A Journey to the Heart
Would you say that you have a dynamic walk with the Lord? Do you have a deep inner desire to really meet with God? Do you sometimes fear that you have you lost your first love for God? These are the kinds of questions that we all should ask of ourselves regularly, but it is especially important for youth as they establish direction for their lives. Many such issues have been addressed and resolved in the lives of the young people who have embarked on a Journey to the Heart.
Wolf Lake is a powerful setting in which to meet God. Located in the middle of the 2,500-acre Northwoods Conference Center, it is surrounded by thousands of acres of Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is a pristine northern lake, mirroring pines and birches during the day and countless stars at night. In the cool of an autumn evening one can look out over Wolf Lake and pick out the North Star, listen to the lyrical call of the loons, and sometimes even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This is the setting for a Journey to the Heart.
In November of 2006, God placed on Bill Gothard’s heart a burden for young people to go on a journey and examine the spiritual condition of their hearts. Drawing on 50 years of experience in youth work, he began developing material that would help young people deepen their love for God. That month he sent a small team of high school and college-age young people to the Northwoods Conference Center to spend a full week seeking the Lord together. They returned excited about what God had done in their lives and with further ideas to focus and refine the experience for others.
From November through January, many hours were spent writing an extensive syllabus and journal that takes a person through a study of the major heart conditions God speaks of in the Bible. Since then over 100 young people ages 13–30 have experienced weeklong Journeys to the Heart. The work of God in the lives of the young men and women has been thrilling. Here are just a few examples:
John Pleckham, age 23, shares what happened in his life: “… The Lord showed me that I had allowed my heart to become hard and calloused. He made my heart soft again, and gave me a new desire to serve Him.”
Another young man, Chad Paine, age 19, was at a loss for words. “It is very hard to describe the time that I spent up at the Northwoods during the Journey to the Heart. It was a “Bethel” experience for me (see Genesis 28:16, 17). God met me there in a powerful and real way that I will not forget. It caused a hunger and thirst for God to be renewed within me.”
Explaining the transformation that happened in her life, Hannah Pierpont, age 17, writes, “[The Lord] really changed my life. He really convicted me of some sins I needed to confess that have been in my life since I was very young. Then the Lord really came down on all of us. … I felt the love of God stronger than ever before in my life. All I want to do now is live for the Lord and love Him with all my heart, all my life.”
What is a Journey to the Heart?
A Journey to the Heart is a ten-day experience for a dozen young men or young women who are serious about enjoying true life. The teams meet at the Institute in Basic Life Principles Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois for orientation and special training that is usually led by Bill Gothard. After the two-day orientation, the groups travel to the idyllic beauty of the Northwoods.
During the week each team lives in a house located on Wolf Lake where they concentrate on examining the condition of their hearts. Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, the setting provides a peaceful place for pursuing God.
Why is it powerful?
As we have evaluated the dynamic of the Journey to the Heart, we have asked ourselves, “What factors make it such a powerful experience?”
The Power of Allowing God to Examine Our Hearts With His Word
A significant amount of time is given each day for quiet self-examination before God. This is done individually with Bible in hand, using the syllabus as a tool to consider the true condition of the heart. After time alone with the Lord, the group gathers for discussion about what each member has learned, concluding with a time of prayer that involves confession and consecration of themselves to the Lord.
The Power of Delighting in the Lord
The Journey is not a recreational retreat with devotions added on. There is no entertainment element. It is a time of silence, reflection, solitude, and singular seeking of the Lord. It is a week of learning what it means to delight in the Lord. It is a week to experience affections for God. One full day is spent concentrating specifically on delighting in the Lord and enjoying fellowship with Him.
The Power of Being of “One Accord”
The Holy Spirit is present with greater power when believers gather together and seek the Lord with one accord. This has been experienced by those who have participated on the Journey. Participants are living together, eating together, praying together, openly sharing their hurts, hopes, and failures together, and agreeing to seriously seek the Lord together. God has been blessing this by manifesting His presence. This has resulted in a strong desire to connect with parents, clear past offenses, live openly and honestly, and forsake the world’s influences.
The Power of Taking Time to Be Holy
One of the reasons God is blessing the Journeys to the Heart is that the groups are taking time to seek the Lord. How many times in your life have you taken 10 full days and given them in singular concentration on the Lord? How many times have you found 11 other people to do that with you? Taking the time to earnestly pursue God has contributed to making the Journey a life-changing experience for many who have participated.
The Power of Sacrifice
The rewards of a Journey to the Heart do not come without a cost. Each command that Christ gave comes with a cross. To follow Christ we die to ourselves and take up our cross daily. It takes time and requires humility to be honest with the Lord, but God is honored when people surrender themselves to Him as living sacrifices.
Ken Pierpont works with Bill Gothard to direct the Journey to the Heart experience and shares, “What I want to see happen on the Journey is for young men and young women to get a taste, an experience of holy affections. When they have done that they will never be satisfied with the world again.”
Young people need to have as their foundation a whole-hearted love for God. This is the burden of Bill Gothard, who says, “I want to see every young person go on a Journey to the Heart and come back a changed person—come back loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
For more information and to apply for a Journey to the Heart, visit iblp.org/journeytotheheart.