TruthQuest member sees God in beauty around her

YOSEMITE, Calif. (BP)--With a flashlight in hand, TruthQuest member Katie Rice Royals, 17, swings her backpack over her shoulder, grabs her sleeping bag and heads toward the camping site at Yosemite National Park. The sun is setting behind the Sequoia-adorned mountains and this seasoned outdoorswoman from Jackson, Miss., said she is closer to God because of the scenery around her.

"There is something about not having any manmade things accessible like TV or radio. I feel like I am closer to God by being surrounded by his creation," said the Mississippi College freshman. "There is nothing here to distract me.

"Being surrounded by nature such as Yosemite takes my breath away. I often wonder how anyone can look at a place such as Yosemite and say there is not a God."

Royals is one of 12 TruthQuest members who are traveling in California ministering and writing about cutting-edge Southern Baptist ministries. Their adventures are being chronicled by FamilyNet Television and will be aired in the fall.

The great outdoors is something that Royals learned to appreciate early in life.

"I've been around it as long as I can remember," said Royals, a member of First Baptist Church, Jackson. "I remember waking up before the sun comes up and climbing up on the deer stand to wait for the deer."

Royals' dad and uncle taught her to hunt and fish by the age of 9 and she fondly recalls the small pond in her grandfather's backyard that sparked her interest in outdoor recreation.

"I remember fishing in my grandpa's small pond and catching small minnow-like fish and thinking I was something," she said.

Royals said she does not take for granted the natural beauty surrounding her in the mountains of Yosemite National Forest.

"If you learn to appreciate it, everything will seem so much more beautiful. People must take time to notice the beauty around them."

Royals viewed the mountains of Yosemite from a new angle when she scaled a 130-foot rock, Lena's Lay Back, as part of a TruthQuest physical challenge.

"The biggest feeling of accomplishment was when I got to the top of the rock and saw the view. If I would have just walked up the hill and looked out over the same view, it wouldn't have been as beautiful. Because I had to work hard to get to the top, the view was all the more enjoyable."

Before heading to Yosemite, Royals also had the opportunity to appreciate the Pacific Ocean in a whole in new way as she and the TruthQuest team learned to windsurf at Pacific Beach, San Diego.

"I loved it, although I was a little scared at first. Once I got out in the ocean and felt the power of the waves push me along on my surfboard, I really began to enjoy surfing," Royals said.

"The best analogy I can think of with God is when you're on the board, the power of the water is behind you pushing you along. It is very important that you are not too far up or too far back on the board, or else you will wipe out. As long as you are where you need to be on the board, you will ride the wave without wiping out. The same is true with my relationship to God. As long as I am where I need to be with God, he will lead me and carry me along."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: IN HER ELEMENT.