Pilgrimage Debrief (Part 2)
This week's post comes from Regan Plourde, who wrote the following testimony and shared it at worship on Sunday, September 19. The first part of this story, as told by Hannah Cooper, was posted last week.
Hi. For those of you who don't know me, I am Regan, one of the pilgrims this summer. Before I pick up to where Hannah left off, I would like to say that this trip was extremely impactful and I learned so many new things. I believe Hannah left off on Thursday which is where I will continue to tell you all about.
Thursday morning we all woke up early and headed to another lake, Jenny Lake. As you can tell we visited many lakes over the week. Not one lake was the same. They all were so different and beautiful in their own ways. We all piled into our van full of all us kids and headed off to Jenny Lake. When we arrived there we were lucky enough to find a parking spot as it was very busy that day. We didn’t know much about what to expect as we were not given many details about what this day would bring.
After everyone was ready we set onto our hike. A little ways into our hike we experienced something that I will never forget. After all week of hearing about the dangers of bears and the need to have bear spray… we finally saw a bear. We were hiking on the trail as the people in front of us stopped. When we looked to see what it was they were looking at we saw a bear. Immediately we all turned around and ran in the opposite direction. I’m not sure about the rest of the group but after all our talks about bears I was terrified. Eventually the bear moved on and we continued our hike.
About halfway through our hike we came across a beautiful waterfall. I had seen waterfalls before but nothing like this. After the group was all together we sat down to have a service. We found rocks to sit on by the waterfall and had a really wonderful service. Between what I consider a usual service, Church by the Pond, and the service by the waterfall, the waterfall service was my favorite because we were able to connect with God and with nature all at once.
After our service we continued our hike all the way to the top which was called inspiration point. It was a breathtaking view of the whole lake.
After eating our lunches and feeding the squirrels we headed back down to the surprise we had been told about even though we had already figured out what it was. There was a boat ride back to the main parking lot. This was good as we were all tired from a long day. That evening we closed with prayer and talking about our God moments for the day.
Friday was our last official day. This was the day everyone was looking forward to. It was the day we went white water river rafting on the Snake River. We all woke up and drove into town to where we got the bus to take us to the river. We got into our raft, everyone was excited. The river rafting was a blast. There were some heavy rapids which made it all the more thrilling.
We got back onto the bus to go back into town where we went shopping downtown Jackson Hole. On our ride back to the campground we came across buffalo. After watching them for a bit we realized the baby buffalo was eating a mask. This really brought me back to reality as it made me think about the impact we have on nature and how harmful we can be. I worry that that one baby buffalo may not be the only buffalo, or animal in general, that may be doing the same thing.
This day of all days the mountains were the most clear as the smoke had started to go away. As Hannah said, from the second we stepped off the plane, smoke was visible and the mountains were not clear. We learned this was due to fires in Idaho which is something I would never have known was occurring.
After a week of new experiences we took that evening to have a final group discussion. We received letters from our parents, a great way to end the week. We then went around and talked about ways we saw God work through others, ways God worked through us, and our God moments for the week. This discussion was rather emotional as we all had such a wonderful experience together that we knew was coming to an end. We discussed our returns to reality and how we would see things differently and what going back to normal and busy everyday life would be like.
The next morning was back to reality. We all packed up and headed to the airport. After gate changes and other obstacles we made it back to Bradley at midnight. After driving through pouring rain we made it back to the church where we were greeted by our families after having not seen them for so long.
Overall, this trip changed the way I look at things. I look more closely now at how God has an impact on things. I learned more about how God helps me get through tough times such as camping or not showering for two days. God created the beautiful mountains that I was so lucky to see. He created the lakes, and all the animals we saw. And the most impactful of all, God created the many wonderful and kind people we met along our trip.
This was a truly life changing experience and I am so grateful for the chaperones that experienced this with us as well as our parents and the parish for all the help with fundraising and the many well wishes we received.