Some of life’s most important lessons aren’t learned in a traditional classroom. For the past 30 years, thousands of Gordon students have participated in either a La Vida Adirondack expedition (a 12-day backpacking trip) or Discovery (a seven-week outdoor activities course). Depending on which route students take, they can learn to put up a bear bag, hike with a canoe on their shoulders, walk the tightrope on a high ropes course, tell their life story or spend 56 hours in fasting and solitude, listening for God’s still small voice. As one can imagine, these adventures cultivate a unique camaraderie among Gordon students of past and present.

Last year to celebrate these shared experiences, Taylor Bradford ’19, Emma Cox ’19 and La Vida Founder Rich Obenschain started “Black Fly,” an oral storytelling event based off of PRX’s Moth Radio Hour. In lieu of a moth, the event is humorously named after a biting fly that many La Vida and Discovery participants encounter in the New England wilderness—a relatable symbol that represents the trials, big and small, faced on the trail.

“Black Fly was started to share, archive and continue conversations about experiential education,” Taylor said. “Through wilderness trips, we have shared experiences. That is a valuable thing. We can share how the trips changed us personally or what we learned from them.”

This year, as part of the second annual Black Fly event, five storytellers had the chance to tell a five-minute story and win a free Sea to Summit double hammock. The hammock went to Carissa Brown ’22 who told a story about how her experiences on La Vida challenged her to call a family member she hadn’t spoken to in seven years.

From the five stories, a common theme emerged: lessons learned in the woods aren’t intellectual; they are relational. The woods, in providing an unfamiliar territory, gave each person a heightened sense not only of their physical surroundings and limits, but of their interior lives and the areas for spiritual growth.

“My hope is that people walked away from the Black Fly storytelling event feeling united,” Bradford said. ‘My hope is . . . for this to be a place where the community can come together and hear how God uses our wilderness experiences to demonstrate his provision, love and encouragement to every person.”

Listen to a few of the Black Fly stories.