TRAIL Ministries promotes deep discussion and love of nature
Escape. Reflect. Explore.
From trekking through the heart of the alpine wilderness to studying Scripture with friends, TRAIL Ministries aims to provide a safe space for students to grapple with life’s questions.
TRAIL Ministries is a non-profit organization based in Cleveland. The Outpost, the ministry’s college discipleship program, is led by executive director of TRAIL Chachi Avirett.
“College is a place where you’re told a lot of things, and Outpost is a place to ask questions, find truth though Gospel and in community with other students,” Avirett said. “There’s more to what we do than simply backpacking.”
Avirett was molded into an outdoor lover as a kid. Growing up in Georgia, he had a thousand-acre farm behind his house to explore and discover.
“It was instilled in me early on to find Jesus in the outdoors,” Avirett said. “The woods were my escape, and there was a lot of rescue for me. When we started doing TRAIL, that was the offering. Come disconnect. Find rest. Find peace.”
Avirett explained that, through backpacking and fishing trips, students can experience adventure together while growing in relationships and their spiritual life.
The Outpost hosts four trips for students per semester in the Southeast region. Each trip leaves on a Friday after classes and returns Sunday afternoon. The group hikes, sets up camp, cooks food and enjoys conversations around the fire while learning valuable outdoor skills.
Sophomore business major Tyler Massey had an unconventional start to college but said he ultimately chose to go to Lee because of ministries like the Outpost.
Out of high school, Massey got signed to play baseball professionally and rose through the ranks of the minor leagues for nine years. An injury led to missing part of the season, and he couldn’t re-sign.
“God kind of said, ‘That season of your life is over,’ and I was ready to turn the page. So I decided to come back to school,” Massey said. “Before I came to Lee, I went out west with TRAIL, and I knew I wanted to be a part of this ministry that combines the outdoors with discipleship.”
Like Chachi Avirett, Massey found the outdoors to be a sense of solitude away from the demands of life.
“When I wasn’t doing sports, I was doing something outside like hiking and fly fishing. It was kind of my escape from sports—something I could do just for fun—and there was no pressure involved,” Massey said.
Massey became a full-time staff member at TRAIL as Backcountry Guide and a male discipleship leader.
Apart from weekly Wednesday night meetings, the Outpost also breaks off into smaller groups that meet throughout the week. These small groups are composed exclusively of either guys or girls, and the content is tailored to relevant topics, such as porn, fear, hope and other issues.
Avirett said the goal of TRAIL is to get people comfortable through the trips so they feel they can open up and talk about difficult subjects in a safe place.
Massey discovered the bonding power of shared experience though a TRAIL trip to the Tetons last summer.
“There’s a camaraderie that comes with it,” Massey said. “You get to know someone on a deeper level when you’re in the backcountry with them. All your real emotions come out, and you can’t have a wall up anymore.”
Junior biology major Joelle Ciriacy said her passion for the outdoors and environmental issues led her to know TRAIL was an ideal fit for her.
“As a freshman, I wanted a community of people I could go hiking with and have those experiences with, and I didn’t have a car,” Ciriacy said. “TRAIL filled that role, but since then, it’s taken a greater role than that.”
Ciriacy said she found the trips were crucial to her opening up to the group initially.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to people and entering into an intentional community unless I had spent time with them outside that setting,” Ciriacy said. “I think it really opens the door to a deeper community.”
Since last semester, Ciriacy has been a trip leader and small group leader for TRAIL. The trip leaders are qualified students appointed to make sure the trip goes smoothly.
Avirett’s hope for the ministry is to help people navigate the wilderness—in the mountains and in the soul.
“When people think of wilderness, they define it as this place we go to. How we define it is this place everyone carries with them,” Avirett said. “You have wilderness places in your mind about certain things—the Gospel, who Jesus is, who God is. We’re helping people navigate those places, whether in the backcountry or Bible study.”
Membership to the Outpost costs $50 per semester and includes access to two of the four trips offered each semester with food and gear provided. The Outpost meets on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.