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WM: The Mountain Top

The summer after Andrew Arnold ’99 graduated from Wabash, he recalls standing on the top of a mountain in the Wind River Range and being stunned by the beauty surrounding him. That moment set in motion an unexpected future right where he had been all along.

A team on the 40 Days/40 Nights Expedition traveling across Mammoth Glacier in Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Andrew Arnold ’99 spent his summers growing up backpacking and rock climbing in the Wyoming wilderness as a part of Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM). His father founded the organization in 1983 as a wilderness ministry that takes people out into creation to encounter God, grow, and develop community.

“My entire life I can remember being somehow connected to it,” Arnold says. “But it never occurred to me this could be a calling or a vocational purpose for me.” 

It happened while he was leading a trip in the summer of 1999 through the Wind River Range in central Wyoming.

“I was looking over the mountain with these jagged peaks all around me and a huge lake thousands of feet below,” Arnold says. “We were taking in the peak and what we had just accomplished. I sensed God was speaking to my heart, saying, ‘I’m a creative, imaginative, expressive God. When I look from heaven, I see you in this place and I’m less amazed by the beauty of the place and am more in love and amazed by who you are as my creation.’

“In that moment, I had this experiential revelation of the love of God,” he continues. “I broke down crying. I knew then I wanted to give my life to help people experience that same kind of love.” 

He spent the next three months listening and discerning how God wanted him to serve—as a pastor, a teacher, a coach? 

“I felt like He said, ‘No, I want you to serve alongside your dad in the ministry,’” Arnold says. “That kind of surprised me. When I said yes, I never thought I’d be doing it for the next 23 years.”

Even though his great-great-grandfather Constantine Peter “CP” Arnold [W1882] and great-grandfather Thurman Arnold [1910] attended Wabash, it wasn’t until nearly a century later that the youngest Arnold learned about the College through a co-worker of his mother.

Wilderness ministry professionals course participants traveling through Jump Up Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park.

“I knew I wanted something different,” Arnold says. “I wanted to go to college and study what I loved and was passionate about. Wabash was formative in who I was. But it also formed these deep connections and friendships that are still influencing me today, and now they’re influencing the ministry too.” 

Scott Schroeder ’99 and Brian Kerr ’97 were members of FIJI with Arnold.

“Andrew was one of the first pledge brothers I met at Wabash,” Schroeder says. “He’s a one-of-a-kind individual. It’s one of those classic Wabash connections—I knew when I met him, he was going to be a friend of mine for life.”

“I was the pledge chair when Andrew was going through his senior year of high school,” Kerr says. “I was struck with how free-spirited and authentic he was. He makes everybody he encounters feel like they are the center of the world.”

Schroeder and Kerr serve on the board of directors of SROM.

Schroeder was first drawn to the organization through his experiences backpacking with Arnold.
“Andrew knew my capabilities far more than I had appreciated. Everything we did was new for me,” Schroeder says. “I always enjoyed pushing myself. When you’re with Andrew or on a SROM outing, there’s no shortage of opportunities to push yourself.

Lucy Schroeder and Isabel Arnold on the summit of East Temple Peak, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

“As I learned more about the organization, I couldn’t get over how SROM uses outdoor wilderness as a Christian ministry vehicle,” he continued. “It would exist without mountains, backpacks, lakes, and ice because they are so fundamentally sound and strong in their Christian faith and their desire to share it with others.”

Kerr spent a summer after graduating from Wabash serving on SROM’s staff before joining the board. 

“I was the lowest level entry instructor. It was more of a Sherpa role, just serving in support,” Kerr says. “I learned a lot about backpacking, camping, cooking, climbing, and setting up routes. More than anything, I learned about leadership and functioning in a group.
“When Andrew came to Wabash, I was able to serve as a mentor for him and his pledge brothers for two years in our fraternity. Then the roles were reversed,” he says. “At SROM, he was mentoring me.”

Arnold credits his time at Wabash and people like Kerr as being instrumental in his growth as a leader.

“Throughout high school I didn’t appreciate how much my life can influence others,” he says. “At Wabash I was impacted by the leadership of other people and recognized I could be a leader that effected change that was life-giving and fruitful. 

“I wanted to be a good steward of the influence I have,” Arnold says. “I decided to set my intention and goals toward that. I might fail, but I knew I would learn something in the process.”

He has made it his life’s work.

Center front: Brian ’97 and Isaac Kerr; back right: Andrew ’99 and Isabel Arnold on the seven-day, seven-night Father Family trip on Temple Peak Pass, Wind River Range, Wyoming, Summer 2021.

“We bring people to the edge of their capacities,” says Arnold. “When you’re at the edge of yourself, surrounded by community that loves and cares about you, and by instructors or mentors to shepherd you through that space, you leave the experience having grown and matured. That is the significance of what we do.”

Even after 23 years officially working for Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries, Arnold continues to grow in his understanding of the importance and impact of the organization’s reach.

“There is something transformational or catalytic when people come into the wilderness and creation. That can be a little intimidating,” says Arnold. “You put on your backpack, you leave civilization and everything you have for five, seven, 10, 20, or even 40 days. But there’s something immersive about getting away from all the distractions and pressure. The chaos that modern life can bring can weigh on your soul and take up a lot of bandwidth in your mind. There’s a gift in just pressing pause.” 

Arnold encourages those who may be struggling spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or relationally like he once was—to disconnect, pause, and be present with themselves. That may mean turning off the phone, notifications, and media, and instead going out to explore a state or local park.

“Be present with God, whoever that may be to you. Hear, listen, and be still there,” he says. “There’s value in stillness.”