Updates to Wilderness Trek Staff
Thank you, Michael Bennett, for your seasons of service!
It is with a joyful, yet heavy heart and immense gratitude to this amazing organization that I share that I will be stepping down as Director of Operations with Wilderness Trek. This past Spring my wife Erin and I decided that this recent 2023 summer would be our last year working for Wilderness Trek in the role that I have been in for the last four seasons. Through lots of conversation, prayer, and reflection, we discerned that God was pointing us in a different direction and on a path to a new season of life. This decision was’t easy as I have now spent 19 years of my life working for this ministry in different roles including guide, secretary of the board of directors, volunteer, and Director of Operations. However, we ultimately have a great peace and excitement about transitioning into what the Lord has for us next. I have no words to express the value, purpose, and growth that Wilderness Trek has brought to my life thus far. It has shaped and molded me into the man I have become, and I know it will continue to do so in the future.
Erin and I began transitioning out of Glorieta, NM to Salida, CO back in late August. She will continue to work at her current job remotely and I am transitioning into owning and operating a Turf and Landscaping company in Salida. We are excited to get back to the mountain town where we already have so much community and where Wilderness Trek spent 30+ years before relocating to NM. God has blessed us with amazing opportunities here in Salida and we can’t wait to sink some roots in and become a part of the community.
I am excited to share that Wilderness Trek has already filled the Director of Operations position with Avery Van Zee. Avery is an amazingly talented and passionate young man who I have had the honor of working with for the last 3 seasons with him serving as a lead guide and most recently, Summer Operations Assistant and Head Guide. I have all the confidence in the world that Avery will take the operations side of Wilderness Trek and run with it in the best way possible to continue to steward this ministry and provide the service that WT is known for in outdoor ministry. Please join me in welcoming him to the WT team and praying for him as he takes on this role and leads Wilderness Trek into the future.
Along with my new venture in Colorado I will remain a part of the ministry in the background. I will be training, advising and consulting with the organization to continue supporting such a valuable ministry to youth and adults in the outdoors.
I want to thank each and everyone of you who I have had the privilege of working with or who have supported Wilderness Trek in different capacities. I am forever grateful for you and I am forever grateful for the time that God has allowed me to be a part of the Wilderness Trek ministry. I pray for the ongoing success of Wilderness Trek and that God would multiply our efforts for His glory as we continue to bring people into His stunning and life-changing creation.
Welcome New Director of Operations,
Avery Van Zee!
Hello everyone! My name is Avery Van Zee and I am the new Operations Director for Wilderness Trek. Just wanted to introduce myself and give some information about this new season of life for me. I was born in Pella, Iowa, a small dutch town in the southern part of the state. I grew up playing multiple sports and loved being involved in the outdoors with things such as hiking, fishing, and hunting. I traveled the country every summer from middle school through high school being a part of numerous mission trips. I have always had a strong passion for adventure and service, which has taken me on some incredible trips and I’ve met some incredible people. My love for sports and service led me to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where I competed in track and field and studied Human Services Leadership.
During my time at UWO I went on several camping/hiking trips with my friends exploring God’s creation. Doing things like that was just a hobby at the time and I made some great memories. Part of my degree in Human Services Leadership was a project where I had to design my own non-profit organization that I would like to run. So I designed it around hiking and being in the mountains of course! Little did I know that what I was designing would lead me to be a part of an organization that I dreamed of working for one day! When I first applied for Wilderness Trek I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never been to New Mexico, and never been a guide before. I was looking for an adventure though and so I was going to travel across the country and spend my summer in the mountains! Joining Trek my first summer just felt right, like I was made to do this and be a part of something bigger than myself. Little did I know how God was going to use that first summer to change my life.
I was a guide for Trek my first two summers and for the summer of 2023 took on the position of Lead Guide, a role with more responsibility. All three of my summers involved with Trek have been the most impactful, spiritual, discerning, and adventurous summers of my life. During those years I grew my passion for serving others, learned how to disciple others and myself, gained many leadership skills, grew my confidence, and built relationships that will last a lifetime. I knew that Wilderness Ministry was what I wanted to do but had no idea how to do it full time.
During this past summer I was working towards becoming a firefighter. I made it through the application process and was offered a position, but something about it just didn’t feel right when I got it. I ended up declining the offer and had no clue what my next step would be. Do I try to find a job somewhere else in New Mexico? Go back home and find something else to do seasonally until next summer when I can Guide again for Trek? I had no answer. Then God spoke and I listened. I was presented with the opportunity to become Operations Director for Wilderness Trek. He answered all of the questions I have about what is next. It was the next YES that I was searching for. I am very thankful for everything that Trek has taught me and continues to teach me. I cannot wait to keep this ministry alive and flourishing, while impacting the lives of so many people that will come on one of our trips.
Trek for Life!