How men in Slovenia are combining hiking and spiritual growth
By Jayna Richardson
“The decision to do something about myself and my relationship with God marked a turning point in my life and declared war on a passive life.” This was a comment from one of the men who participated in a prayer hike in Slovenia. These prayer hikes are a chance for men to read God’s word, pray, and discuss topics specific to men, such as being a husband and father, all while enjoying the beautiful Slovenian countryside and forming bonds with one another.
In a country of only about two million inhabitants, Family and Life (the Slovenian partner of FamilyLife US) has 270 permanent marriage small groups that meet regularly. Family and Life began organizing prayer hikes last spring, and most of the interest has been from men who are already involved in the marriage groups. The hikes have caught on as more and more men are discovering the effectiveness of taking time away together to grow in their faith as they attempt a physically challenging march.
The hikes are usually around 30-40 km (about 18-25 miles) long and can include significant elevation change. For this reason, the Family and Life team encourages men to be physically and mentally fit for the challenge prior to signing up.
The difficulty of the hikes allows the men to draw parallels to their own lives. “We believe that a man must be ready to withstand the physical and mental pressures of today’s times, while at the same time he must be in a constant relationship with God,” says Family and Life leader Benjamin Siter. “We are building husbands who will stay in families regardless of the hardships that will come.”
During the hike, the men discuss topics such as loving their wives, the trials and temptations faced by men, a husband’s role, and being a leader. They pray for their families, churches, and country. Each hike is limited to a maximum of twelve men so that they have a chance to get to know each other and share openly. One participant shared, “Every step along the way became easier, the relations between the husbands more genuine (regardless of whether we had just met for the first time), and Slovenian nature became more and more beautiful.”
“The hike was something I had wanted to do for a long time,” said another of the men who went on a hike earlier this year. Even though he started out not knowing most of the other men in his group, by the end of the hike, “It felt like we had known each other forever… I was enjoying the hike so much that I didn’t even notice when we reached our destination.”
The positive responses show that many men are eager for opportunities to connect with other men and grow in their faith. The journey can be strenuous, but focusing on God and traveling with trustworthy companions can make all the difference.