For two weekends in March, our Program Team hosted a training for new facilitators.
The role of a facilitator here at El Refugio is indispensable. Our facilitators guide groups through a series of activities and reflections so that groups can accomplish their proposed goals. Without them, we would not be able to fulfill our mission to provide a training and retreat center that facilitates a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through nature and outdoor adventure.
We had eleven new facilitators training with us–a great number because El Refugio continues to exponentially increase the number of groups that pass through its gates. Without getting into too much detail about the content of the training, I simply want to relate some stories about the facilitators who attended.
All of our facilitators are volunteers, and many have jobs, school, and families outside of El Refugio that demand their attention. It is a huge sacrifice for them to give up their weekends. We were speaking about this with one of our new trainees and he shared with us that his mother recently passed away from cancer. After that devastating blow, his father took his own life. This new facilitator is in a vulnerable position and we have the great honor of walking with him through this difficult time. Our goal in our trainings is not just to increase head knowledge; we want to create a strong bond between our staff and the new trainees. We offer El Refugio as a place that is always open to them. We hope that our relationship with this new facilitator will grow and he will find a loving family here at El Refugio.
Two of the other facilitator trainees had an overwhelming fear of heights when they arrived at El Refugio. They had to confront this fear head on the fifth day of training while on our high ropes course. The high ropes course is situated about 30 feet above the ground. Participants, connected by carabiners and ropes, must cross six elements with another person. Somehow, the two facilitators with the greatest fear of heights were placed together (a logistics fluke that turned out to be one of the best decisions we made that weekend). At the beginning of the course, the two moved along the cables trembling and would shout out nervously when they felt they were going to fall; but, with the encouragement of our facilitator trainers and the other trainees, they passed five of the six elements.
When the trainees arrived on the platform of their final element, the Islands, (see the photo below) our Facilitator Director challenged them to act as if they were not attached to the cables, which meant that they could not to try to save themselves. If they felt off balance, they were to simply fall, let the ropes catch them, and then continue on. For someone with a fear of heights, this sounds insane. I had my own doubts. I guessed that they would hold on to their connecting ropes the entire time, just to feel secure and not fall.
The two began the element and surprised me by jumping the first two boards without any help from their own ropes. They jumped and found their balance perfectly. Amazingly, the two facilitators continued to advance without the help of their ropes. When they finished and were standing on a stable platform, they whooped with newfound confidence. One of them later told us he no longer feared heights and was ready to take on even greater challenges.
These two courageous facilitators lived out what many of us only talk about: that when you face your fears head on, the fears diminish and you are able to move forward without the chains of fear holding you back. This is what we want during our trainings: participants experientially living out what they are learning in the classroom. Because, as Confucius said,
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Pray for our new facilitators that they would continue to grow in their ability to guide groups successfully, and grow in their love for the LORD and for the groups that pass through El Refugio.
Written By: Katelynn Camp