DTS in the Wild


Students were blindfolded for the first part of the trip.

It all started with a kidnapping.

And then an hour-and-a-half van ride, blindfolded, to a tiny town in northern Wisconsin.

All the DTS students had were the clothes on their backs and a few essentials in their bags. To pass the time in the van, they sang silly camp songs. But that silly, giddy feeling sure faded fast. They were let out in the rain and told to jog to their campsite – 1.6 miles away.

Katie on the 1.6 mile jog

Katie on the 1.6 mile jog

The DTS was in Mauston, WI for a weekend of tough wilderness survival, teambuilding, and leadership training.

Breathless and tired after the jog, the team split into groups of threes to walk through a minefield. One leader in group would lead the rest of their blind-folded team through a maze of dead branches. If someone hit a branch, the whole team had to go back to the start.

There weren’t too many casualties after the minefield, so the class was split into two camps and told to go find their food for the night. Their food was tied to balloons that had been hidden in trees and other unusual places. Once they ate their “fill” they set up camp and dug latrines.

It was still raining and cold, so they were happy to get under the tarps (no tents). By that time, it was getting late. The rain didn’t let up and everyone was tired.

“You have to build a campfire,” James C told both teams. “This has to be done before you can go to bed.”

YWAM Madison DTS - wilderness photo - minefields

Sebastian and team are guided past a “minefield”

So with wet firewood and whatever they could find for kindling, both camps tried to start a fire. They had added incentive—more hot dinner—if they were first ones to get a flame going.

By the time both camps’ fires warmed them up everyone was exhausted and “looking forward” to a night of sleeping under the stars.

Just as the teams were snuggled in their sleeping bags and dreaming of warm beds and pillows, they were rudely awakened.

YWAM Madison DTS - wilderness food

Jamie reaches for dinner – attached to a water balloon

“Wake up! Time to move camp!” shouted James. He nudged a few stragglers awake. “Fill in your latrines, we’re relocating.”

The campers trudged through the forest to their new campground, strung the tarp over their sleeping mats and zero-degree bags, and then dug a new set of latrines. They didn’t have to start a fire again and fell fast asleep as soon as their heads hit the ground. (Pillows weren’t on the packing list.)

Once the sun came up, there was no more sleeping. Teams again had to forage for their food – more plastic bags of granola tied to balloons and hidden on the four-acre hunting grounds.

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Evynn and Katie

The next activity was a river crossing. The goal: to cross a thirty-foot wide river without getting wet, and then find the missing staff person (Leah) on the other side. The first team to find Leah would get a hot lunch.

Both teams learned how to work together. They hauled logs and placed them in the river, building a dam like beavers. It took two hours before the first team made it across. Some used walking sticks to steady themselves as they crossed. Others walked like it was a tightrope.

YWAM Madison DTS - wilderness

Team 1 stops to enjoy “dinner”

The grueling weekend ended on a positive note. Despite the physical hardships and exhaustion, the teams had a time to worship and thank God at the end. Warm in a cabin on the property, they shared about the physical challenges and triumphs. They learned how to trust each other, how to receive encouragement and help. They apologized to each other for bad attitudes and warmly accepted each other for who they were—flaws and all.

“I was challenged to give God my best,” said Katie. “The challenges gave me opportunities to work out things I had been asking God for—like patience.  It was a time of letting God work on me and changing the core of me – not just my actions but my heart attitude.”

YWAM Madison DTS - wilderness - river crossing

Team 2 crosses the river on a makeshift bridge.

Talasi shared, “I realized I just had to overcome.  It was that simple.  [This weekend] gave me hope to take on the obstacles in my life.”

Needless to say, the kidnapped team was more grateful than ever for their bunk beds back at the YWAM Training Center. And they’re stronger, closer, and excited to take on whatever future challenges might come their way.