Head-First Heroism

Cypress branches with knotted caution tape marked the trail, but we hardly needed blazes now. After so many trips down this particular path, we knew the way―the waterfall hike had become routine for all of us on Summer Staff. We lead every work team to the waterfall. Some groups fared better than others. One thing was for sure: the “success” of this hike was always more dependent upon attitude than physical ability. This group was challenged by both.


From upriver I watched them hike in, surging over the rocks and approaching the waterfall with excitement. Almost immediately, the boys located the route  through the water to the jumping point. Before I could even set my camera, half the team had taken the leap. I watched another girl scale the rock easily, and I paused for a moment to adjust the aperture before snapping her picture. That’s when I heard the leader shouting behind me:


“She won’t jump!”


Atop the jumping point stood the young woman, tear-stained, shaking and rooted to where she stood. A barrage of instructions shouted from below increased the intensity of her panic and echoed throughout the canyon. At this point, it was evident the leader knew his kid well: she flat out refused to jump. Several friends from below scouted routes for a downward climb, but an attempted descent of the rock face would be far more dangerous than a jump into the plunge pool. To jump was her only option.


Moving towards the water with heroic gusto, I heard myself mutter, “I’ll go!” envisioning the dramatic retelling of what I was about to do.


But my entry wasn’t graceful. Instead, I face planted into the water. With one last brave step towards the water, I slipped, splashing down on my face, knees and elbows scraping the rocky bottom below. The current swept me towards the walls of the cavern and the rock felt like ice against my back. Haley, our lifeguard, groaned at my failed rescue attempt and I laughed out loud at my own clumsiness.


After several bouts of laughter and a quick recovery, I swam across and climbed easily to the jumping point. I prayed with Jillian and we laughed at my lame jokes to forget the distance that loomed beneath us. On the third count, she leapt with the full force of someone about to conquer a fear, pulling me down unexpectedly into the water with her. This was my second face plant of the day, but I received it with joy.



This “salvation story” speaks to the mindset in which I have so often come in to missions work. I jump in with two feet, the hope of salvation hot on my heels, desperately wanting to rescue someone. What I am learning is this: God doesn’t need our help in accomplishing His work, but He delights in allowing us to participate in it. Think of it like a cosmic Take-Your-Kid-To-Work Day, when your dad’s job is to run the universe. I have full confidence that the Lord could have scooped Jillian off that rock and floated her down to safety. But when I landed face-first into the swirling waters beneath the waterfall, the Lord reminded me that I am not the hero of this girl’s story, He is. By his grace I was given the opportunity to be with Jillian waist-deep in fear and 12 feet in the air, to do nothing but love her.


So then, Christian brothers, because of all this, be strong.Do not allow anyone to change your mind. Always do your work well for the Lord. You know that whatever you do for Him will not be wasted.”

— 1 Corinthians 15:58:

pico escondido blog post


— Written by Katherine Bell, Pico Escondido Video Intern —



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