinking about God a little more because that’s when I met another camper about my age who was an example to me,” he says. “Every morning when he got up he read his Bible.”

Life wasn’t easy for Alex back on his Reserve, or even at home. However, the following winter he attended a “SnowBlast” youth retreat at Timber Bay Bible Centre. That weekend Alex made a decision that changed the direction of his life.

“This guy was teaching and I learned about heaven and hell,” Alex says. “He quoted Scripture … and that really got me thinking. I waited until after everyone left and prayed with someone. Then I went home and phoned up Tom Cnossen (Higher Challenge leader) and told him I wanted to accept Jesus.”

The following summer Alex attended HCWA camps again — in fact, he attended three camps! He’s thankful it was made possible by his Reserve paying for one camp, and his mother paying for the other two.

“Tom noticed I was going to church and living as a Christian,” explains Alex, “so he asked if I would become a leader at camp. I was really happy about that.”

Alex is happiest when he’s holding a canoe paddle in his hands, but he soon found out that being an assistant canoe camp leader wasn’t all fun. He wasn’t much older than most of the campers, but he had extra responsibilities, like getting firewood. And he says that some of the campers, especially the ones who knew him from “back home,” weren’t always cooperative. They still thought of him as just one of the guys.

But Alex has recognized that through camping he can lead and influence others toward Christ through his lifestyle. And this can happen the rest of the year, too.

For three of his high school years he stayed with his uncle and aunt in the city — and during that time both committed their lives to Christ! Alex attended New Life Indian Alliance Fellowship faithfully, assisting in various ways. He’s helped out with a weekly children’s program, and competed as a member of a Bible quiz team. He didn’t just “attend” the Friday night Youth Group events — he almost always found someone to bring along.

Alex knows better than most that, just like HCWA has “challenge” in its name, so life has its challenges. But Alex keeps a positive attitude. “That’s just the way I was brought up,” he says. “At my grandma’s house I wasn’t allowed to complain … and Jesus coming into my life has made me a lot happier. That’s the reason I’m so joyful.”

Alex graduated from Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute in 2008, got married the same year, and continued his involvement with Higher Challenge camps, encouraging teens to paddle for Jesus, too.

Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #492). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.