participant testimonies

“It has been the most profound experience of my life. I never before have experienced such intimacy and connection with God. As I ponder my week here I am moved to tears. I had no idea that God could be so present and so quiet and so profound and so powerful. This changes everything, it opens a whole new world of faith for me.”
- Andy Petersen, Engineer & Church Leader, Blacksburg, Virginia


“This has been the best investment of time, energy, and money I have ever made for a spiritually building activity. No retreat or teaching, worship service or song has ever moved me this deeply. To know that I can encounter God in this way will, I hope, forever remind me to seek him earnestly.”

“Have you ever connected with God on a level so deep you felt you never wanted to leave that place? That’s how I felt this past June at WilderneSS. It was one of the most profound spiritual renewals of my life. To withdraw from my ‘normal life’ full of emails, cell phones, and general craziness enabled me to connect with the Almighty in a way so powerful, I can’t put it into words. I missed my wife and kids but I couldn’t help think when I was out there, ‘when I get home, I’m going to be a better husband and father… I know God is changing me here in the wilderness’.”
- Aaron Zink, Creative Arts Pastor, Grace Point Church, Lewis Center, Ohio.


"I’ve faced things I’ve never faced before. I’m leaving a broken, humble man, who has learned how to walk with God in intimate companionship. I’m going to incorporate solitude into my daily life. Not a quiet time, I’ve done that for years, but a faith walk and a conversational relationship with God on a daily basis. I now have greater confidence that God does want to speak to me.”
- Neil Kring, Pastor, Ball State University


“WilderneSS is the hardest thing I have ever done. I was challenged in every area and many times it was so difficult I wanted to quit. This time has been huge in my walk with God and as a man in general.”

“WilderneSS took place almost a year ago and that intense two weeks continues to affect and direct my life. I often ponder the things that God taught me about Himself out there. I truly believe that only out in the wilderness, all alone, with just God and His beautiful and at times scary creation could God show me the things that He did. I was able to connect and listen to God like never before. He taught me to be silent and listen for his quiet and gentle voice. WilderneSS revealed hard things about my character and helped me truly appreciate my wonderful wife in deeper ways. I am truly thankful for WilderneSS and would encourage anyone to consider taking part themselves.”
- Adam Just, Seminary Student, Gordon-Conwell Seminary


“This is leadership training – forced to face fear, find endurance, stand alone, worship with no support, stripped of all comfort, guiding myself to seek God. WilderneSS pushed me into the most important questions of my life.”

“I loved many things about WilderneSS. It was a strenuous trip, especially for me. But, it was very doable. The acceptance I received and feeling of brotherhood was extremely satisfying. The country we hiked was excellent. The leadership and planning was superb. And what made it great was that God went. He was present and active. It felt like the Lord’s action was quickened during the week, as if God specifically is fond of times away in the woods. If you wonder at all if you should go, you should. Don’t miss doing WilderneSS!”
- Wayne Wager, Pastor, University of Illinois


“WilderneSS' beauty is in its simplicity. It does what is probably needed most in the church; bringing believers to a place where they can encounter the Holy. I feel God took me to a new place at WilderneSS. I don’t believe I’ve experienced a brokenness quite this intense before. This will take my ministry as a husband, father, friend, and a pastor to a whole new level.”
- Dave Brunelle, Pastor – The Rock, Cleveland, Ohio


“My life has been enhanced dramatically because I was able to wrestle myself away from my normal culture and connect with God in a manner that I had not previously known. I feel changed and transformed by this time. (What I’ve experienced here) isn’t normal for many people in my life or in my church, but I sense that it needs to be. Getting away from the grip of mainstream culture seems imperative to me now when it comes to spiritual growth and transformation.”
- Ryan Kozey, GCM Staff - National Office


“WilderneSS put me in a place where my complete trust had to be in God. It helped me to develop an ear to hear God’s voice once again and develop a hunger for God. My life, marriage, and ministry will be changed by what God has done here.”
- Scott Olson GCM Missionary, Portland Oregon


“WilderneSS helped me to quiet the distractions of the world to the point that it was easier to center my life on God. I was very challenged by the days of solitude. They stood in stark contrast to the pace of our culture. To anyone considering WilderneSS I would say be prepared to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. The fellowship you’ll experience will be evidence of Christ’s presence. You won’t come back the same.”
- John Bradley Occupational Therapist, Columbus Ohio


“My WilderneSS experience brings to mind a quote by Mike Yaconelli, 'I’m ready for a Christianity that ruins my life, that captures my heart, and makes me uncomfortable.’  I have not known anything like that until now."

