This embroidery isn't particularly impressive on its own. It's just our logo on a jacket. Merely a few colours and a few yards of synthetic thread, stitched repeatedly into a pattern and shape that we recognize as Zao.
When a friend of mine in Australia saw this photo she informed me that her dad invented the computerized embroidery process in the 1970's. With this in mind, I took another look at the embroidered jacket, and began to marvel at the way that the individual threads must have been joined together. They were systematically organized into a recognizable form.
In a very similar way, I have been witness to how God has been bringing "threads" of an outdoor ministry together in my own life. He's had me on a trajectory towards this for over 10 years, although through much of that time I felt like a single strand of thread, unsure of who to partner with and how to be planted into the wider community of outdoor ministries. I spent five excellent years working in youth ministry with Young Life of Canada, honing skills as a youth worker and even leading a few trips. But I never really believed that a vocation in the wilderness adventure industry would be possible.
In 2009 Anne and I moved to the Island, and I became a professional backpacking guide. I had opportunities to teach outdoor education programs and guide commercial trips. During this period I had spoken with various people and groups about developing a ministry, but nothing really stuck. I was left to share the gospel primarily with my own life as I served students and guests on different trips (which was not a bad thing!). But I was aching for a chance to help shape an outdoor program for teens and young adults that focussed specifically on spiritual development, using the wilderness as a classroom and platform for experiencing Christ.
In 2013 the Zao board contacted me about helping them with a new direction for their ministry-- outdoor adventure. I was thrilled to hear from other people who actually cared about outdoor ministry! As we began to work together, I was amused by how God had prepared me for this moment. For instance, I had travelled to attend a risk management conference the previous November, and at the time I had wondered why I had apparently wasted resources on attending something that was designed for program directors, not individual guides! My guiding work and exams gave me opportunities to apprentice under some of the best guides and outdoor facilitators in the industry, and many of my colleagues and contacts have helped me as we work on the administrative pieces of Zao. Our farm property in Campbell River is perfectly situated to function as a base for our summer trips.
Now, as we are on the verge of our first camps, there are many more people who are planting their threads into the fabric of our ministry. Our board, our interns, our volunteers, people praying for us . . . it's a beautiful thing to watch, and an exciting time to be involved. Just like the embroidery process gave shape to my jacket logo, God is giving shape to our ministry. After all, it is Him who is building His Kingdom by letting us serve Him. Together.
My hope is that our recognizable form would be one of dependence on Christ as he builds. It's an honour to be planted with Zao, working with you to that end!
/Mattias Morrison firstname.lastname@example.org 250-204-7373