This is an interview with Stan Mathay, a brother from the Servants of the Word, who serves in the Kairos Boys Adventure Trips.
I am here with Stan and we want to talk a little bit about the wilderness trips. Can you share what they are, how they function, and what their purpose is?
They started out as Kairos Fellowship, that’s how we called it in the beginning; now they are called “Kairos Adventure Trips”. These are two to three week-long adventure trips for boys in the Sword of the Spirit in North America. They are meant to give the boys a program that they can own and really appreciate. It also brings them into contact with Sword of the Spirit staff workers, Servants of the Word, and fathers—all in a way that allows them to get formed in important values. We also strive to help them form relationships in the SOS in a successful way.
How does it work? What happens on those trips?
We have three trips. The boys from 7th grade go right in the corner of western Virginia. The 8th grade boys go on a wilderness canoe trip in a national park in Canada, about 150-200 miles north of Toronto. The boys from 9th grade go to Wyoming where we stop in various places along the way then we take five nights and six days in one of the best backpacking places in the States. It is organized by Brian LaLonde, who took over from me in 2014 and who does an excellent job. There is a strong spiritual component, such as Bible study and prayer during the day. There are adventures and friendships which the boys experience in a way which forms life-long memories.
So, are they all essentially backpacking trips?
The 7th grade trip is a backpacking one, the 8th grade trip is a wilderness canoeing trip, so you have your backpack as well, but you canoe and then you cross pretty challenging terrain to get to the next lake. And of course, the 9th grade Wyoming trip is a six-day backpacking trip.
So, I assume one of the goals of those trips is to push the boys a little bit to the limit physically and mentally.
Well, those trips certainly push me to my limits! Yes, it does push the boys—the 7th grade trip is a really good one for it introduces the boys to backpacking. For the staff it is an easy trip; for the boys it is a challenge but they really like it. The 8th grade trip is challenging too, since you need to carry the canoes and your equipment across anywhere between a few hundred yards to a mile and a half up and down. The toughest trip is the one out west—we spend a lot of time over 10,000 feet with full packs. Now we have boys that are cross country runners, and we have boys who have been sitting on the couch too much—the whole spectrum. But we always get them over the trails, and it’s something that they are very proud of.
Now, what was the genesis of this trip, did you start them?
Yes, Mike Shaughnessy asked me to create a program for junior high boys and I created a weekend based on Dr. James Dobson’s work on preparing adolescents. We ran that four times but for a while there were not enough kids in the communities to make it sustainable. Eventually, we landed on the formula of the backpacking trips and those we still do. I have done a lot of camping, backpacking, and canoeing. And now all these trips are part of the Sword of the Spirit program.
When did this all start?
I believe it was in 2008 so we just had our 15th anniversary this year. It started with the trip to Virginia and we made several pilots trips to other places.
From your perspective as a staff worker, what are the highlights and challenges of these trips?
Well, first of all there are a lot about logistics: getting all of our equipment, buying the food, and organizing it. The trip to Wyoming is a particular logistical challenge and I enjoy the fact that Brian LaLonde does it all now. He is a master, so it is great to be with him and watch him work. So logistics is a key challenge. The greatest reward is to be with the boys. We have fantastic young men in the Sword of the Spirit! You get to see the fruit of community, good parenting, and strong family life in them. These boys love to pray and sing, they love to be together, and they are very respectful with the staff. So it is just amazing spending time with these boys.
Some of the fathers serve as staff as well, correct?
Yes, we always have few fathers that are part of the staff. For example, there is a father from Minnesota—he used to be involved in St. Paul’s Outreach and has quite a testimony. We have grown close over the years and have become great friends. Having people like him on the trips makes all the difference.
Is there an equivalent program for girls?
Yes, Kairos is now focusing on the YES retreat and the trips. So, something for the 7th to 10th grade girls is in development. But we need to do some advertising among the girls. The vision is that we would have something equivalent for them.
You are now 63, are you not getting too old for this?
Well I am beginning to “see the horizon”. The Rocky mountain trip is a challenge, but I probably have a few more years left in me. I am getting slower in the trail. The Virginia trip is the one that I can probably still do in my 70’s if God wants. But I want to keep going as long as I can.
In closing, give us three things we can pray for concerning this project.
We would really like to expand demographically. We are getting more junior high boys, we now have some from Minnesota, New Jersey, our communities in Michigan, and even from Seattle, Dallas and Miami. But we would really like to expand and that means that we will need more vans and equipment. So, you can pray that we can find those resources. We would also like to see the Servants of the Word being able to free more brothers for the program, because it is very fruitful. You can pray for that and of course another one is safety, we need the Lord to continue to watch over all of us.