Excerpt from “The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906”

The following is a short passage from my recently published Kindle book, The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906; these memoirs are a fictional set of adventure stories written from the perspective of John Wesley Bresee at the changing of centuries. If you go to the Amazon Kindle store, you’ll find this excerpt in the book’s free preview.

“I jerked awake; I had no idea how long I had dozed off. The rain must have put me to sleep. But there I was, my back still against the tree, knees scrunched against my chest and my arms wrapped around them, sitting in a thick nasty mud and surrounded by darkness. What woke me up? I heard the sound again – a faint screech in the distance, almost like a baby crying. Was that the jaguar that Pedro warned me about? I remember hearing stories from the west; people said that a mountain lion’s cry sounded like a child weeping in the night. I stood up and remembered that I needed to go uphill if I were to make it back to camp, Pedro’s warning that the jaguar was a nocturnal hunter in the back of my mind. Fortunately, the rain had finally stopped and I was only surrounded by a thin, rising mist.

“After an hour of forcing my way through the thick undergrowth, I realized that I should have made it to the river by that time. I tried to shake the inevitable feeling that I was lost, but it was slowly sinking in. I had gone in the wrong direction. I decided to wait until the sun rose before moving again. Being able to see my surroundings would help me figure out where to go.

“A few hours later first light hit the canopy and began to slowly burn off the misty haze that grew during the darkness. Looking around, I did not recognize anything. I was a complete mess too. My pants, along with my shirt, had been torn in multiple places, and there was dirt all over me. Trying to moving my right arm, I only felt a burning sensation on my shoulder. Looking at it, I must have cut it on something pretty badly during the night. In the back of my mind I held out hope that it might heal without becoming infected, but I knew that would not be the case.

“What a night! I had hoped that when I woke up I would be back in the tent with my friends and that all this would have been one bad dream, but that was not the case. It was a horrible night and now I had to deal with it. I prayed to God for some kind of miracle.

“Even though my compass was long gone, I could still get at least the cardinal directions by looking at the sun. It might be my last hope of figuring out some way to get back to the river and returning to Pedro and my fellow missionaries.

“I wandered the Amazon rainforest for what ended up being a week, although it seemed much longer than that, before I made any type of human contact. The cut on my shoulder only got worse and became infected. Puss filled boils formed around the cut after my second day on my own. By the third day I felt illness taking control of my body and my mind. I wrestled with thoughts of what might have happened to Pedro and the missionaries. Somehow I expected that Pedro and the other missionaries searched for me, but I was hopelessly lost nonetheless. I hoped that my friends would make it to the Sewinga tribe and that they would welcome them peacefully. On the fifth day I was drifting in and out of consciousness and wandering aimlessly around the jungle when I had the strength to walk. That was the last day I remember.

“From the bits and pieces of the story I was able to put together, it was most likely May 30 when I first made contact with the Tuhghu. In actuality, they found me. In one of my few lucid moments, I remember leaning against a tree, barely half awake, when a young woman threw a stick at me. She probably wanted to see if I was alive. Judging on how I must have looked, I do not blame her. By then my right arm had become completely immobile. I thought for sure it would have to be amputated just like they amputated my father’s leg. I prayed for mercy from God. Mercy came in the form of this young woman, barely clothed and barely five feet tall. She had finally made her way to me; she began shaking me and speaking a language I did not recognize. That was the last moment I remember.”

Enjoying The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906 so far? Download the entire book for your Kindle or Kindle app for only $5.99: http://www.amazon.com/The-Memoirs-J-W-Bresee-ebook/dp/B008LWHB60/

the degradation of the term “adventure”

These days people are labeling anything and everything as an “adventure.” I know some people who would term a trip to the local grocery store, coffee shop, or city park as an “adventure.” Quite honestly, it’s pathetic. One might be able to get away with calling trips like these adventures only after the fact, and only if something unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring occurred somewhere in the timeline of the trip.

In a fast-paced and over-stimulated world, where nearly every minute of our days are planned and there is not much room for error, we have lost much of any sense of adventure. Moreover, we make contingency plans for every possibility. Finally, with the rapid advancement and proliferation of technology, there seems to be less that can go wrong each day. Perhaps this is the reason we have an over-zealous thirst for labeling mundane everyday activities as adventurous.

I recently watched Stephen Auerbach’s documentary “Bicycle Dreams” about the 2005 Race Across America, one of the most difficult races in the world. One of the cyclists, Chris MacDonald, discusses how people describe a sense of something missing in their lives, yet they do not know what it is that is missing. An element of the unknown is a critical component of adventure. This may be one reason why people enter events like the Race Across America. Whether I realize it or not, it is probably one of the reasons I enter endurance paddling races such as the Missouri River 340. We are searching for the opportunity and courage to face an unknown that has been replaced by the comfort, stability, and safety of a posh American lifestyle.

As a result of our safe and stable lives, it is increasingly hard to find an endeavor that is definitively an adventure. As Scott and Shackleton planned their Antarctic expeditions over a century ago, there was certainly a greater possibility and fear of the unknown than there might be on similar expeditions today. While anyone going on any type of trip has an obligation to do their best to mitigate the risks, there are some endeavors where a great unknown is an unavoidable fact hovering above them, as in the case of a soldier deploying to a foreign country. When we have the courage to leave the safety and comfort of our personal worlds behind, it is at that point when we can truly begin to call something an adventure.

Perhaps the greatest adventure any of us can go on, in the truest sense of the word, is to completely devote our lives to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old and New Testaments are filled with people who have ventured out from the safety of their personal worlds out of obedience to God. Through courage and faith in God, David not only conquered the fear of physical danger but also the fear of the unknown. In the New Testament, in addition to being shipwrecked and being bitten by a venomous snake, Paul faced persecution continuously for his belief in Christ. When we make a commitment to following God, the unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring are guaranteed to happen.

There is certainly an element of the unknown when we devote our lives to Christ. We may not exactly know the direction of our lives all of the time. We may be sent as missionaries to foreign lands. We may even face the physical peril of persecution and poverty. But despite everything that may challenge our commitment to Christ, God does give at least one comfort in the adventure of a true Christian life: we can take refuge in the faith and knowledge of God. We have the knowledge that in the end, the unknown of this adventure will not be for nothing, but rather it will be for the hope, love, and salvation of Christ. Until then, it is our responsibility to live as an example of Christ to a world that is searching and struggling through their own elements of the unknown.