Roads of Faith: Students take annual trip cross-country to grow in their spiritual journey

Every summer for over 30 years, students from Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dike and many other places get together for a trip across the country. Caravan has been a way for students to bond and grow in their faith over the years, and the Caravan experience has changed so many people. Students and youth leaders come back fired up about their faith.

Caravan is a trip open to anyone. No matter what religion or beliefs, everyone is welcome. The trip’s location changes every summer. The students and leaders all load onto charter buses and vans. Random small groups are made with a leader in each. Small groups help people get out of their comfort zones, meet new friends and share what’s on their minds if they feel the need to.

Senior Josh Ochoa has been on many different Caravan trips. “As a high schooler, I have been on a total of three Caravans: Panama Beach, Florida; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and New York City, New York. If you want to be technical, I have actually been on four due to the fact that I also got the opportunity to go to Toronto, Canada, when I was about 3 or 4,” Ochoa said.

One of the youth leaders, Kim Hansen, has been a part of this trip since she was a student. “I have been on 15 caravans. Who wouldn’t love being away from Mom and Dad and work for nine-10 days with your friends. Also, you get to have new experiences exploring new places while growing in your faith. The great worship and speakers challenge us,” Hansen said.

The trip has made so many memories and stories. “Hands-down, the most memorable experience that I have ever had on Caravan would be making it to the top of Long’s Peak in Colorado. The mountain peak was 14,259 feet, and although that doesn’t sound crazy high, I can say it was the toughest and most challenging experience of my life,” Ochoa said.

This experience definitely changed Ochoa. “God had given me both the strength and will to go on, and in the end, I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful and stunning way for him to show me the world he had created. It truly was an image I will never ever forget until the day I die. It was all thanks to Caravan that I got to experience that extraordinary adventure,” Ochoa said.

For Hansen, the 15 years of Caravan have given her so many amazing life experiences. “So many memorable moments. Climbing a 12,000+ mountain in Colorado, serving inner city kids of New York City, meeting new friends on Caravan and many hours of laughter in the van on the drives,” Hansen said.

There is so much to do on Caravan; there is never a dull day. “A few of the things that I have loved the most while on Caravan include activities such as surfing, parasailing, hiking up a mountain, zip-lining, white-water rafting, going to Cedar Point, being at the top of the Empire State building and walking around Times Square at night,” Ochoa said.

On Caravan, there are also some mission work days. There are so many opportunities to hear the stories of complete strangers who have had life struggles. The chance to serve the homeless or just talk to someone about his or her faith have been life changing experiences for these students and leaders. “The one thing that I have loved more than anything else while on Caravan is the opportunity to meet complete strangers and talk with them about their path through life. I have had these conversations last anywhere from 30 seconds to over two hours, and I have loved each encounter more and more,” Ochoa said.

Everyone is encouraged to go on Caravan this year and years to come. “Caravan gets people out of their daily routine and gives them a safe place to explore and grow in their faith and have a lot of fun doing it,” Hansen said. “All in all, if anyone, absolutely anyone has even a thought about going on Caravan, I encourage them 100 percent to give it a try. It is a fantastic trip where you meet a ton of new friends and create relationships that last a lifetime. God has blessed each and every trip in so many different ways, and you can choose to be a big part of that. I personally promise that if you choose to go, you will come away with a countless number of new and amazing memories,” Ochoa said.

This summer Caravan is traveling to Panama City, Florida. The trip is $599, and the deadline to sign up before the cost rises to $699 is Feb. 15. If the cost is a problem for anyone, just talk to a leader, and they will find a way to get you on the trip. “Overall, wonderful people, amazing new friends, fantastic locations across the country and worshiping the one and only God; what more could you ask for in a trip?” Ochoa said. The sign up for Caravan is at www.cedarvalleystudents.org.

 

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