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Fireside Truths: By Drew De Vries

Updated: Dec 21, 2021


On today's episode titled Fireside Truths, Drew invites a special guest, Doug, onto

his podcast to interview him about his life growing up as well as where he is at now, how faith

played a significant role in his life, his love of nature and an important bonding moment he

recently shared with his son. Drew shares a powerful story about a spontaneous camping trip

he brought his son on.

His son was getting ready to start kindergarten and began to act a bit different. Drew believes that being outdoors and going on adventures is the best medicine. So, Drew and his son headed to Nordhouse Dunes National Lakeshore right near Lake Michigan. During their trip, they were able to see so many beautiful and exciting things together, such as wildlife and the glistening lake water, swim in the lake together, eat dinner together and set up an epic campsite with their tents and fire. At the fire that evening, Drew's son opened up to him about his anxieties and fears about starting school that Drew never knew he was experiencing.

That moment of vulnerability was the perfect moment for Drew to share the Gospel with his son and remind him that God is the lamp for his path and his Word will always be with him through the tribes and tribulations of the world. Drew and his son created a memorable trip that will stick with them forever. It really highlighted how healing spending time with your loved ones and in nature just disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of life can really help clear our minds and gain a better perspective on life. Tune in to hear the full story about Drew's life and this powerful story about a bonding moment between father and son.

Podcast Transcription:

Drew: Welcome to Adventure Deficit. Join me, your host Drew De Vries, as we expose the

valuable depths of the Outdoor Experience visit for our latest in short

stories, gear reviews and videos. Sign up for one of our trips and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. Adventure is medicine. Now, let's tune in for today's dose.

Drew: All right. So for today's show, I have a special twist to offer everybody. I'm going to switch seats with a friend of mine. He's going to interview me, and I'm going to share with all of you an adventure story from my past attached to a life lesson. So Doug, share with us a little bit about how you and I met and then I'm going to offer you an opportunity to trade places with me. Doug. How are you doing today?

Doug: Yeah, Drew really? Well. Thank you for the invitation by the way. It's great to be invited

into your house, into your studio here and to experience doing things like this. I get great

enjoyment out of things like this. Yeah, we met through Ada Bible Church and I think most

significantly, men's retreat weekends.

Drew: Yeah

Doug: And as my memory as you jogged at here, in the last minute, or so, Drummond, Island, seems to stand out because we've been on multiple trips like those with groups of men and just hearing each other's stories and really finding out what makes a man, the man that he is, is so incredibly, it's not just interesting, but it really helps us serve each other in a much deeper level. So, that's where we got acquainted. Then you came on board on staff at the East Paris campus there leading Men's Ministry. And yeah, what a joy, I mean, we had a great team there serving the guys. I know you love Men's Ministry, I do too. And so that's kind of how we got connected.

Drew: Just reflecting upon some of the growth that transpired, a lot of that took place by me

watching you and seeing how you interacted with all of your men, seeing how you consistently performed Your Role within the church there. And it's been a pleasure working with you.

Doug: Well, thank you Drew, it was a joy to work with you there.

Drew: Yeah.

Doug: And I'm really excited for you and this next step.

Drew: Yeah.

Doug: In terms of seeing what God's going to do as you reach a brand new audience.

Drew: Yeah.

Doug: And take I think a lot of the stuff that you've learned not only at Ada but through the

entirety of your life and saying, okay guys and and others not just men but hey, here's what we need to know. Here's what's really important.

Drew: So yeah, as I mentioned, Doug's going to change, change it up for us today. Doug is

briefed on our structure, on our format and he's going to go ahead and ask me all the questions

that you've heard me ask others. So I'm going to turn it over to him and we'll see how this goes.

Doug: All right Drew. Thank you. So you're going to in just a couple of minutes, tell us a pretty significant story. A story that has not only some interesting pieces to it as you narrate it. But most importantly, I think the life lessons that you've learned as a result of that story. We’ll get to that in a couple of minutes, but just give us some background. Let’s start with some of the basics. Where did you grow up? Kind of start early on, tell us a little bit about your family and we'll go from there.

