In the Wilderness: Trading Distractions for Discipleship in Creation

See and be seen, all in the context of the beautiful and demanding wilderness of Wyoming.

In the summer of 2021, 14 college students and a handful of seasoned CCO staff entered into this amazing—and terrifying—invitation to six weeks of life together in the wilderness. They were participating in Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness (LDW), an immersive experience designed to help students grow in their relationship to the Lord of all creation, to encounter themselves as leaders in need of grace, and to share and bear the burdens of others.

The CCO has been leading LDW trips since 1995, but the need to step away from the distractions of everyday life was especially pressing in 2021.

These students are already native to the digital world, but during the pandemic, even more of their lives moved online. For some, living without their phones for six weeks was revolutionary.

“There were no distractions,” said one young woman about her experience. “You’re not constantly being told what you’re lacking. Not having technology was an amazing opportunity to realize that what we’re actually missing is more time with God.”

Another student reflected on technology as our “default” to escape discomfort in life, and how being without it forced him to sit with his experiences. “When you’re having a rough time, when you’ve got to keep on hiking, when you’re upset or it’s been a long day or you’re hungry, you have to be with that,” he reflected. “You have to say, ‘I am uncomfortable. And that’s okay.’”

If nothing else, living with others in the wilderness for six weeks is an opportunity to experience lots of discomfort!

In the end, God used these uncomfortable, undistracted weeks to knit the group together and to Himself.

Pushed to their limits, students learned what it means to trust in the Lord without the illusion of control, and then, in their “unedited” relationships with God and with others, they experienced what it feels like to be both known and loved.

Now as they reenter life on campus, with families and friends, and with all of the oh-so-familiar distractions, they carry these embodied truths with them. “I have seen the person I don’t want to be try to fight its way back,” one student said. “And yet I know there’s no way I can go back to the person I was before LDW because of what God did in my life and the awareness I have now.”

In the beautiful and demanding wilderness, these students have seen Jesus at work. They have been seen, known, and loved. And they will never be the same.


There is evidence everywhere of God’s ongoing call to the CCO to continue our 50-year history of transforming college students to transform the world.

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