Testimonies from TLCWE
The young man packed up his tent after spending two days and two nights alone in a tent in the woods. He walked away from his solo site with a brilliant smile on his face, journal in hand complete with a list of goals he wants to accomplish in the near future. Two weeks earlier it seemed impossible to list a goal, or to even want to pursue a life detached from the double life he had been living for several years: the church-going athlete/student and the drug addict bent on seeking a criminal lifestyle.
He knew he needed to change his lifestyle but didn't know how. He had started researching treatment programs to help him move in a positive direction, but no one really knew how crucial a program would be for his physical and mental safety, and the safety of those around him, until a series of increasingly bad choices landed him in a juvenile detention center facing a felony conviction; a conviction that could have him tried as an adult. Mercifully, his judge approved his release to Tree of Life on the condition that upon his release he would be involved in a long-term program that could potentially free him of a conviction on his record with good behavior.
Initially, he was compliant with Tree of Life staff; his addict still fighting for a future of freedom to partake in the double-life that had been created. Staff continued to work with him through education, counseling, and assignments that would help him to get honest with himself and others and help him to realize what his future would look like if he continued down the path he had been going down.
While with Tree of Life, exercises like taking responsibility for his own tent and gear, helping to prepare meals and clean up, participation in work crew activities, and completing assignments, would help to build a foundation that would teach him responsibility, accountability, and self-worth - skills that he could take with him back home. In addition, through educational groups, he learned more about addiction, support groups, his worth in God's eyes, and being part of a community.
With successful completion of programming during the first week, he was allowed to join with Peak 7, a partner of Tree of Life, to participate in their Junior Guide-In-Training program. The week-long adventure consisted of rock climbing and rafting; but most importantly, Junior Guides were taught how to guide as well as be guided. The theme for the week was "Jesus as our Guide". We were all challenged to share on how that looks in our lives, and to remember that the best guides also have guides that they rely on. In addition, he participated in a climb up Mt. Thielsen during rainy and cold weather, successfully making it all the way to the top, including the last 80 feet of the peak which is a treacherous scramble. He proved to have heart and courage, attributes that would serve him well if he chose the right path.
During his first week, he reminisced about his time locked up. Some of his statements changed from glorifying that time, to hoping that one day he could go back, but go back to serve and help those who did not have the freedom to leave. Since he's gone home to be a part of his community once more, his parents are pleased with his behavior; his father stated that "he is easily at the best point of his life in the past six months". He is plugging into recovery communities, having just collected his 90 day coin to recognize ongoing sobriety. He is successfully involved in the court-appointed program that will offer him additional accountability. And he has been giving back by serving as a camp counselor at his church and connecting with more friends through fellowship there. We hope that one day he goes back to jail - through the front door with a volunteer badge.
Click a testimony title below to read another testimony!
When my son was 17, I had come to realize that he was lost spiritually, addicted to drugs, and bent on self-destruction. I began to research Christian wilderness experiences in hopes that God could reach him where I had been unable to. I first made contact with Jim several months before I actually sent my son down. Over those months, Jim counseled me, supported me, and encouraged me. We prayed together and individually that God would provide the funds for my son to go. I can't imagine how many hours Jim spent on the phone with me, helping me respond to whatever crisis came along in my son's life. At this point, Jim wasn't even certain that my son would ever come to Tree of Life, because I had yet to secure the funds, but he never stopped reminding me that God would provide. Jim continued to remind me that God heals, that He restores, and that He loved Clay beyond what I could imagine.
I ultimately sent my son to Tree of Life that summer. After being told by the person who transported my son (against his will) to Jim that he was the "worst he had seen in about 2500 transports of at-risk teens", I received a phone call from Jim about three days into the trek. He and my son were sitting around the campfire reading scripture. Where no one else seemed to be able to reach my son, Jim had opened his heart within the first hours of the trek. It was truly incredible. For the remainder of the trip, Jim and his staff discipled, equipped, and mentored him. Clay chose to have Jim baptize him at the conclusion of the trip. I was blessed to be able to witness Jim and my son walking out together into the waves on the Oregon coast so that he could be "washed."
It would not be honest to say that my son's life was perfect from that point on. He had slips after returning home and seeing old faces. Jim continued to counsel me through those difficult times, and has maintained contact to the present. Jim shared with me during those times, that my son's heart had been change in ways that made the old behaviors and thinking less acceptable to him, and to wait patiently, doing just enough and no more, until he decided to walk away from the past. God had revealed to him, through Jim, that there was another, better way.
Clay just completed his first year of college with a 3.85 GPA. Praise God!
We were running whitewater on the mighty Deschutes for five days. Awake at 6:30 and in bed at 11:00. It was tough work, but of course somebody had to do it. Tree of Life had five guides going through training along with a 17 year old participant on a trek who agreed to experience an intensified version of the young adult guide-in-training. The young man was raised by a very religious family and had wandered from the faith so to speak. He was at a tender point in his adolescence when identity comes into question. He had been challenged at home to share his true self. He replied, 'pothead.' Thus he came to visit us in Oregon.
Day one, day two, and day three had passed without getting anything serious out of him. He almost seemed in denial of why he was here. He enjoyed the rafting and he was good at it. Also a funny addition to the boat. We were there to disciple, though, and he didn't seem to want any of it. He listened quietly to lessons and then wrote in his journal regarding personal matters.
