The Forge group pauses for a picture at the midpoint of their trek across the lake. Photo courtesy Brynn Shore.

Walking on (frozen) water to build community

Young adults trek across Lake Winnipeg to learn more about God and community

ARNES, MB—This March, seven young adults and four Camp Arnes leaders hiked 31 kilometres across a frozen Lake Winnipeg to arrive on the shores of Victoria Beach three days later. The trek is meant to help participants learn more about themselves within the context of community and who God is in their lives.

The experience is part of Forge, a one-year program run by Camp Arnes for 18 to 25-year-olds who desire to make a hands-on contribution in camp ministry during its summer and winter programs.

Forge begins in September and after acquiring certifications like belay training and lifeguard certifications, students further their spiritual walk through one-on-one mentoring and group Bible studies focused on sharpening character, leadership and the students’ overall Christian walk.

In March Forge participants put their skills to the test, making the gruelling trek across Lake Winnipeg, pulling hand-made traditional Inuit qamutiq sleds containing personal effects, wood, tents, food, cooking implements, and even a small wood stove.

Students set up tents under windy conditions, take turns to keep the fire going all night, and battle problems like snow-blindness, hypothermia, and frostbite.

Raymond Bourget, an ex-conservation officer from Northwest Territories, now Horse Manager at Camp Arnes, directs the endeavour.

Camp Anvil, the Forge group's first camp during their trek. Photo courtesy Brynn Shore.
Camp Anvil, the Forge group's first camp during their trek. Photo courtesy Brynn Shore.

“Knowing that the physical and mental challenges will lead to them leaning on God and coming together as a single team concerned with the well-being of the group above themselves,” Bourget says, is what he loves to see the most.

Along the way students leave behind a personal item as a symbolic gesture, indicating something they want to leave behind in their lives. Brynn Shore, Outdoor Education Coordinator at Camp Arnes, took part in the 2014 trip and remembers a letter she wrote to an at-risk youth.

Shore left the letter behind on the lake. “I have a history of working with at-risk teens, that’s where my heart is. But I have to realize they are not actually my children, they are God’s children. That’s how I will be able to help them better. So I left that letter there.”

She says she hoped the participants were “overwhelmed by the experience in the best of ways. That they would have experienced God in a new way.”

For participant Ingrid Coulter, that’s exactly what the trek did.

“Being out there left us vulnerable and when we walked over the pressure ridge at the end, it all makes you realize that God is there keeping you safe,” Coulter says. “I think it brings you to the point of having to trust Him and having no other option.”

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ChristianWeek Western Correspondent