"I hate feeling (spiritually) dry, (physically) hungry, and (emotionally) unstable – but through this experience, (and going through) those times has made me realize how God-starved I really am … the truth is I don’t know how much I have really experienced God before (WilderneSS). My hope is that every day in ministry I would look back to this time and remember what it means to encounter Jesus Christ. If I continue to live as I do – or have been – I will die a part of our ministerial system that we have created. But if I can spend my life encountering the Lord like I have here I will leave this earth knowing I have truly pleased my Father and hopefully taken others with me on that journey. This has most definitely been a significant moment in my journey of faith, I will never be the same.”
- Joshua Zolman, 24, GCM Missionary, Ball State University


“A great experience – a time of spiritual renewal and cleansing. God spoke to my heart. WilderneSS has been significant because I’ve not liked where I’ve been at in my relationship with the Lord for many years. I’ve let too many other voices take the place of God’s. I’ve fallen into a pattern and thought that God really isn’t happy or satisfied with me so I didn’t expect him to speak to me. God met me here and reassured and renewed me. I will remember this time as a time God designed especially for me to hear from him.”
- Jeff Koester, 44, Gift Processing Manager, GCM Headquarters, Orlando, Florida

“This time has been an extremely powerful time in my walk of faith. God showed me my brokenness only to build me back up again with a foundation of his love. I believe he also began to teach me how to listen for his voice and leading in my life. I feel as if I’m starting anew as I head out into the world. My job going out from here will be to make sure I don’t let busyness and distraction cloud my life and separate me from God.”

“This is an experience all men of faith should embark on. In an age when busyness is our idol and distractions rule our lives we need to be able to step away from those things to experience the glorious presence of our Lord. The time is hard but to sit in the presence of God makes all the hardship worth it. I will definitely be recommending this experience to others.”
- Nick Modrzejewski, 22, 5th year Electrical Engineering Student, University of Illinois

“This was the hardest emotional, physical, and spiritual thing I’ve ever done. Spiritually it showed how unfamiliar I am with being around God and how entrenched I am in this world. The first three days of fasting I felt like a heroine addict going through detoxification of the world. WilderneSS has a better chance than most things (to have a lasting affect in my life) because it was an encounter between God and I.”
- Carl Frost, 24, GCM Missionary, Ball State University


“(WilderneSS has been a significant moment in my journey of faith) as I have never before been under such an intense spiritual magnifying glass. I learned that my lack of love for others was disgusting. I learned that my lack of love for God was evident. I learned that my longing of approval from others is what has driven me for some time. I learned that I am weak and want for the most part to be comfortable, well fed, and worry free. I learned that God was gracious to show me these things ... His gift was repentance and His arms of love were around me ... in exposing my sin I found freedom and life, joy and peace. If by God’s grace and by a willing spirit I apply the teachings from this week my life and ministry will never be the same.”
- Beau McCarthy, 32, Church leader - Genesis Church, Detroit, Michigan


“Am I ready to leave the desert – yes! I want real food, caffeinated anything, and a long shower. I want my family, my home, and my friends. But in a way I will dearly miss this place – the coarse rocks, gravely sand, sharp pokey plants, the animals, the vast mountains, the sky, the sunsets, the warmth of a sun baked rock. And I will miss my friends that went on this journey with me. This place goes home with me though. I will never fully leave it. I take home the dust on my gear, the stains on my clothes, scratches on my bible, a few rocks to put on my desk at home, and a journal full of questions, and lists, and answers, and verses – but most importantly I leave here with a heart that is more understanding of grace. The desert is where I found this grace – this love that my Father has for me.”
- Alan Moore, 31, GCM Missionary, University of Florida


“I come away from this with a new relationship with God. He went from being an impersonal, distant father to a compassionate dad and best friend whose love for me is undying. He showed me his love for me like I’ve never experienced. This has been a breakthrough for me. Knowing he and I can talk or hang out whenever and wherever is a miracle for me. This brings a whole new dimension to my life and ministry!”
- Bill Lautenschlager, 22, High School Teacher and Church Leader at University of Missouri.


“I wish I had done something like WilderneSS in my first year of faith. I have never been so satisfied with God’s word. I realized how much I have been tremendously loved and pursued by God, although I rarely make time to see it! WilderneSS will have a lasting impact. I intend to host a WilderneSS in Europe – and I will attend another WilderneSS here – God willing.”
- Anthony Testa, 31, GCM Missionary, Torino, Italy.


