Thursday, November 3, 2011

Green Call: KLF 196, Everglades National Park: This is Mark

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less. - Kurt Hahn (creator of Outward Bound)
I can remember age 13
My memories of 12 are faded
14 is is in the back of my mind
and my penta- life crisis, 15 is not forgotten

It really only took moments for me to grasp the simple fact that at these ages I felt helpless, I felt insecure, I needed assurance but I felt like I had failed in this life. I needed motivation but I had no goals, I needed to choose to live this life, but I choose to dwell in self-pity. I remember feeling like I would never live up to what was expected of me and I was merely surviving, meeting my basic needs to just get through the day.

The Four Basic Survival Needs:
- Power
- Love and Belonging
- Fun
- Freedom
All combine to meet your Survival Need

Even if it meant meeting these needs negatively, I found ways to do so. Even if it meant sacrificing relations with loved ones, I found ways to do so. Even if it meant denying progress in life and becoming complacent with mediocracy, I found ways to do so.

Around age 20, I decided to stop this cycle and reroute. I knew there was much more to life and I knew I could challenge myself to seek it out and take me farther than my comfort zone/ my green zone. I'm reminded of this quote as I have just landed back in Key Largo after what I believe to be the wildest 20 day period of my life.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
We started our adventure in the Everglades on October 14th with 9 kids from the Miami area and 4 instructors. These 9 were considered for our FINS (Families in Needs of Services) program for the following behaviors: truancy, violent/ aggressive behavior, anger management difficulty, drug use, poor decision making skills, troubles with the law and an overall pre-contemplative idea that nothing in their lives needed to change. None of these kids wanted to be on course, nor did they think it would be beneficial. Most blamed their parents or relatives for putting them here.

For me, it was weird to be in this position as an instructor. Realizing, that my kids were 13, 14, and 15 and knowing that at their age I probably should have been placed in the same program. I was preparing to counsel myself for the next 20 days. Nothing was more crazy in my mind than 9 young Mark McCoy's paddling around the Everglades. It's a shocking image really! To be completely honest there was nothing really that could have prepared me for what happened to us all, and what happened to me as a person. If i could explain in simple terms and short sentences I would but I don't know how. I'll give it a shot, a little glimpse of 1 day out of 20, i'll tell you a story......

It's 3:30am and i'm looking at the brown, tired eyes of my course director. His face is soaked, his breathing is rapid and body fatigued. This was the 6th day straight of monsoon, torrential down pour. Not once in these days had we been dry, nor had we seen the sun. Our kids were entering their red zones fighting on the rafts and denying all personal responsibility. We all had just finished battling mother natures cruel, devilish fury as we paddled our canoe raft out of some of the strongest tidal, stormy waters i'd ever seen. Our anchors had been lifted up and we were swept into the middle of the everglades, sitting ducks for the big storm up ahead. Our minds went into survival mode, as we paddled to the Mangrove towards safer water and re anchored our raft....... We had to figure something out, but then it seemed to fade....
This eye of the storm was over, the wind had died, the rain had mellowed, and all of us instructors stood in a circle around the weather radio. My course director phil flipped the switch, as static rang out of the speaker chills took over my feverish body, it was a presence I wasn't sure what to make of. Was it from the fact that I had a steady 100 degree temp for several days, bumps that looked similar to staff down my arms or the little sleep and food us instructors had? It could just be nervousness I thought.... what could Phil need us to hear that was worse than the storm we just went through. Phil gave me a hug and told us that he wanted us to hear something, to hear it for ourselves. As we listened to the weather report it became real, a tornado was forecasted to hit the area where we were rafted in a matter of hours. We were too far for rescue, our emergency boat and the coast guard could not reach us in time. "This is a true moment, a true Outward Bound Moment, you ARE badass Outward Bound Instructors and this is what you do." said phil after he switched the radio off and placed it down on our boards. Silence overwhelmed the circle, we all knew what needed to happen. We spent the next hour tightening up our tarp lines and adjusting our raft for optimal safety. 4:30 am, I laid in my Healy Hammock for about an hour that night trying to think, trying to pray protection on us... the sky went green....

Around 6:30 am huge winds, lightning and rain hit our location sending our kids into chaos, the tornado was here. We jumped up and made sure all our kids had rain gear on and were out of their Healy hammocks. Our back three boats began sinking and Eric and I bailed the boats out for what seemed like hours. The sky was dark and we were soaking wet, the screams of our kids shocked me as I kept bailing the far right corner. Little to nothing other than survival went through my head. We needed to keep our kids safe, we needed to act quickly. Eric pulled in our anchor and casted it back farther into the Mangrove as we gathered the kids in the middle of the still floating front 3 boats. Liz told a story about Kurt Hahn and survival to the kids who were kneeling in the fetal position. This lasted for about an hour as the tornado's storm seemed to die rapidly around us. I couldn't help but pray to myself,

" Dear God, is this what you had planned for me, is this the kind of discomfort you want me to feel in this life, so I will never doubt you again."
"A sailboat is safe in the harbor, but that's not what it was built for."
I'm the type of person who consistently pushes limits. I enjoy the moments that stretch me, I feel thats where growth and learning are most prevalent. I want to say that my experience in these 20 days was enjoyable, but in honesty it was the worst 20 days of my life. I was beaten down and loosing my mind, repeating my own name in my head in moments to regain consciousness of who I was and who God made me. I danced on the line where I no longer could help meet my basic needs but needed the Lord to provide sustainability for me. AND HE DID, AND HE ALWAYS WILL!

I count my experience as a blessing, I believe the Lord calls us out of our comfort zone and invites us to truly see who he is.
Thank you for all your prayers as I was out on course, it truly kept me and my kids and co instructors alive.

I am still alive today

As it's said amongst Outward Bound Leaders, "The Outward Bound God gives you the exact weather, the exact storm and kids that you needed for a successful course."

As it's said by the Lord:

Romans 5: 1-11

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


  1. Mark - I admire and respect you. Tremendously.

  2. Mark, this is an incredible story. I'm so glad you shared it. God is preparing you for this crazy course in life that you are meant to be on!!!

    Love you brother


  3. This is powerful, so glad you all survived and came away with new faith for life.


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