Drew: Yeah, so I grew up in a family of five. It was my mom, my dad and then my two older

sisters. I was the third and we grew up in Jenison, not far from Grand Rapids and attended the Christian Schools. I was part of the Christian Reformed Church that was where my family

attended. So I was brought up with quite a bit of theology being a foundational portion of my education. Bible memory song, sing alongs, scripture reads, a lot of Bible classes intertwined in the K through 12, really, curriculum. Played a lot of sports. I really enjoyed soccer. That was kind of my bread and butter sport, but I also always had a knack for all things outdoor recreation. And when I say a knack, I had a natural aptitude for things like balance, for hand-eye coordination, for the things that would be required of outdoor disciplines where you had to make specific moves within a specific amount of time in order to avoid danger.

Doug: Did someone introduce the outdoors to you?

Drew: Yeah, I think by way of my natural propensity to go explore on my own, I ran into a love for hunting and fishing and that was nurtured by a stand-in grandfather that I had. So by the time I was five, both my paternal and my maternal grandfather had passed. So my dad took it upon himself to plug into one of his business mentors, who stepped into the role of Grandfather for me and Blake was an avid Outdoorsman, taught me how to fly fish, cast a fly rod shot, shoot both shotgun and Rimfire rifles. He showed me just kind of some of the basics of more that traditional hook and bullet type outdoor thing. Moving on from that, I also had a huge joy for things that we're dangerous. I always wanted to climb rocks. So on the pages of Outside Magazine, people who would be rock climbing on the granite faces in Yosemite, or yeah.

Doug: Yeah. I like to read about those people in magazines.

Drew: I would like to mimic them by taking soccer socks and belts of various sizes and shapes and fastening my own harnesses out of them and finding whatever rope was laying around in the garage and I can remember a time where my friends Steve and I actually we got in trouble because we were scaling his is home chimney. And my sister, my oldest sister who was babysitting us, had came up the drive and was going hysterical behind it, the windshield, and I remember holding on to the gaps between bricks and I could remember looking over my shoulder and thinking, oh, now I've done it, now I'm in trouble and my friend Steve had me on what we call ‘belay’, but I mean, it was really just a rudimentary version of what we could ever, you know, think safety might look like and it was entirely unsafe, but I remember him lowering me down and we got tongue lashing.

Doug: So really no chance of graduating from the chimney to say, El Capitan?

Drew: No, I think Alex Honnold got that role. But you know, what? What did graduate was my understanding of how door environments can shape masterful conversations, and masterful growth for both individuals and groups. So I actually majored in Recreation. Graduated from a four-year program with a community recreation degree. And in that program, I was exposed to some small group leadership theory and some outdoor, experiential outdoor, leadership principles that have really guided what is now Adventure Deficit. And just by the notion of getting

somebody away from all of the hustle and bustle of the world, you can get access to

somebody's heart. And it's, it's transpired in so many ways that I really believe there is.

Doug: So you graduated from college and then you got married and started your own family.

Tell us about your family.

Drew: So got married in 2009 to the woman to whom I'm married now, Evie, and we married

here in Grand Rapids and immediately transitioned to Denver to set up our rental home and

started finding a community. So we had five or seven families that we were very close with

during that time and enjoyed spending so much of that time outside. We hiked, we camped, we did some climbing, we skied almost nearly every weekend from December to April, we skied. Denver is such a wonderful place to call home base when you're near Summit County and we took every advantage to do that as much as we could. So I had a handful of jobs from that time that I would say, we're a distraction from what my passion was. And when I say that, I think it's just easy to come out and say it the way that I see it now rather than to try and drag you through all the confusion that was while I was in the middle of it. What I was chasing after Doug, was quite honestly, I wanted status and I wanted it to be made through my job title. I think growing up, I had a lot of modeling that was really quite exciting. I had some really exceptional models and a lot of them had sea level titles. That's when I thought I had to have in order to succeed in this world. So I found myself in a myriad of different industries and different entry-level roles and when I look at it now I can see so clearly what I was doing but then I just thought I just hadn't quite hit the right chemistry and I changed jobs nearly 10 times in 12 years from my graduation date until now. So I have been in automotive. I've been in Material Handling. I've been in Broad Line food distribution. I've tried experiential marketing, custom in-house fabrication. I have tried,

oh, I've done some roofing. I've done door-to-door sales. I have had enough experience in

industries that I care not to follow up in to know exactly what I'm not supposed to do. So, I will say that that string ended and I gained traction towards something that I would consider to be my calling in 2018. And that was when I had a friend and a mentor, pull me aside and say, listen, have you ever thought about ministering? And as a matter of fact, I had. And it was very clear to me that some things were lining up in such a way that they were beyond my control. And I just said, yes, Lord, I will. I will submit to this process in a way that if you'll have me useful within a

role in the church, I would delve into that gladly. And I had the privilege of working with Ada and you all for the last three years and that was such a joy, but it's become very clear to me now that I don't have to necessarily have a job inside of the church to bring God's gospel to the people who so desperately need it and so desperately want it.

