Put Up or Shut UpBy Daniel Morrill '13 Published: Mar 28, 2013
That’s what ’09 grad Justin Smith says his time in New Zealand and Alaska made him do, when he spent his days walking on treacherous glaciers and his nights as the only Christian in a group of people who shared neither his beliefs or his lifestyle.
“You can be anywhere in the world and the Lord is with you just as much,” Smith said. “When the majority of people you’re surrounded by don’t believe what you do, it makes you prove yourself. It makes you make daily decisions that will either take you closer to Jesus or push you further away.”
As you might expect, the year and a half Smith spent as a glacier tour guide was quite a change from his time in the Taylor community. While in Upland, he was a discipleship coordinator in Wengatz Hall, majored in Biblical Literature and played soccer for four years. But after graduation he was looking for something new.
“Kind of wanted to get out and explore a little bit and just give back,” Smith said. “You get poured into so much at Taylor, which is just a beautiful thing, but I really had the desire to get out and put some of that to work.
That desire was what led Smith to get a job with a glacier guiding organization on New Zealand’s South Island. After two months of rigorous safety training, Smith was leading groups through deep crevasses and around 90 feet deep holes in the ice. While he says he never felt a calling to start guiding in the first place, he found that he could use his work to reach both tourists and those he worked with.
“When climbing, you get to a point where it’s humbling because you realize that your body can only take you so far,” Smith said. “And when you’re in such stunning surroundings, it has got to point to something greater. At least it does in my mind. I just love having the opportunity to use that to point people to the Lord.”
After long days of leading dangerous tours, some of Smith's fellow guides would engage in activities that Smith's faith kept him from joining; but he said it provided more opportunities to introduce people to Jesus.
“I love having the opportunity to be around the guiding culture because there are a lot of people who are searching.” Smith said. “Guys would just ask questions. They would be curious about why you lived your life the way you did. I really had some pretty cool opportunities to talk with guys about why Jesus is the most important thing in my life, and why that is so much better. There’s a bunch of stuff that you don’t do, but it is the most fulfilling thing you could ever do.”
When his year in New Zealand was up, Smith found himself headed for Alaska where he became a guide on the Davidson Glacier. The guiding culture in Alaska was similar to New Zealand’s. Smith had plenty of chances to share Christ, but daily he was confronted with opportunities that could tear him away from his faith.
“You could really do whatever you wanted,” Smith said. “It didn’t matter what I got up to, it would probably never get home. But that didn’t matter because when I sat down at the end of the day, the Lord knew everything that went on. That intimacy is what I was pursuing. The gospel is a simple story, but sometimes it’s difficult to grasp. But if we literally believe that Jesus was who He said He was, and did what the Bible says He did, then that changes everything.”
Put up or shut up. Which will you choose?