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Living Water Ministry has proven popular with churches and families looking for fun and adventure.
Living Water Ministry has proven popular with churches and families looking for fun and adventure.

Living Waters Canoe Ministry Makes a Splash

Canoeing Popular With Families and Church Groups.

With snow on the ground in January, it’s hard to imagine why eight Christian men would want to canoe a clear Ozark river. The temperature that day never reached ten degrees. And yes, one of us did fall in. Being extreme has some pitfalls doesn’t it?

The annual Polar Float is just one of the dozens of float trips and retreats hosted by the volunteer staff at Living Waters Canoe Ministry, which is located on the Big Niangua River near Camdenton, Mo. (About a two-and-a-half hour drive from Kansas City.)

There’s nothing like floating serenely down a clear, spring-fed river where adventure can be around the next bend and yet we long to tarry along the way. We long to take the time to pray, to share life and to shut out the clatter of creation to listen for the heartbeat of the Creator.

Families take a lunch break on a bend in the river.

Families take a lunch break on a bend in the river.

There has surely been better prose to describe the range of experiences that are possible on a canoe trip with fellow believers. In seven years, thousands have found their way to the waters edge for a truly ‘set aside’ experience at Living Waters. For those not familiar with the organization, Living Waters is a canoe ministry that partners with Camp Cherry Mountain and Camp Windermere to provide canoe trips on a secluded and pristine section of the Big Niangua River. The section is free of commercial outfitters, so families, youth groups, Scouts and church organizations can enjoy the challenge of the swift current or float lazily down the river free from rowdy crowds, which are miles away.

Consider the plight of the youth pastor, charged with finding an affordable alternative for a summer time experience to go deeper in discipleship. Many options are way too expensive, entirely lame or too far away. The goal was to spend time with the kids, not become a cook and drill sergeant.

When the pastor was referred to Living Waters, there was an assessment of the ministry objectives and a wide variety of extra activities and pricing alternatives provided to suit their budget and interests. It was decided that staying in a dorm and having two meals prepared for the group provided the best value and the least resource drain on the leadership. The volunteer staff at Living Waters was experienced, knowledgeable and couldn’t have been more helpful. The price was fair enough and to make it all work, Living Waters had a generous ‘no-questions-asked’ scholarship program that covered all or part for families that otherwise could not have attended. Sunday morning worship at the amphitheatre nestled on a 30 story bluff was priceless. Pulling it all together was easy.

living 3 if roomIn another example, a seasoned scout master had had enough. In the past, he had taken his troop for a wildlife experience on the river and had found a different kind of ‘wildlife experience’…the Jerry Springer kind. He had made up his mind that he was not about to make the same mistake twice and expose the kids to — to put it nicely – “An undesirable experience.” He told the scouts and their parents “No more.” Then, the parents of one of his scouts told him about Living Waters. They explained that their family had had a wonderful experience on Living Waters’ stretch of the river, which was at times lively, challenging and gentle but always scenic. The Scoutmaster was skeptical.

Aside from not wanting to expose the kids to a bunch of Jerry Springer types while floating, he knew that as rivers flow they tend to flatten and get wider from the increased volume. He knew that wider and flatter meant more paddling and more dragging…”No thanks,” he thought to himself. But the parents kept encouraging him to check out Living Waters. The scout master had two options: check the river maps for gradient or do a reconnaissance. He decided to do both. On the maps he found that the Big Niangua flows south to north and gains gradient which was perfect. That next Saturday he went on a reconnaissance and what he found was an incredibly beautiful yet challenging stretch of river, a campground that had dozens of activities for the kids, Scout friendly pricing and home to some of the most impressive Eagle Scout projects in Missouri. And, not a Jerry Springer fan in sight. The decision was made that these Scouts would be going back to the river.

Living Waters is a Christ centered ministry that offers families, church, homeschooling, Scout, youth and school groups – both large and small — a fun-filled, wholesome experience that is extremely affordable. The range of lodging and services make it possible for folks with modest to plentiful camping equipment to enjoy the great outdoors or the great ‘air-conditioned in-doors’ as well.

A quick word about our pricing and ministry: we do not price for sustainability, in short, our event costs often exceed our event revenues, that is consistent with the desire of the donors that support the ministry. Pricing is however respectful of the commercial liveries who rely on their businesses to create livelihoods for them, their families and employees. All proceeds plus donations are committed to the programs and infrastructure. None of the staff you meet (including the directors, event directors and host families) receive compensation for the work they do to make your event a success, beyond expense reimbursement.

We maintain a Christ-based ministry that is strongly led to make it easy for you to organize and lead your trip and to provide full or partial scholarships for members in your community that cannot afford it. If someone in your group requires financial support, just let us know, we will provide full or partial support and we do not need to know their names or their circumstances.

A complete listing of our prices for canoes, kayaks, camping and lodging accommodations as well as forms for making on-line reservations can be found on our website www.John738.com. Just a few examples of how family-friendly our pricing is; a canoe or kayak (includes livery, paddles and life jackets) is $20 per person. And, for families — regardless of the size or number of canoes required — there is a maximum charge of about $80. The average cost among all canoe outfitters in Missouri is $30 per person and no other outfitter in the state offers a maximum charge for families.

If you wish to camp or stay in an air-conditioned dorm room the costs are equally as family-friendly; tent camping is only $4.50 per person with a $12 family maximum charge. Or, if you would rather stay in an air-conditioned dorm room the cost is only $20 per night with a $65 family maximum.

You’re certainly welcome to bring your own food and fire-up your portable grill, but why do so when you can have a real home-cooked meal for only $5? That’s right, I said $5. Our dining hall breakfast buffet, on the river Ziploc lunches, and dining hall dinner buffet are just $5 per meal with a $21 family maximum charge.

With the economy the way it is, vacationing close to home is one way to save money. With a visit to Living Waters, whether it’s a weekend or entire week, of camping, floating, fishing, or just relaxing next to the river with a good book or your Bible, you’re not going to bust your family or ministry budget. And keep in mind, the gas mileage on a canoe is pretty impressive.

A river passion burns within some of us. God created us to have an itch that only getting to the river can scratch. At times a situation and a season confronts us when clarity escapes us and our prayers for insight lead us to seek solitude and serenity. When celebrating the final days of a life well spent, when big decisions loom and weighty conflicts come knocking, peace and tranquility can be found on the river. As we ride along on the current, we can reminisce and make bold plans. It is clear, our place is right here, right now in God’s awesome creation. We know that those streets of gold are for pedestrians…we will be canoeing the crystal clear stream that flows from the River of Life. That is the way God created us.

For information, visit us on-line at www.john738.com or call (877) 851-8158.

Paul Ewing and his wife Julie are the Ministry Executive Directors of the Living Waters Canoe Camp.

 

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