As far back as I can remember I have spent more time outside than indoors. There was always something about being in the forests and being near the water that made me feel alive.
I grew up in South Carolina, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, to a long line of fisherman and hunters. Some of my favorite memories where being out on the lake or in the woods with my dad and grandfather. It taught me courage and responsibility. Things I’ve always carried with me.
I was blessed with a great childhood in our little hometown of Westminster, SC, which peaked in population (3,576) in 1999. After graduating high school I realized that what I was looking for didn’t exist in this small town. Since then I’ve walked many roads, some for survival and some pursuing dreams. It’s obvious to me now that all the roads we walk lead us somewhere.
At one point in my journey, I was lead to Haiti to work at a children’s village called The Hands and Feet Project where I helped with construction, operations and hosting missionary groups from America. When hosting groups most of our time was spent inside the walls of the children’s village. I found that when I took these groups hiking on mountain trails, to the beautiful topical beaches and to interact with the local community, their eyes were opened to a reality that they previously could not see. Their perspective of Haiti and the people there shifted. They could now see joy in the midst of poverty, beauty beyond piles of garbage and more understanding of the life the Haitian locals are pressed to live.
At the end of each day, each group would talk about what they experienced and the contrast they had observed. Over time, while listening to these groups, I observed how their experience within the community began to change their perspective. Not only did they gain an awareness of the culture of Haiti, apart from what the media fed them, but they began to gain a new perspective on the lives they were leading. In the midst of this adventure, they were able to connect with and rediscover who they have been created to be.
By leading these groups outside of the compound walls and into the community, I realized that I was meant to be a guide. Not simply a guide that leads people on an adventure, but one that leads those searching on an adventure into their soul. At that time it was only a dream with no direction.
In 2009 I met Mark Nesbitt through some mutual friends. His family moved to Franklin, TN a few year earlier and we both attended the same church. It didn’t take us long to discover we both shared the same passion for kayaking, fishing and being outdoors. We began kayaking to Bear Island to get away from the city lights and rest around a campfire.
One night while paddling out to the island, Mark told me the story of Pathway, an adventure camp ministry he and his younger brother ran on a 200 acre leased property in Central Vermont. A few years after starting Pathway Mark’s brother, his closest friend, was killed in a tragic accident. In the years following, Pathway continued to run camps until the owner of the land needed to sell it. At that time they couldn’t afford to purchase the land so they shut down the camp. For Mark, Pathway became more a hobby than a full time ministry and was eventually put on the shelf.
Mark said he had prayed for years for someone to relaunch Pathway with. Then, he asked me if I would be interested in running Pathway with him. In that moment a part of me came alive. I realized that all the roads I walked down had lead me to Pathway.
Mark and I continued kayaking to Bear Island and it became our office. We decided to relaunch Pathway as a collective. To collaborate with the extremely talented community around us to create experiences that wouldn’t be possible with Mark and I alone. Through our conversations at Bear Island we saw ourselves, and the community around us, to be living distracted and weary lives, constantly searching for who they were created to be. Our goal is to lead those that are distracted, weary and seeking into a new perspective through the medium of adventures designed to provide rest, space and an opportunity to find themselves as they approach a deeper connection with Christ.
During my time hosting groups Haiti, I couldn’t dream up something like Pathway Collective, much less imagine that I be a part of it. But, as he has been known to do, God knew what he was doing all along.