One night during our training we were having a serious worship time outside. The guitarist played 'Here I Am to Worship' and everyone sang along. Our new friend was thinking about other things. Parents, school, friends, drugs, girls. He wondered, 'Why can't I just live how I want and still believe in God and have Him in my life?' Finally, he was inspired to pray, 'God if you really want me to change then show yourself.' As his attention wandered from our worship he found himself looking up at the partly cloudy sky. Immediately, the clouds began to blow away and expose the nearly full moon. He couldn't believe it. He looked around, but nobody else noticed. They were focused on worship. He told us about this later, of course, and our reaction was to begin a lesson of Holy Spirit power directly from Acts. His response was very typical of the rest of the trip. Back to square one it seemed.
We finished our time on the river and began traveling toward the Pacific. Before parting ways, two of our staff prayed together for our current participant. Their desire was for God to be directly present in his life; for Him, His glory, and His power to be revealed to him. Day six of our trek proposed to run only 12 days. Everyone had gone to bed around the campfire, snuggled into sleeping bags protecting against spring chill. The teen awoke during the night and couldn't seem to pass out again. The fire had died out leaving only faint embers. Adding a log to the coals, he found a Bible sitting nearby. This wasn't something that had interested him in the past, but something was stirring him to do this. After reading for a few minutes, the fire burst back to life. No flames immediately turned into large flames engulfing the recently added log. He was stunned. Recalling this later he said, 'I couldn't do anything except stare at the fire and pray.' We again referred to Acts and continued our study of the Holy Spirit. The newly willing student took notes and completed a journal assignment.
The rest of the trip was a great experience for all of us. Often, the downside is the degree to which young people are willing to submit to God. It's hard to give up control when the world appears to satisfy so well. In the near future, the young man found himself in trouble a few more times. He remembered his experiences with Tree of Life and referred back to them. Our hope is that he can always look back and remember his initial encounter with God on a trek when he was 17. As always, God and God alone, deserves the praise for a life turned around.
Tree of Life was born in 1996 while Jim Yahne was crossing the Link River bridge in Klamath Falls, OR. He thought that he would like to once again work in the woods, cutting another load of firewood and was praying to God about this desire. Having spent many years delivering firewood for homes, Jim enjoys his credentials as "an old woodcutter saved by grace." Upon the bridge, Jim was impressed with a vision from the Lord calling him to stop dropping off dead wood that goes up in smoke. He was called to begin delivering the eternal "fuel" from the Tree of Life.
"My story begins at a boy's ranch in Oregon when I was 15 years old; I was selected out of 200+ youth to be one of 16 to go to climb Mt Hood with a Youth for Christ team. We were outfitted with crampons and ropes and all the gear needed to successfully climb to the top of the highest mountain in Oregon. What happened with the guidance and experience of our leaders was that we were able to complete this life changing experience safely, 'one step at a time'.
"I came to believe that God touched my life through this experience and it was an opportunity to share this with others. I have since been involved with outdoor ministry and work for 40 years and God continues to teach me and allow me to share his love and wonder in the Great Out Doors.
"Through others reaching out into my life and sharing Gods love I have been able to overcome great obstacles and to give back through education , counseling, and discipleship what was shared with me. Not long ago I believe God led me in his word to continue this work in the scripture of, 'Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.' Matthew 11:28. As a salmon returns to its source, God has called and invited us to return."
James L. Yahne
In the summer of 2005, while in a program that exposed me to the wilderness and played a key role in changing my life, I was exposed to a youth program that challenged and helped to build character in youth by teaching them wilderness skills and taking them out on treks. It occurred to me that I would love to operate an organization that did something similar, but interwove faith as a key component to growth and recovery.
In the years that followed, I grew in my career as a team leader for a large financial institution as well as a part-time waitress at a family restaurant while attending college to complete my undergrad degree in Business Management. The dream seemed to get further away, though it was still tucked in the back of my heart. I left the bank and joined a non-profit that funded a Christian adult rehabilitation center. This position brought me closer to recovery, client-oriented work; but also taught me a lot about the essentials and difficulties in operating a non-profit.
Even though my career and educational path were always progressing and I was continually successful in my roles and responsibilities, I was not satisfied – my heart cried out for more. Through all this time I continued to build on my recovery, strengthen my relationship with Christ, and serve others. My life continued to improve and my circle continued to widen. But even though I loved my life, besides its temporary difficulties, I still longed for something different.
After months of praying about my future path, talking with others, and continually taking action, I found Tree of Life through Google search. I called to find out if they needed any female guides – and they did! But not only did they need a female guide, they needed someone that could help with the business portion of the organization and their marketing. I felt that my skills, experience, and education would be used for good to further God's kingdom at Tree of Life.
In the months between that initial conversation and arriving at Tree of Life, I had so many experiences that I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me to contribute my time and talents here, as well as several "Godincidences". I felt like if I did not come out here and turn my life over for this mission, I would be disobedient to God's will in my life. I am so grateful for all the friends and family that have supported me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and loved me into being the person I am today. And, I am so excited to see how God will show up in our team work with Tree of Life Christian Wilderness Expeditions.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9