Immersing ourselves into the wilderness of Cumberland Island, Georgia, the Creation team gained new skills and insight into the creation of community and what it means to experience the natural world as God intended it. This trip differed from the other immersion trips in the sense that we did not go into a broken community and minister to people in need, but we created our own community and decided what our needs were. We became our own ministers. Far away from the boundaries of society, we discovered the true meaning of community. Although we each took something away from this trip that was specific to our own life, we bonded as a team and made a home in the middle of the woods.
This trip was such a new and exciting experience for me. Although I have spent a good amount of time in the wilderness, I have never experienced anything quite like Cumberland Island before. We were never really sure what we would come across on the island next. From feral horses eating sea pickles on the marshes, to armadillos and possums rummaging for food around our camp, to a flock of turkeys running around ruins left behind by the Carnegie family, from the first day, we knew this island was unique. But, you know what they say, “Adventure begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This trip certainly was an adventure for all of us.
One of my favorite moments of the week was hiking to the beach to see the sunrise. It was the last day and we were all exhausted, but we knew we would not get another chance to see this beautiful sight. Sitting on the beach at 6am watching the first rays of sun peek over the horizon of gray ocean was the perfect ending to our week of hard work, rain, cold, and rationing food. This trip made me stop to appreciate the little things, like sunrises, team work, and peanut butter.
Our week on Cumberland Island was full of adventures. From sunset hikes to wet tents, we experienced nature in its fullness and made it through the challenges thrown our way as a team. We cleaned beaches and blazed trails and got to watch as tangled forest paths became maneuverable once again. We learned that each person on the trip had a unique skill and personality to contribute. These two things are what made our community diverse, fun, and functional, and what make all communities unique. Though our interactions with people on the island were few, they were special. One older lady, Jean, welcomed us into her home for coffee on an especially cold and rainy day when we had reached our limits with the cold. We enjoyed warm coffee and listened to Jean and another worker, Jon, tell stories and histories of the island dating back to when it was inhabited by Indians long ago. We learned about plantation culture, and that when slaves were freed they could leave the South through Cumberland Island. As Jon said, Cumberland is a very “spiritual island,” with lots of sad history, much of which has to do with the slave trade and the struggle of the Indians who died off as a result of diseases brought by the Europeans.
In addition to rich history, the island had all sorts of fun creatures to see, including armadillos, river dolphins, and feral horses (our personal favorites.) The palms and Spanish moss gave the island a vibrant and mysterious feel; everything was green and besutiful. Cumberland Island is definitely a great place to go to experience the variety that exists in creation, and the diversity God created could be seen everywhere we went. What a great trip! I would love to spend another week on Cumberland Island some day.
A community might be anything. This trip wasn’t, I think, particularly revealing of injustice – more of community. There was no working alone on Cumberland Island – and I’m pretty sure we still liked each other when the day was over. The armadillos and chirping birds were sights and sounds of rejuvenation.
The sunrise on the shore was pretty nice, too, glorious in the spread of color and how the ocean wavered between gray and blue.
Cumberland Island was easily on of the more tropical places I’ve been on this side of the states. The landscape of live oak, palm fronds, and countless other species opened my mind up to an imagination equal to that of what I had as a kid. God’s kingdom was all around us in creation and if you just stop to look at a single leaf, you will see God, let alone a whole forest. The volunteers and staff for the island were all nature lovers and I love simply being around those people. They might not see God in all of it but they have that sense of wonder, which can lead to curiosity about the Creator.
Community of people who are all reaching towards a common goal or achieved a common goal. Building community can be done in so many different ways but in order to have a truly strong community and bond between everyone, each person must make themselves fully known to the group, no lies or secrets. That way, once someone is fully known, they can be fully loved for everything they are, not just the good.
I frequently think of what the world would look like if humans had not created anything. The other way I think about this is “what would nature have looked like before/without The Fall?” I think that it would be a place of beauty and while certain places may become overgrown, it would be beautiful. For example, no one looks at the Amazon rain forest and think “We need to clear that out and cut everything down.” Also, food chains would be undisrupted by humans. Humans would certainly be among the chain but not dominating everything because of our machines.
To start off, I have never been camping. I grew up in a sunny and beautiful suburb in Southern California and not showering for a week and sleeping among the mountain lions had just never sounded all that appealing to me. Had there been dinosaurs, my opinion may have differed, but camping typically didn’t include prehistoric reptiles.
Imagine my surprise as our boat pulls up to an exact replica of my beloved Jurassic Park that fateful Sunday morning. I had envisioned myself frolicking with the many feral horses the island has to offer the week leading up to our departure, but I had no idea it was also crawling with armadillos. Skeptical as to whether I would become fond of these leprotic creatures (it’s true – google it), I embraced the ‘dillos and took as many blurry pictures of them as my phone could hold (It was a figurative embrace, I did not touch them).
The week was full of laughs and roasted wienies and some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Some of the areas were so overgrown, it was easy to imagine what a world without humans would look like. And it would be a very mossy world. Moss everywhere. And feral horses. Possums. Raccoons. And my pals, the armadillos.
Also I saw an alligator.
It was truly remarkable watching a group of people who barely knew each other (for the most part) band together and really contribute to make dinner and create a home for the week. Even cleaning up the island became a community-building activity, with each of us contributing our different skills to beautify the island. My skills being ‘dillo watching and witty comments. By the end of the week, we had become a well-oiled machine, lopping palm fronds, sawing bushes, and stopping to enjoy all the beauty the island had to offer.
This was something I had never done before, and seemed almost out of character for me. I’m not really a “wilderness explorer” at first glance, but I enjoyed myself more than I have in a long time, and feel like I left the island with some new friends (some of which were armadillos).
Overall, I felt that we were away from the stress that comes with our busy lives and we took an entire week to appreciate the natural world that God created. I enjoyed seeing the various animals in the wilderness, especially the feral horses, which I felt were some of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. The landscape, including the forest and beach, was breathtaking as well. Now that I’ve gone on this trip, I hope that parts of the world that are covered in mostly wilderness, such as Cumberland Island, will be continually preserved and that people will enjoy looking at them for a long time. Without these areas, I feel that people will never understand how hard God has worked to make the earth as amazing as it is.
Our group of eight, seven students and one staff member arrived to Cumberland Island, Georgia, on a gorgeous March day. We were excited to begin our week of service in an environment only God could create. Centuries old Oak Trees as well as Palm Trees lined the forest floor. Pristine white beaches were the only other object in this natural and untamed paradise. During our week of service, we had been tasked with trimming the hiking trails as well as picking up trash along the beachfront. Our week of service began on a sunny Monday morning. The beautiful beaches had been laced with trash from various parts of the world and we had been tasked that day with cleaning it up. We were happy to walk along the beach to pick up trash which had found its way to the Cumberland Island seashore. We were able to bond and strengthen our sense of community from the very beginning through this activity.
Our sense of community continued to grow and strengthen throughout the week. I could see how God was working in each person present in our group on Cumberland Island. During our busy, work-filled days and fireside chats at night, we were able to truly experience and welcome each new task and obstacle that presented itself. Together as a unified group, we were able to grow stronger and truly appreciate each other in all of our differences in the vast and feral beauty which surrounded us. Cumberland Island is an amazing place; one in which I hope future Belmont Immersion trips have the opportunity to experience for many years to come.