The next day, we started gathering in the dining room for the pre-wedding backpacking trip. All of the backpacks were laid out around the room. Water bottles, tents, food and other camping items were distributed to each pack.
Sarah announced, “There’ll be seventeen of us going on the trip. Just last night my nephew from Indiana called and asked if he could come along. I told him, ‘Sure, Robert, we’d love to have you.”
Robert showed up about an hour later. He had just been to the store to buy new tennis shoes. He was looking forward to this ‘short hike in the woods’. Robert had never been on a long hike. He was a bit overweight and out of shape, but he was willing, and Sarah was excited to see him.
Sarah and Ali’s inclusion of Robert was a sample of the “big gulp of God’s kingdom.” Instead of saying, “Robert this was going to be a backpacking trip designed for the fit and strong.” Sarah said, “Sure, we’d love to have you Robert” and she meant it!
By 5:00 that afternoon, Robert realized this was not going to be a ‘short hike in the woods’. While some of the stronger hikers were reaching the end of the day’s trip at the Shelter, Robert was only at the halfway point. He started out the day with a big backpack. Then he traded out for a smaller backpack. Now, he was relieved of that burden by Nathan, who returned from the Shelter to check on those at the back of the line. And who was back there with Robert? Sarah. A couple hours later they finished the four mile hike together.
The next day was a ten mile day. Sarah, and her friend came up with a plan to help Robert succeed in completing the hike. She assigned different groups of people to be the “caboose” for a time and walk with Robert. This gave Robert the opportunity to talk with many more people and feel more included and it allowed others the opportunity to get to know him as well.
After about two miles we came to a beautiful overlook called Weaverton Cliffs. It was a large rocky outcropping that overlooked the Potomac River. The whole group hung out there for over an hour. Someone brought out a ukulele and started singing. Robert came up with a verse to the song talking about how he was from the flat lands of Indiana. We gathered around and enjoyed listening to Robert share this unexpected talent.