AIL 2021: Forming leaders through the wilderness

As we peruse the biblical narrative, something we observe is how God has used the wilderness as a dynamic molder of leaders. For example, consider the stories of Elijah, David, John the Baptist and Jesus. Through God’s sovereignty, each of these leaders experienced the wilderness as a profound encounter with God and formational place in their lives.

So what is it about the wilderness that uniquely stages the potential transformation of a person? This space that is primarily uninhabited, uncontrollable, unpredictable, desolate, wild, removed from the “normal,” and yet remains under the steady care and presence of God.

David Collins suggests the following: “The wilderness is spiritually formative because it creates a setting where the comforts of life are stripped away, and you are placed in a more discomforting space. And it is in this disorientated space where the individual is more sensitized to new revelations and personal growth opportunities. Because in God’s creation you can slow down and reflect. You have time to let go of, disconnect from the worries of life and to rest. It’s also where, coupled with the wilderness vulnerability and discomfort, one finds it difficult to not let go of control and place God at the center of their life again.”

Since 1991, the Northwest Conference has tapped into this same wilderness potential in the forming of young emerging leaders from our churches. Yes, it was 30 years ago that Adventures In Leadership (AIL) was born. And this past month, we took this journey again with 13 NWC high school students and once again saw God do His transforming work. Truly, through our partnership with Adventures Christians over the years, this eight-day journey in Christian leadership continues to be a testimony of God at work in our students and a privileged space that we are humbled and honored to share in.

So what did the students have to say?

I spent a little over a week learning about who I am, who I can be and who God wants me to be. Then I was challenged in all of this by being thrown into the wilderness, and it was a perfect way for me to try out everything I had learned and find out actually what it is to lead.” – Lydia

“I would say that this experience completely blew my expectations away and I was very amazed! On the canoe trip I learned that through the ‘rapids of life’ we can stand together as a team.” – Corbin

“AIL is an awesome experience. I made great connections, furthered my relationship with God, and grew as a leader. This was a great space to disconnect from the outside world and truly grow.” – Lily

“AIL is a unique experience. I didn’t expect to connect with God as much as I did, and it was amazing. I built unbelievable relationships with my peers as well. I learned leadership skills and discovered talents that will help me in the future. It’s an eye-opening experience.” – Audrey

Praise God and may He bless this Adventure In Leadership for 30 more years!