Ah, the river.
Honestly, this was the most stretching section for me. I am not a big water person anyway, but water that is 45 degrees, moves quickly, and is littered with hazards makes me even less of a water person.
We spent eight days on the Nantahala River learning to guide and also completing a Swift Water Rescue Level 4 Certification (SWR). This involved a lot of time spent in wetsuits practicing rescuing people and trip after trip after trip down the river in our rafts.
The week began with a short lesson in the classroom about all the hazards of white water, and consequently how to avoid them, or what to do if you can’t avoid them. Then we went to the water and learned rope throwing and spent time getting accustomed to our wetsuits before actually beginning training in the water. We even voluntarily went into the water just to check it out.
Throughout the week we learned how to rescue people and boats in trouble through the sequence SRTHRGH, which means Self Rescue, Reach Out, Throw, Row Out, Go, and Helicopter. In every rescue drill we went through we would have to go through this sequence before deciding how to rescue the victim. We started with throwing ropes to the victims and then progressed to going into the water ourselves. Another part of the SWR certification was learning how to make anchors, vector pulls, and the knots that go along with them.
We then took turns guiding down the whole river. The Nantahala River is a class three river (the scale being from one to six). The guide sits in the back of the boat and is responsible for steering the boat away from obstacles and hazards. I developed this really weird habit of speaking in a British accent whenever I was guiding. Straight lines are not my strong point, so we ended up stuck on rocks and in the bushes quite a bit when I was guiding.
This section held many metaphors and lessons for me.
It is not an understatement to say that I was terrified of the water; I didn’t even want to get in it during the slow moving portions. Deep down I knew that if I fell in just once I would probably be fine, and then I’d know that certainly a caution was necessary, but I did not need to be afraid. Well, low and behold, on one of the first days the boat hit a rock just right and into the water I went. As I had predicted, I was just fine and this ended up being one of my favorite days rafting (it also helped that earlier when I was guiding I caused us to lose one of our paddles so for a good chunk of the day I just chilled in the raft, but that’s besides the point).
If you’re scared or want to do something you think you can’t accomplishing it can be as simple as just falling in. Rarely do things turn out as bad as we think they might, so the best option is to just go for it. This isn’t a perfect metaphor, as I only became slightly less afraid of the water and would still sit in the middle of the boat in rough parts, but the lesson still remains: go for it!
I was really uncomfortable this week. Wetsuits aren’t the most comfortable clothing in the world, I hurt my left pinky finger pretty badly on day two, I fell in twice, I cried A LOT, tied my brain into knots while learning knots I didn’t understand, scraped my feet up, blushed and sweated from embarrassment often, and was just in general afraid of what I was doing and wanted to be doing something different.
Despite this rather long and dragging list I learned many valuable things. Even though I was uncomfortable and just in general pretty bad at guiding I was pushed out of my comfort zone, which is exactly where I needed to be that week because being there taught me lessons I would carry over into the rest of OLDS and back into the frontcountry. This is a rather cliche topic, but guiding down a class three white water river well before I was ready made me realize that I can accomplish more than I think I can, and even if you get stuck on every rock (basically) and go down the wrong side of the fork you can still finish strong, even if you cried a lot in the middle and at the end. This also taught me that not every situation of value is an enjoyable one; you could hate every second of something and come out with valuable and life changing lessons.
And most importantly, it taught me to loosen up. Every time I was the guide I found myself incredibly tense and stressed out. Everyone else in my boat would be singing river songs and trying to grab leaves with their teeth as we passed under trees and I would be fuming about how miserable I felt and about how bad I was at guiding compared to everyone else. The week would probably have been much more enjoyable had I relaxed a little and gracefully excepted the fact that I will likely never be a world class river guide, but I could still have fun anyway.
In the end, none of the hazards of the river killed me (though I am 98% certain I tumbled through a hydraulic), no one was harmed too bad while I was guiding, everyone passed their SWR certification, we got grilled cheese for lunch one day, and I never have to river guide again if I don’t want to.
During this section we took a break from Ephesians and had several sporadic teachings and attended a few services.
1 John 1- Jesus is the light and to live in Him, truly, we cannot keep sinning and doing wrong in the dark; we have to bring it out into the light and let Jesus deal with it for us.
Genesis 1&2- God is community, therefore we need community. In that community everyone has a part and we have to find out what our part is.
The message of the gospel is offensive, but that does not mean that we are to be offensive