Women, You Are Worthy of Adventure! | Women

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Women, You Are Worthy of Adventure!

Women at the BMAC Empower Camp went on a hero's journey of body acceptance, true connection, and even a first holiday without drugs - all while going on the adventure of a lifetime.
Posted November 18, 2021

By Christina Tyson

What does it mean to be truly connected? Perhaps that’s not the best question. Rather, it’s what does human connection actually require?

The 17 women at the Empower Women’s Adventure Camp held at The Salvation Army’s Blue Mountain Adventure Centre (BMAC) in Raurimu from 12-15 November know the answer to this question. Human connection requires vulnerability, acceptance, encouragement, energy, ‘lots and lots of the best kind of laughter’, and grace – from God and each other.

What does human connection bring? The liberation of enjoying who God made women to be, discovered away from the routines, responsibilities, and even the confines of everyday life.

This was BMAC’s second Empower Women’s Adventure Camp. With 17 Auckland campers unable to attend due to Covid travel restrictions, it meant a smaller group – 12 women from Levin Corps and five from Wellington South Corps. BMAC’s guides for the camp were Rose Keen and Claire Wyatt, with Major Katherine Sonntag from Booth College of Mission giving her time to serve as cook.

The adventure camp concept is Rose’s brainchild. She believes adventure-based experiences are important for self-confidence and development because they allow people to overcome challenges they have never faced before. ‘People realise there is lots they can do that they didn’t think they could, and they get to do all this in God’s creation. But I kept seeing girls and women stepping back to let the guys step forward. There wasn’t anything just for women.’ And so, the Empower Women’s Adventure Camp was born.

For this second camp, connecting as a group began on Friday afternoon with a six-kilometre tramp around the Taranaki Falls track in Tongariro National Park. This included opportunities to hear a little of each others’ stories and to start building trust.

There’s nothing that galvanises the need for trust more than being led through the bush by a partner while blindfolded. ‘I started walking and hoped for the best,’ summed up Hannah, a mother of four from Levin. In place of the expected fear and stumbles, she experienced steadiness and safety.

"I kept seeing girls and women stepping back to let the guys step forward. There wasn’t anything just for women."

For those continuing on with the second part of the tramp, the delight of walking behind a fast-flowing waterfall was followed by a solitude walk, as people spaced out separately along the bush track. This was a profound sensory experience coloured by birdsong and the sounds of rushing water, with sunshine breaking through the tree canopy, and gentle rain falling. The perfect environment to listen for God’s voice.

'You are learning to love yourself'

Tina (48), from Levin, came to camp at the invitation of her corps officer, Captain Karen Schischka. ‘Back in March, I was having morning tea with my friend Linda. Karen came in and talked about this Empower women’s camp. I’ve been on a real deep internal and spiritual journey these past few years, and it was time to do something physical, so I heard, “I’ll do it!” coming out of my mouth.’ Tina’s daughters Ruby and Anja also signed up, which stopped Tina from backing out.

At the outset, Tina didn’t think she could do any of the camp’s activities. ‘Even the walk on our first day was terrifying, and I had a panic attack within the first 10 minutes. I was worried sick that I wouldn’t make it. I kept apologising to everyone.’ But she was determined to try everything, and her example – and raucous laughter – quickly became an inspiration and encouragement to everyone else.

Although Tina describes herself as ‘confident and capable’, she says that as a bigger woman, she had hidden within herself for years. ‘I was a hairdresser, and fashion is really important to me, so the first day I was more worried about my nails and that I had to wear stupid things. Who knew I’d come here and wear active wear that clings to me like Gladwrap!’

On Saturday, Tina was so nervous about going caving that afternoon, she hadn’t even thought about the rock climbing scheduled for that morning. ‘But I had the encouragement of Ruby and Anja, and that made the difference. I realised I’d never shown my kids that their mother had a body that moves. So, I followed Rose’s instructions – and I did it!’

Tina climbed to the first line on the wall, which was her goal. Then she had a second attempt and went even higher. ‘Just to make sure I didn’t imagine it!’

Her biggest challenge was caving. ‘I was really scared about that. In a physical sense it was the hardest thing I’d ever done other than giving birth. I had no point of reference in my mind. I thought it would be like walking into an open mine – that it would be large, level and straight. But instead, there was challenge after challenge.

'I realised I’d never shown my kids that their mother had a body that moves.'

‘It was all my worst nightmares. People below that I could fall on. Terrain so far beyond what I’d imagined. And water. And getting wet. And in certain areas there was the noise of rushing water.’

And yet, despite her fears, Tina found herself having fun. ‘As I was clambering over these big rocks, I thought, “This is how I moved when I was a kid – our bodies are meant to move like this!” A favourite bit was when we guided each other in the dark and saw the glow worms. But the best part of the whole thing was that it was me doing it for me.’

Tina doesn’t think she could have found the courage to tackle her fears outside the camp’s all-women environment. ‘Hearing the pride in the voice of one of my dear friends, and the genuine love and compassion in other people’s voices because they were proud of me – especially my girls – the shame just dropped off me. I thought, “It doesn’t matter what size you are, Tina, you are learning to love yourself!”’

'I feel safe in his creation'

Tania (38) met The Salvation Army in Napier, where her mum volunteered at the Family Store and took Tania’s older girls to a fellowship group at the church. Tania tagged along sometimes, but her life was in free fall. After her kids begged her to get help, Tania put herself in drug counselling, which saw her enter addiction rehab at Wellington Bridge. ‘It was time for me to admit I was a meth addict,’ she explains.

After graduating from the Bridge, Tania moved into Salvation Army housing and started attending church at The Salvation Army. ‘I walked into church in Newtown in January 2019 when I was eight months pregnant. Going to the Salvation Army church was my way of saying thank you to The Salvation Army for all they’d done for me.’ Tania had started reading the Bible in rehab – ‘but it was an obligation, not like it is now. I kept reading, and today I love Jesus.’

To come away to camp, Tania left her two-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter in the care of three different households at church – ‘six nannies and poppas’. ‘At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself without my kids, but I really needed this time.’

She loved Friday afternoon’s tramp. ‘I realised there’s still so much of God’s unspoiled creation out there. And that I feel safe in his creation. I felt safe the whole trip – even in the cave, which is where I thought I’d be most scared. I thought that was just going to be walking, but it was slipping and sliding and shuffling. I didn’t think my legs would hold me as well as they did, and I thought I’d be scared. I was still scared, but it didn’t matter. And I ended up helping other people.

Tania was proud of conquering the rock-climbing wall and the high-ropes course. ‘I achieved to the highest limit everything I attempted – no holes barred. That makes me feel awesome!’

She was also proud that it was the first holiday she hadn’t brought drugs with her. ‘The past few years and this camp have shown me that I have strength in body and mind when I’m with Jesus.’

To anyone thinking of signing up for a future Empower Women’s Adventure Camp, Tania says, ‘If you get the chance, do it!’ And when it comes to explaining how such a diverse group of women can connect so easily and well, Tania simply says: ‘The women here are a mixed bag of lollies, but we all found our place.’

Major Christina Tyson is a writer and Corps Officer at Wellington South Corps. She joined a group of women at this camp and says it really is the adventure of a lifetime.

The next BMAC Empower Adventure Camp for Women is planned for 1-4 April 2022 (Covid permitting!) ...Find out more at: