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Their global travel business also underscores God’s truths

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Eco-tourism is now a burgeoning business, but few outdoor tourist companies see hiking through canyons and dangling from cliffs as opportunities for sharing the gospel and discipling believers.

Jeremy Higle and John Norton, however, provide adventures for the body, mind and spirit through their company Higher Travel.

Higher Travel operates in locations all over the world. Higle and Norton provide youth and college groups, families, singles and couples with opportunities to be challenged mentally, physically, and spiritually on tours which include backpacking, rock climbing, rappelling and multi-element adventures.

Higle and Norton both are graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When Higle and Norton first arrived at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus, neither knew fully what God had in store for them. As subtly as God called Higle and Norton to seminary, he began to call them to their current ministry, they said.

Higle, a native of Marrietta, Okla., was altogether uncertain about his path of ministry. “I didn’t really know what God had planned for me when I came to seminary, so I really used that time to move closer to him and frankly just learn more about the Bible,” he said.

Norton, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla., had some inclination about his future. “When I came to Southwestern, I was hoping to become a youth minister,” he recounted. “Backpacking was just a hobby.” When Norton led a Disciple Now weekend that involved some outdoor activities, he realized the importance of young people “experiencing physically what we were trying to teach them spiritually.”

Higle focused on church planting while in seminary, assisting with a Hispanic church plant in the downtown Fort Worth area that is “still going well three years after I left,” he said. When Higle graduated from Southwestern, he and his wife, Pam, served as strategy coordinators with the International Mission Board in South Asia. He thought of ministering outdoors while on the field.

“Drawing on my experience in the outdoors, a family in the publishing business, and a few years working in the tourism industry, we scratched together enough capital to put together a tourism business,” Higle said. “We also guided groups in everything from Jeep safaris to mountaineering expeditions.”

Today Higle owns Higher Travel. Norton joined him last year, and since that time both men have contributed to the unique ministry’s vitality.

Higher Travel ministry trips are more than just rock climbing and rappelling. “We provide them with a journey,” Norton said. “We write all the curriculum ourselves and try to incorporate an outdoor theme. The first component in the curriculum is based on Matthew 7:13-14 and is titled ‘The Path of Life.'”

Norton focuses on ministry in Texas and the American Southwest. “We are working a trip to the Grand Canyon. But even if a church in Mississippi wants to go somewhere, we want to be flexible enough to research an area around them and take them somewhere there,” Norton said.

Higle travels with groups internationally. “The future for Higher Travel is looking great. We have established ourselves in both publishing and tour operating,” Higle said. “We just recently finished two years researching and working in South Asia and will begin with a full slate of trips there in 2002.”

The goals of their ministry are simple, Higle and Norton said. “We want to let people see God’s activity in his creation and … see that in their own lives,” Norton said.

“We basically provide an environment for people to get outside of their normal existence,” Higle said. “We use outdoor activities carefully blended with solid teaching of the truth.”

The journeys Higle and Norton take are fun and relaxing, but fun and relaxation, they said, should not be interpreted as their primary goal. “We are ministers first and outdoor enthusiasts second,” Norton said.
More information on Higher Travel can be accessed at www.highertravel.com. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: NEW HEIGHTS and OUTDOOR OUTREACH.

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  • Tammi Mallory