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This article was written by Serey who leads Onyx which develops resiliant leaders with long time parter of Tenth, DOVE.  

ONYX emerging leaders went on a 3-day adventure retreat at Kep mountain on the shore to get to know each after many months of meeting online. They left their comfortable nests in the city to camp in tents on the edge of mountainous jungle with no electricity, little water, and no internet. This retreat was like a reunion with fellow students they knew only virtually. On this retreat, they would meet each other personally, and with their God in nature, minus the distractions of the city. They began the building of a new personal community where they would share life together for the next 8 months.

Arriving and setting up the tents, they participated in team building and leadership exercises. They learned as a community how to solve group problems, and at the campfire that evening, Ms. Sarady, Dove’s Director, shared about how God calls his people to step into uncertainty with many unseen obstacles and problems, some which we engineered for the retreat. Students shared their life-stories during campfire as well.

The next morning Mr. Virak led the group on hike up a rather slippery, steep mountain trail where the campers hiked in their small groups. Climbing the mountain they encouraged and cared for each other, as navigated new unseen obstacles: thirst, sore legs, bugs, heat, differing ideas on how to proceed, and the unforeseen.

Mr. Van Dom said: “This is the first time I ever hiked up a jungle mountain. I felt scared and didn’t think I had the courage to do it, but I committed myself to the task. Along the way I saw the words “possible” and “impossible” hung up on a tree. The contrasting words challenged me, and the words of Jesus came to mind, ‘that all things are possible with Him.’ I kept going and focused on helping my team rather than on my fear.”

Early that afternoon pairs went on a gallery walk in the jungle. Each station had a pithy saying, a proverb a quote, a scripture verse to reflect on, or an exercise to do that related to emotional health  of leaders, their perspectives, and practices. They were to pick a phrase that resonated with them. After the gallery walk, they shared their revelations.

Ms. Srey Nith picked the phrase; ‘Healthy leaders don’t transfer their pain to others.’ “I didn’t realize I was automatically transferring my emotional pain to my siblings until I read the phrase. The phrase touched my heart because I was blindly following what I saw my family model to me. I now know how painful that can be so I will be more aware of my pain, and when I have my own family, I commit myself to not to transfer my pain to them, and I will try to model a healthy way to relate to one another.  

Students then did a one-hour reflection alone in solitude at the nearby Butterfly Garden listening to God in nature through the 5 senses. It was hard to change from talking to listening. Ms. Serey then debriefed the group and had them share about their new experience in relating to God in a different way. They found it wasn’t easy, but very worthwhile, and many enjoyed it.

When the Butterfly experiment was done, they reflected on what impacted them the most about the trip. Many mentioned the hike was very challenging but it helped them to know themselves better and those they will journey together with over the next few months.  Some of the women were a bit hesitant to make the climb, as they feared they were out of shape, but decided they’d give it their best try. As hard as it was, they bonded well after many months online. I am so proud that my students were transformed some through the adventure retreat, especially the mountain trek, and were overjoyed when they accomplished this feat. They learned how to push themselves to another level through this trip. Thank God that all the students were able to present on the adventure trip.  They made some great memories together as a community.