Students scattered all over the world when it came time to relax, get away and take their minds off of school. A week of freedom and no responsibilities could only mean one thing. Spring Break.
Some stayed at home, traveled to sandy beaches, snow-covered mountains, buzzing cities that never sleep and even jetted off to other countries. For Michael Carter, a junior finance major from Little Rock, and friends, it was a break to never forget.
Carter, along with four other friends, fearlessly traveled to a national park in south central Utah called Capitol Reef, where they spent their Spring Break hiking and growing in their faith.
“The purpose of the trip was to grow our individual relationships with God. Ben Cockrell was in Lithuania last semester and he had been praying and felt like God had given him this idea for a backpacking trip for Spring Break. He felt like God had given him some names of guys that should go on the backpacking trip,” Carter said. “Ben approached me, Tommy Kelton, Davis Wadley and Alex Blankenship to go on this trip. I was excited because I knew all of these guys really well, and considered them some of my best friends on campus.”
The group left right after class on Friday and drove nonstop to the Capitol Reef, arriving Saturday evening.
“We camped outside the National Park that night, and then backpacked at Capitol Reef from Sunday until Friday morning. We arrived back to campus late the following Saturday night.”
This type of trip was a first for Carter. There were many parts to the trip, and the group had to think through it all before leaving town.
“We knew that backpacking for a week was going to be very hard, but we also knew that we would really have to rely on God and rely on each other. We wanted to grow closer as a group and learn how to love each other,” Carter said.
The group prepared physically, mentally and spiritually months in advance for everything the trip would entail.
“We would try and run, do pushups, sit-ups and lift weights to try and strengthen our bodies. Also, starting in late January, once a week we went prayer walking as a group with our backpacks on and would walk about five to six miles,” Carter said. “We had to prepare by getting all of our gear and food we would need for the trip. I had never done anything like this before, so I had to rely on the other guys to help get prepared.”
The guys had one goal for the trip and that was to learn more about the Lord. They wanted to experience the beauty He created in Utah for them to see, as well as hear what He had to teach them in the week they were together.
“Spiritually, we would try and meet up with each other, check on one another, pray for each other and pray for the trip. We desired to grow our relationship with Jesus, and we made that the main priority for the trip,” Carter said.
Taking a long, extensive trip of this kind will wear you down. Having the persistence and motivation to keep going was key in getting this group to the end of the week’s adventures.
“It was a very hard week for me personally, and it was physically tiring. I had to really rely on God and the other guys to keep me going. However, we reached the halfway point in the week, and I was so worn out. I was asking myself why the heck I was out here doing this, but we reached this place called the Narrows, and it was probably the most beautiful place I had ever been to,” Carter said. “We hadn’t seen a lot of water up until this point, and we got to camp out at this amazing little spot next to these huge reefs. There was a creek near our camping spot, so we went and played in the water and such, it was just amazing. Being in the Narrows rejuvenated all of us and gave us energy to finish out the week. I enjoyed that night camping out so much, and we had some amazing conversations that night with each other. I will never forget that night.”
The Capitol Reef area where the group backpacked was limited on water sources, so they had to continually pray God would lead them to water. Learning to trust God was crucial in making it through the trip. Aside from the risks of the trip, there were comical parts to the group’s time together.
“On the way to Utah, we took a detour and went to Four Corners, which is where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet up. We had to each pay five dollars to go, and it was sort of a waste of time and money,” Carter said. “So, I convinced all of the guys to take a picture at the Four Corners monument. A lady was taking our picture, and she didn’t see this random guy that was behind us, so she took the picture. We looked at the picture a couple minutes later and realized this random dude ruined our picture. We ended up naming him Craig, and one of the many running jokes for the week was anytime something bad would happen we would blame it on Craig.”
Although the group had ups and downs throughout their week in the wilderness, there were many lessons learned while trusting God would provide.
“We learned how amazing of a Father God actually is to us and how he will always provide for our needs. We got lost a couple times throughout the week, and we wondered if we would have to go without water one of the nights, but God always would lead us to somebody, or we would end up finding the trail that would lead us back to where we needed to be,” Carter said. “God continually showed us how good He is, and that He cares for us so much. He blew us away with how beautiful Capitol Reef was. We couldn’t help but praise God for how beautiful it was and knowing He created all of it.”
As friends, they learned more on how to lean on each other and face the unknown.
“God showed us how intimate He wants to be with us, and how He wants us to even lift up the really insignificant needs and such to him. He cares about us so much. He is such a good Dad,” Carter said. “I also learned how to better love those that are around me. A lot of times we give love the way we want to receive it; however, I learned how important it is to figure out how the people around me receive love so that I can better love and encourage them to be who God has called them to be.”
Hiking almost fifty miles, Carter explained he would do it all over again.
“Even though it was a challenging week, I enjoyed it so much. I enjoyed growing with these guys, and feel I grew so much in my relationship with Jesus,” Carter said. “It is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life. I would definitely go back again.”
by Amber Easterly, staff writer