A canyoning tragedy led Ken Robertson down the path of adventure-based learning and landed him the role of manager at The Salvation Army’s Blue Mountain Adventure Centre.
It might sound cliché, but I love my job and I believe God had been preparing me for it for a number of years. I hadn’t planned on being an outdoor instructor, let alone running a Salvation Army camp specifically focused on outdoor adventure—but here I am.
I was pretty young when I came to faith, being baptised at nine years old, having grown up in a Christian family. I lived in the hostel at Dargaville High School, so for a while I lived like a Christian three days each week and four days I didn’t. But I made a real commitment to follow Jesus when I was 15.
I managed a logging crew for 22 years, pastored a church, ran a successful fl ower business with my wife Lynley, and also worked as an outdoor instructor and secondary school teacher.
I’d been doing some chaplaincy at the local high school and they were running boot camps. I went on them as a parent helper as I had no proper skills. I could see the benefit of what they were doing, and knew I wanted to gain some of those skills too.
I had also been to the Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre with my kids and loved what they did and how they worked with children. I loved the adventure side—I hadn’t had much time for that myself, as I’d been focused on running our business and my job.
When the Mangatepopo canyoning disaster happened in 2008, I really felt led to go to Hillarys and support them. I knew it was going to be hard for them. I wasn’t an instructor, so I went down and did three months of training while Lynley ran the business in Ngatea, south of Auckland.
We ended up selling the business and I got a job as an instructor at Hillarys while Lynley got a job at The Salvation Army’s Blue Mountain Adventure Centre (BMAC) in the office.
When former manager Kent Nanninga was leaving, he suggested I apply for the job. I did, but missed out. Th at was a real surprise as both Lynley and I really felt God wanted us there. We thought, ‘Obviously we’re not hearing from God.’
I left Hillarys six months later and began teaching at Hauraki Plains College. Three years into that role I really wasn’t enjoying it, but I figured I was at that age where I was going to have to suck it up, get over it and stick it out till retirement. Plus Lynley said, ‘We’re not moving anymore—the only place we can move to is BMAC.’
Over Christmas we popped down to BMAC and caught up with friends and said, ‘Let us know if anything changes here.’ Three weeks into the first term of the new year we got a phone call from a friend to say the manager’s job was up for grabs.
We would never have known about the job if it wasn’t for that phone call, because I wasn’t looking for a new job. I applied and was offered the role. I love the adventure stuff , but I also really love business, so I thrive on the challenges this job presents.
Looking back, I can see that in a lot of ways we did hear God right, but we were a little out on the timing. It was four years after we first felt God leading us to BMAC that we moved here. I love the BMAC mission statement: ‘helping people discover and live out their God-given potential through the challenge of adventure’. That’s been my life’s experience and I love that I get the opportunity to help others experience that too.
by Ken Robertson (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 7 October 2017, p11
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.
Are you just going through the motions of life, tired or bored? Reaching your potential in God can be scary and exciting. To find out more contact BMAC.
Sign up for a BMAC Adventure | www.bluemountainadventure.org.nz