Doug: So you and Evie are now married and you start your own family. Tell us about that.

Drew: So we had our oldest in 2012, a son. And I'm just going to, because of ages, I'm just

going to leave their names out, but our oldest is nine. We had him in 2012 in Denver. We

became pregnant in 2014 in Denver, and transitioned from Colorado, back to Michigan, to be closer to home in 2014. We started attending Ada Bible and our daughter who's now seven, was born in October of 2014. That was, that was right about the time, Doug, that I actually met you.That was right when I started attending men's groups at Ada Cascade.

Doug: Was that every man a warrior?

Drew: It was.

Doug: Yeah. Okay. Well, I remember that. Yeah.

Drew: And then, most recently, we had right before Covid broke out, we had our third and he's now approaching his second birthday.

Doug: Wow, so it goes quite fast, doesn't it?

Drew: It does, it does.

Doug: So with your three children now, you began to notice some things that needed to be

identified and dealt with with your oldest. And that really is the story. Take us there.

Drew: So this happened several years ago when my oldest was 6 and kindergarten was upon

him. It was late August and he was about to go full time into school and there were some

characteristics that he had developed that we could easily identify as being outside of the norm. And frankly, my wife and I just said, something's up. We’ve got to figure it out. How are we going to figure this out? And my background in Recreation has always led me to understand that if you want clarity, head to the woods. So I fashioned an impromptu proposal and he bit. He loved the idea. I said, hey, let's go to a camp spot that dad's heard of that's about 2 hours of a dry. We're going to camp by Lake Michigan and it'll be by this beach that nobody else has access to. We're

going to have to walk all of our gear into the campsite and he thought that was the coolest thing. So, we had about 2 hours to plan everything. The game plan was we're going to fill up our backpacks and head to Nordhouse Dunes National Lakeshore, which is right above Manistee. And we jumped in the car, loaded up the, you know, loaded up some snacks and put his pack together the way that you would for a six-year-old. So he had, you know, stuffed animals. We had a couple of card games. I think he had his favorite blankie and then his sleeping bag, and we put that in his school pack and called it his backpack. So I carried all the heavy stuff in the food, the tent, the provisions, and so on. But we jumped in the car headed to Grand Haven first. We had to stop for a burger at Ray's and they did not disappoint. So, with a belly full of burgers and greasy fries, we headed up to Nordhouse. Got to the Nuremberg parking lot and it was really a coin flip at this point whether or not we were going to head south or north and I had

never been there. I had just heard this place was amazing and I really wanted to go check it out.

And I knew that the trails weren't so long. So I didn't bother to map it out. I didn't have a

compass or GPS. I just kind of thought, you know what, I'll look at the sign board out front and we'll come up with a game plan. So that's what we did. We headed up the trailhead and after about an hour of walking through the woods. We had already created an epic adventure. It was so cool. We had seen five or seven deer, we saw a porcupine that was too close for me to be comfortable, but watching my son mesmerized by this beast full of quills clawing it's way up a tree, it was lovely.

Doug: Absolutely, isn’t it amazing how much bigger animals are in person?

Drew: They always surprise and I don't think that will ever go away, at least I hope it doesn't.

But at any rate, we saw all kinds of awesome wildlife and by the time dusk settled in and the

temperature started to drop a bit, I kind of started thinking, you know, we might not make it to this beachside campsite that I had in mind. Because to be honest, I had an epic vision of what this was going to look like and it just it wasn't happened in the way that I thought it was and I was trying not to put it dampener on the thing but I was prepared to settle and my son and I found a spot that was suitable. It was protected from the wind and it was, you know, shaded and there was adequate flat ground for putting a tent up, but it just wasn't quite what I was hoping for. So we had an opportunity to make a decision together and I kind of gave my son a bit of that decision. I said, well you want to push for epic or do you want to settle here? And he was all in for chasing after epic and boy am I glad he did because 15 minutes later, Doug, we saw the shimmering light coming off of the waves on the big lake and that was coming through all of the trees and the leaves. And from about that point on it was a dead sprint toward the water. And it was all I could do to keep up with, you know, a six-year-old just geeked on jumping into the cold, clear waters of Lake Michigan and I followed suit. So we splashed and played for 20 minutes and put some dinner together. I showed him how to put a backpacking meal together out of a bag and I probably ate way more than I should have of backpacker’s pantry. Only beef stroganoff out of a bag tastes good and in the woods and when it tastes good and you're hungry,

