In Focus: Walkabout
A Student Leadership Training Experience
Every year, before the start of fall semester, Azusa Pacific University resident advisors (RAs) and team leaders head up to the Ansel Adams Wilderness for Walkabout, a 10-day backpacking trek. It’s a beloved, 44-year APU tradition; a student leadership training experience designed to challenge and equip RAs for the upcoming year. They are pushed physically, mentally, and emotionally as they step outside their comfort zones. Yet ask nearly any student who has been and they would do it all over again. Walkabout is life-changing.
As students hike with their team through the High Sierra—carrying 40-pound packs, eating and sleeping outdoors far from civilization and technology—they encounter a deeper understanding of vulnerability and servant leadership. They learn it’s okay to ask for help. One day you might carry your teammate’s pack; the next day they’ll carry yours. They experience what it means to live in community as they encourage and lean on one another. And along the way, they see that when you rely fully on God, you can tackle more than you think.
This year, students faced an additional, unexpected challenge—devastating fires burning nearby covered the area in smoke and created many questions around the trip. How long can we continue? Where will we go next? Where will we sleep tonight? The trek was ultimately cut short and leaders worked quickly to find a place to gather and rest away from the smoke and ash before returning to campus.
APU Pastor Woody Morwood likened the experience to what’s in store for students as they step into a new year and into leadership roles with the residents in their living areas. “What we experienced this week is a little preparation for what it looks like to depend upon God and depend upon one another,” he said as they gathered around the campfire during the final night of Walkabout. “No matter what comes up, you know that you’re not alone.”
“A lot of seeing God at work was through people, and I think people really exemplify characteristics of Christ, like humility and compassion toward one another to really serve each other.”
“Through the pain and the sweat, we still glorify Him at the end of the day.”
For Todd, who was born with spastic cerebral palsy, Walkabout served as a reminder that life is about trusting God. “No matter how hard I think I have to work at something and use my own strength— it’s not enough. That’s something that God’s teaching me. I don’t have to depend on myself. I have to depend on Him.”
A small group of intrepid Azusa Pacific University students sacrifice their time, sweat, and energy each year in a bicycle trek of more than 3,000 miles across the United States in 50+ days, raising money to provide clean water for some of the millions of people worldwide who don’t have daily access to this basic need.
Alpha leader. Resident advisor. Biology major. Nine-time Mexico Outreach participant. Gabriel Martin ’17 learned and served in each of these roles during his time at Azusa Pacific. A full-tuition Trustees’ Scholarship made all of it possible.