Construction team from Shocco Springs expands ropes course at Ecuador camp

Construction team from Shocco Springs expands ropes course at Ecuador camp

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Ecuador may only be the size of Colorado, but the South American country has a coastline, mountains and jungles packed into its borders.

And Jim Olsen says all that nature is one of his staff’s primary tools to carry out the Great Commission.

Olsen, originally from Minnesota, runs Hacienda El Refugio, a camp in Calacali, Ecuador, a place built to share Jesus through the outdoors.

“God invites us to enjoy His creation, and we as people need that rhythm of pulling away to retreat, rest and connect with God in His creation,” he said. “Our mission statement is that we facilitate a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through nature and outdoor adventure.”

A group from Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega recently helped them expand their opportunities to do just that.

“We teamed up with Hacienda El Refugio last year through the International Mission Board for some small projects, and we decided to go back this year and do a complete construction,” said Bradley Rogers, Shocco’s food service director. “We have some experience with high and low ropes courses because of our campus at Shocco, so we saw what they needed and wanted, and we planned to build those.”

Able to facilitate better ministry

He and nine other men spent eight days in late February and early March expanding the size of the camp’s ropes course.

“They had four elements, and we added three more high-ropes elements and three low-ropes elements,” Rogers said.

“These types of activities help with team building and help build support and encouragement within the team.”

Olsen said because of that gift, his staff will be able to facilitate better ministry to Ecuadorians. In the U.S., camps that offer these kinds of activities are common, but in Ecuador, Hacienda El Refugio is the only one, he said.

“For us to be able to continue facilitating the spiritual growth that we aim at as stated in our mission, we need to be able to have new and relevant tools to accomplish those goals,” Olsen said. “By helping us build these new ropes course elements, we as a ministry can better serve those Ecuadorians who need to get away from [their] everyday lives, have an encounter with God and be exposed to a brighter future that Christ promises them.”

Seeing Ecuadorian kids’ faces light up when they land on the other side of the camp’s zipline or unclip from their first-ever ascent on a climbing wall is “unforgettable,” he said.

“The investment the Shocco Springs team made over the course of a week was incredible. We were blessed by the generosity of the team, their work ethic and their desire to serve the Lord,” Olsen said.

Russell Klinner, Shocco’s executive director, said it’s humbling to see how God goes before Shocco’s staff and uses them in effective ways.

“It was really amazing to see our staff take the skills and resources we have at Shocco and share them with the rest of God’s kingdom,” Klinner said.

Rogers said Shocco has a great culture of global engagement.

“We have visited lots of camps over the course of the years,” Rogers said. “We’re blessed to work for a place like Shocco that not only supports us but encourages us to go on these trips.”