you eat far more than you need to. So we had a lot of just memorable moments, but I will say, Doug, the most memorable was when we packed up dinner, we cleaned up and we started a little fire there within view of the water and the sun was as low as the sun could be where you just know you've got, you know, 30 seconds before it's gone. And the topic of school came up and while we stared into that fire, my son opened up and spilled all kinds of fears and reservations that I had no idea he was holding onto. On some level it broke my heart, but on another level it was so affirming of what we were doing. And I learned quickly that he was just nervous. He was nervous about what bus he was going to get on, where he was going to eat lunch, how the whole bathroom situation would work out and I learned at that moment that my son's a bit of a control enthusiast.

Doug: Yeah.

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Drew: So, there was a moment for me to speak some of my fears toward him and come full

circle. I was nervous about a job that I was about to start with a church that was interested in

hiring me, as a pastor and I had never served as a pastor and that brought a whole lot of

unknowns. So together, over the course of an hour, we sat and shared our worries together and it was really, really special. There was some really cool bonding that went on during that time. It was an opportunity to bring scripture into it, Doug. We turned into God's word together and I know for the listeners here, who are believers, you can understand how incredibly impactful this was and if you're if you're listening today and you're not sure about how special this is, or you have any questions about God's word, feel free to hit me up afterwards and we'll have a discussion. But this was, this was a time for us to dig into the Psalms and we zeroed in a Psalm of David that said by word, It's a lamp, it's a light unto our path and I want, I so sincerely want, my son to know that the trials and the tribulations of this world will continue to keep him where he was at that moment, nervous, scared, apprehensive. I want him to always know that you can turn back to God's work and it will serve him as a lamp for his path. It is trustworthy and it is true

and it was true for David then and it's true for us today. So as a momento, I had an opportunity to just to speak some scriptural truth to my son and then gave him the headlamp that I was using to just kind of seal the deal and he keeps that today. It's kind of cute. He keeps it in his desk by his bed, and I hope that that's a memory that sticks with him forever.

Doug: Well, I'm sure that it will, no question about that. Drew, several things kind of stand out in this story to me and maybe take, you know, just 45 seconds to a minute on each one. And the first is the power of the outdoors and getting away from the extremely hectic schedules that we all lead.

Drew: Oh yeah. So, it's not lost on you, Doug, that we live in a fast world, the world's faster than it's ever been. We have access to more information on more platforms than any other time in history and it causes us to be incredibly productive. And on the flip side, it causes us stress. There's more anxiety, and more depression now amongst teens than there ever has been. I wouldn't say it stops there. My peer group is very very much similarly affected. I think it's hidden better. I think it's coped with, but truly, I think a lot of us are hiding behind packed schedules. And I have always found that the outdoors offers us enough to strip all of that away. And by that, I mean, you're not worried about a conference call, that's going to start in 30 minutes, if you're hungry and sweaty and you're not sure where camp is. The only thing you have on your mind in that moment is one foot in front of the other and you don't have much more outside of that and it just carries on. On and on and on. And once you get camp set up, your next priority is, okay, what am I going to do with a kitchen? I gotta set up a kitchen. Okay, once your kitchen is set up, you've got to figure out your bedding. Once you get your bedding figured out, you got to figure

out clothes. How am I going to access my clothes without ruining the system that I'm envisioning here. Like, do I put my underwear down at the bottom of my bag or do I put my underwear at the top of my bag? Where are my toiletries going to be? You just, your world gets small. And sometimes I think that's really, really restorative. Not to mention, that's not even including the grandeur, the things that we saw on our way to that campsite were magnificent. We got to see God's handiwork in his flora, in his fauna. We saw a raccoon the size of a bear cub, mushrooms with colors that I haven't seen. The big lake, that's art. The sun setting over a fresh water ocean while you and your six-year-old enjoy dinner out of a bag, it might as well be a five-star dinner at a high dollar resort because that's the experience you get.

