2017

Even as I write this, I still can’t believe that I’m reporting on the 10th Anniversary of Yosemite Summit. When I first got the idea to do this sabbatical retreat for children’s pastors, it was a step of faith. While I hoped it could become an annual event, at that time, I didn’t even know if I could get enough guys to join me to make the event succeed. And now I’m planning the 11th annual.

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Here are some pictures from the 2017 Summit – and a highlight video at the end. It is my prayer these will not only encourage guys to join me on a future Summit, but also challenge YOU to set aside time to intentionally plan rest into your busy ministry life. This event grew out of a period of life where I was beyond exhausted even as I was doing what I loved – children’s ministry – and when I discovered that I as much as I love what I do, God needs ME more than anything I do for Him. This annual week is my gift to Him – 100% of me for a full week, ceasing from doing to just BE. And it is a gift I invite other men to join me on.

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It is hard for me to even describe Yosemite. While millions of people visit every year, the vast majority only experience Yosemite  from the crowded paved roads in the Valley. They miss out on so much that this majestic place has to offer!

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One of the most popular hikes we do every few years is the Panorama Trail, which begins at Glacier Point, where many drive to take pictures and then leave – but we hike all the way to the Valley, passing three major waterfalls in the process. It is an incredible day with views no pictures can truly capture.

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Peter was back after having been with me on the very first Summit ten years ago. The friendships that have grown out of this group of men is one of the blessings we all enjoy.

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Both Tom and Matt have been on several Summits, and there is a reason many guys come back over and over – every years is different (like hiking in ice cold flooded trails for a bit this year due to heavy snow melt) but every year is special and rejuvenates the guys who come.

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While we enjoy great fellowship with others who share our love of God, nature and children’s ministry – we also get some precious solo time to just walk. Whether we are enjoying worship music through our headphones or God’s music in the world around us, prayer is never so sweet or personal as it is here.

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There are times when we are enjoying the thunderous noise of cascading waterfalls and rivers overcome with the power of God seen in His timeless creation.

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Other times, we get to just sit and read, journal and pray in a place where only birds, wind in the trees of the distant roar of water attempts to distract us.

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From the moment we gather in Sacramento, through the drive to Yosemite, and of course while we are there – we have so much fun just enjoying a relaxed pace of life.

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I love when the new guys ask, “What time do we start?”

I answer, “When we get to the trail head.”

They ask, “What time will the hike end?”

I answer, “When we get back to the van.”

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They ask, “What time is dinner?”

I answer, “When we get back to the lodge.”

They quickly figure out – we have left deadlines and schedules behind us. In fact, they don’t even need to wear a watch. Because we don’t need them. The day starts when the sun rises and ends when it gets dark. In between, we just enjoy each other, God’s presence and all that He created to display His glory.

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I have discovered many “hidden spots” over the ten yeas I’ve been visiting Yosemite. While I’ve done ten Summits, I’ve also gone with my family, a father-son trip with my dad, and twice in winter – most recently last January with my friend Pat, who has been on four Summits and jumped at the chance to join me in January, even as it meant missing the 10th anniversary trip – but he’s coming again in 2018, now as my co-leader due to his experience with the event.

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For the 10th Anniversary Summit, I opened the event up first to repeat guys, and it filled so fast, I never even got to promote it on Kidology for newbies to come. But we did have one newbie, my good friend Jon Mobley (Johnny Magic) who I’ve been inviting for years and he was finally able to come. He joined me and a few others as he made it to the top of Yosemite Falls and then up to Yosemite Point – a daunting hike that only two guys have done in the ten years of Yosemite Summit. It was on my bucket list, and I finally did it!

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We love Half Dome – the iconic mountain that attracts hiking, climbers, photographers and millions of others every year. It’s unmoving and unchanging form, looking the same as in old pictures with Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, is a powerful testimony to the unchanging nature of our Creator God.

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Spotting wild life is always a treat. The birds, deer, turkeys, squirrels, chip monks, marmots, lizards and even bears are always a delight to see, and if we are lucky enough – to capture a picture of.

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When we have those rare moments where we are all together at the same time and place on the trail, I try to get group pictures whenever I can.

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I can look through pictures from every year and so many memories come back – every year is so unique – not only because of the varying weather and the different hikes, but because of the unique combination of guys that join together for this week.

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One of the things that amazes me about the Summit, is that while normal weeks seem to fly by, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, it’s almost Sunday again.” The Summit goes at a pace that almost makes it feel like much more than a week. Surely, on the last day, we feel that. “It’s over” mix of sadness to leave, but eagerness to get back to our families and the ministries we love.

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This year, due to heavy snow fall, we got to hike in some snow for portions of hikes – and yet it wasn’t cold. A few of the guys even decided to slide down the backside of Sentinel Dome head first, and lived to tell about it!

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This is one of my “secret places” – I won’t even post online where it is. It is a place where we avoid the crowds of Tunnel View with tour buses and countless tripods and cameras and get our own private view of the same famous Valley view, and even have some giant boulders to climb on that look like they are about to roll down the mountain – but if they haven’t yet, what’s the chance they will now while we are climbing on them?

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The first year it took me several minutes to climb up this huge boulder, now I can do it in seconds after repeated trips. (Here is a video of me demonstrating how to climb it!)

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In closing, the guys have come to love these AREA CLOSED signs you see around the park. One of the guys this year got to take one home when they happened to be nearby as one was being replaced and they asked if they could have the old one. Why are they meaningful to us? Because they describe why we are here.

For one week we are CLOSED. No ministry meetings, e-mails, voice mails, texts, lessons to write, events to plan and the countless other things that fill a normal week. For one week we say, “Sorry, I’m closed.” And the reason is, RESTORATION IN PROGRESS.

Guys come to the Summit exhausted, weary, sometimes even discouraged and asking God what’s next? Not everyone is in crisis though – if we are wise, we’ll do something like this before we find ourselves in crisis. But regardless of what is going on “back home,” they all come to hit “pause” on the hussle and bussle of ministry life so they can just enjoy some time with God.

The most challenging ministry secret I was ever given was, “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life.” It is a constant pursuit of mine, and Yosemite Summit is my annual occasion to hit the reset button and stop the ministry train and rest.

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Perhaps you’ll join me on a future Summit?

ENJOY THE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO from the 10th Annual Summit:

By the way, since the Summit has been filling up quickly the last few years with guys wanting to come back, for 2018 as we start the next ten years of Summits, I am opening the Summit up FIRST to new timers – but there is a waiting list of guys who are eager to return, so if this is something you want to do, register SOON – the event always fills up fast because it is the only event of it’s type for children’s pastors.

See ya in Yosemite!

Pastor Karl