“This has been a significant moment for me as without it I would not have been quiet enough to hear God speak into the areas of my life that he did during this time. This spurs me on to have more times like it where I let the Lord speak into my life about areas I would rather not deal with. I know the Lord plans to work greatly through what I heard during this time.”
- Michael Hadady, 21, Student, Lincoln Christian College


"This was the hardest but most rewarding time I've ever spent with the Lord. The first four and a half days were hard. I've never been more drained in my life. But in God's perfect timing he brought me Matthew 11:28-30. I wept at his love for me and rejoiced at his strength and renewing power. After that moment my time became one of Jesus speaking to me through his word. It was like the words jumped out of the page at me. WilderneSS has helped me know on a soul level how to seek His strength and not my own and has cemented in me the reality of my need for daily restoration through Jesus." Mark Jordan, 35, Software Developer - Plainfield, Illinois.

"Spiritually WilderneSS forced me to a place that I would not have gone on my own accord. Physically and emotionally it took me to my limits to where all I could do was cry out to Jesus. My first three and a half days were a struggle, I kept hitting a wall. I felt loud and annoying and God seemed silent. The only voice I heard was 'try harder' and I know this not to be the voice of God. Finally I was moved to read Hebrews and that's when it all came together for me. My eyes were opened more widely to his love and his rest and finally I was able to enter into it. I believe that the rest of the year will bear the fruit of these days. This is my second WilderneSS trip and I will be considering doing something like this every year." Beau McCarthy, 33, Art Director / Teaching Pastor - Genesis, Detroit, Michigan.

"The whole experience was easily the most demanding thing I've ever done on purpose ... it really forced me into God. WilderneSS has shown me how my compulsions (food, email, TV) tend to govern my free time. Now I know I can do without them and how much I really do enjoy being with God. I'm also thinking differently about who I am. In the wild nobody can see your gifts or talents so you cannot be defined by them. I'm learning that I have value and worth to God independently of anything I try to 'do' for God publicly. I've learned how much I need God and how energizing it is to be near Him." Steve Norman, 32, Lead Pastor - Genesis, Detroit, Michigan.

"I was most fearful that God would not show up. That I would be alone, truly alone for five days. In the end I really loved WilderneSS because I felt sustained, nourished, and encouraged by God alone. WilderneSS is unlike anything else I've experienced. I've never fasted three days or spent a week in the desert in solitude, but more than that I feel an intimacy with God I haven't felt before. Last night, the last night of solitude as I watched the sun go down I felt encouraged by God that this doesn't end, that the desert goes with me because God comes with me." Caren Hunter, 30, Family Ministries - Genesis, Detroit, Michigan.

"It was physically draining. I have never been more exhausted, hungry, or cranky in all my memory. The third night of the fast I could not believe how angry I was - cursing and flailing and hoping for the whole thing to be over. I did not know how to be alone with God. It forced me to seek Him. It forced me into dealing with who I am. Ultimately it forced me to be honest with God. It has changed me forever." Nicholas Monterosso, 23, Consultant Trainee - Detroit, Michigan.

"This is the hardest thing I have ever experienced emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. The five days of solitude were very, very challenging. The first couple of days I resisted God. By the third day I was kind of angry with God because he hadn't spoken to me the way that I wanted him to. God showed me the true disposition of my heart and how ugly I really am. I would rather fantasize about eating an apple than spend that time crying out to God ... that is pretty sad. Then on the evening of the third night I started reading the bible and the words seemed to jump off the page at me. God really spoke to me after that through his word. I think this time will have a lasting effect on my life ... it has been the journey of a lifetime ... I think it is going to take some time to fully process all that has transpired here." Josh, 27, Finance Analyst - Detroit, Michigan.

"My time during WilderneSS was probably the single most important thing I could have done in my life right now. My connection with God was unbelievable. Each day I could feel layers of this 'false' Jamie (ego) being peeled away and the soil of my heart began to soften. I am so humbled that God showed up for me. This was my first experience of really coming to him in a way where nothing was in the way. I really learned about God's grace and his love for us as individuals. My time at WilderneSS will have a lasting impact on my life." Jamie Schafer, 25, IT Auditor/Risk Management - Detroit, Michigan.

"The practice of fasting and solitude has all but vanished off the screen of mainstream Christianity but here in the wilderness God used both to sharpen me. I have learned that I am more sinful than I hoped and God is more gracious and merciful than I could have imagined. I can not go back unchanged because that would be denying the work Christ did here. God lead me through scripture and has given me specific applications that will directly change my daily pursuit of Christ and interactions with others. My hope is that it has reinvigorated my commitment to have Christ at the center of my marriage, parenting, and ministry." Drew Hunter, 29, Family Ministry Director - Genesis, Detroit, Michigan.