The 1995 Grand Canyon Trip, a Lesson in Goals

One of the unique opportunities offered by the Does God Exist? program is our Summer Seminar Series. This is a special effort to strengthen believers and help them develop their own personal evidence teaching program. Some years, the program is a classroomtype of situation with eight to ten hours a day of laboratory work and lectures. In other years, the program is a field trip to a place of interest to those interested in evidences so that the things being discussed can be seen and experienced in person. In 1995, our field trip was to the Grand Canyon. This was our fourth field trip program in the Canyon and our third float trip. The National Park Service limits the number of people who can be in the Canyon at any one time, and we were only allotted 28 people. We doubled that by having 28 people hike out of the Canyon after rafting from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch and another group of 25 hike down and take their place for the trip from Phantom Ranch to Lava Falls. Alan Doty and Nils Jansma also participated as co-teachers and co-leaders in the project with us.

The reason for choosing the Grand Canyon as a place for our field trip seminars is that it presents in a very condensed form all of the evidence that Bible believers and skeptics alike must deal with in evaluating the credibility of the Genesis account. Not only does the Grand Canyon provide a cross-section of a section of the earth's crust, but it also contains enormous numbers of clues as to how the earth came to be as it is today through the abundant fossils, varied minerals and rocks, and the ruins of the Anasazi who once lived in and farmed the Canyon. Another reason for using the Canyon is that it allows the participants to see first-hand why many explanations given by extremist creationists and extremist evolutionists are invalid. We never know who will sign up to go on these trips or what their religious background will be. In the past, we have had both extremist creationists and extremist evolutionists plant people in our seminars to disrupt them or to expose what are considered to be errors, and that always contributes to the mystique of the Grand Canyon trip.

One of our major challenges of our summer Grand Canyon seminars involves the physical challenge of the Canyon itself. Sleeping on the ground, being buried in ice water as a raft goes through rapids, having sand in your food and every conceivable part of your anatomy, and enduring ground temperatures of well over 100 degrees all pose challenges that are not for everybody. One of the largest of these challenges is the hike in or out of the Canyon. The 28 people who had to hike up out of tie Canyon had to lift their body weight at least 4,800 feet vertically, expending large amounts of energy. The group that came down to meet the rafts had to endure that same 4,800 feet of pounding on joints, muscles, and ligaments plus the problem of slipping on the steeply sloping trail.

Every time we do the seminar, there are folks who find the challenges to be more than they bargained for. Watching how Christians deal with these challenges offers some great insights into what Christianity is all about. The 1995 trip offered some unique examples. On the way up, there were several people who found that they had reached the end of their energy resources and, in one case, the person did not feel that he could go on. Three things happened in the personal interactions of the Christians present which helped them accomplish their goals. The first was that, as the 28 people walked up together, they kept speaking words of encouragement to each other and they all kept positive. No one said they could not make it and everyone kept a positive approach. The second thing that happened was that everyone was patient and gave all the time anyone needed to accomplish the goal. One group took 11 1/2 hours to make it to the top--but each and every one of the group made it. The third thing that happened was that people lifted other people's burdens. Alan Doty, our staff person in charge of the hike out, was carrying three packs by the time he got to the top. (Alan regularly hikes this area and is boundless in energy and is in excellent shape--so he was willing.) Other people also helped and by the time the day was over everyone was safe and had met the goal.

The trip down had identical experiences conducted in the same way. What is interesting is that no one even thought about the beliefs of the individuals in terms of the popular issues of our day. What the person who needed help believed about methods or techniques was immaterial. We were all strangers, but we were united in a cause which was the total focus of what we were going. If we had sat down on the trail in the 125 degree heat and debated issues, not only would the goal of getting out of the Canyon not have been reached, but in all probability someone would have died.

We have a problem of staying on the goal in the churches today. We sit down and argue fine points while the flames consume everyone around us. We either have forgotten why we are here and have completely lost sight of the primary goal of reaching out to others, or we do not understand what the Gospel is and how it can save the lost. We will all die if we do not stop the quibbling and keep walking in the steps of the Master

                      John N. Clayton  
Back to Contents November/December 1995