Doug: I heard a couple of other things that I think are pretty important. One, you didn't spend a whole lot of time planning this; everything didn't have to be perfect for you to put this together very quickly. And then, secondly, I'm overwhelmed a bit by the spontaneity that you guys experienced. Everything wasn't all planned out.

Drew: So, that's a double-edged sword. And in today's world, I have paid a hefty price for

forging my life around a loosely held schedule. It doesn't bode well in a corporate setting for

sure. And I think that was some of my struggle early on to be honest. On the flip side, I can

assure you that that would not have happened without some spontaneity. That moment of

connection between my son and I, which is paying lifelong dividends, would not have happened had I not had the presence of mind to say this matters. I'm going to present a reactive response to this and I'm going to become free for the next 24 hours to pay attention to what matters most.

Some call that spontaneity, I call that being a good dad in that moment and I don't want to make it sound like I get that right every time because I certainly don't. But in that moment, things aligned in a way where I go that is impossible to have without having some flexibility within a schedule. So spontaneous, yes, I think there are times also where you need to understand that,

I wouldn't go blind side into a situation that would put me or my son into harm and some of my background gives me the confidence to move into that space spontaneously. Nearness to home and familiarity with similar terrain, spending a night in the woods is nothing new to me. And it's very comfortable for me and dealing with, you know, figuring out how to go to the bathroom, in the middle of the night with, with no toilet, that's all navigable.

Doug: So what I hear you saying is that you're really comfortable, for example, wrestling with

raccoons, should you need to do that.

Drew: That, that is not true, but absolutely wrestling with a tent. Yeah, you bet you bet.

Doug: Let me ask you, one more thing here that I think is pretty significant about your story. And that is how you concluded it with the power of just gathering around a small campfire and the opportunity for conversation that I think you're never would have happened outside of that environment.

Drew: Yeah, of all the things that I just shared, I think the simplest piece and as matter of fact,

I'm going to call this the life lesson is this: Fires are cathartic. I don't care where you are. If

you're in your backyard, or if you are at a retreat center, or if you're at a day camp, or if you are in some off-the-grid locale. Staring into a bed of coals with those closest to you invokes some of the most sincere, authentic conversation I've ever been a part of. And I think that was an integral role of the growth that transpired with my son and I. Just staring into the coals of a simple fire with one other individual here's nothing else to talk about except one another.

Doug: Powerful, powerful stuff real quick. As you plan this and put it together very quickly, one or two items that you would say are absolutely essential to make a journey like this a success.

Drew: Yeah. Got to have a tent. Tents are pretty optional for a handful of the ultralight zealots. If you're going to be camping with a youngster, they need to feel a sense of security. You've got to be able to provide that and a tent will do that. So get yourself a quality tent. A two-person is fine, a three-person if you're a family, but I would say that's an integral part. Keep it under five pounds. Anything over that, keep it around five pounds I should say, anything over that becomes cumbersome and takes up too much room and you have to have a solid internal or external framed backpack. If you don't, it's really tough to carry the amount of gear that you're going to need into that type of environment safely and balanced. As for your kid, anything goes. A Jansport or a Nike or an Oakley bag that they take to school.

Doug: A couple of stuffed animals.

Drew: You better believe it. Yeah. Don't skip on comfort, you know, make sure that they have

that security blanket or that game that you play at home. Bring some sort of comfort from homeso that they can feel, you know, feel secure. But yeah, you don't have to, you don't have to overdo it for gear. It's pretty simple. So a backpack with a frame on it, a quality tent and then sleeping bags.

Doug: Andrew. Thank you. Great story, powerful story. Some amazing lessons from a quickly

planned weekend getaway with your son, a tent, a few supplies and a couple of teddy bears.

There you go.

Drew: You got it. Hey Doug, masterful job with the interview. Hey, if you guys are interested in checking out, there you'll find show notes for today's show. You'll also find some new offerings on the website. We have guided trips and we also have skills workshops for you local listeners, where we're going to be putting together some group meetups and bring in some local retailers and experts into the mix. We will be kayaking and some fly fishing and some mountain biking and so on. So,, read our short stories, check out our gear reviews and as always support us by listening to our podcasts. So, Doug, thank you again. It was a pleasure being with you today. And yeah, it's just, it's been a joy.

Doug: Thanks Drew, so much. I've enjoyed it a lot. We'll see you soon.

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