Courtney Ball

Dad’s Hoopy Hollow Vision Quest

(Tent Lit by a Lamp, Brad Mering, courtesy of

Some of my readers may remember a sermon I posted a few months ago about vocation. If you listened to it you heard me refer to a vision quest I went on when I was nineteen years old.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “vision quest”, it refers to the indigenous American practice of seeking spiritual direction through solitary prayer and fasting in a wilderness setting. The process was picked up (rightly or wrongly) by other non-native, often “new-agey”, groups, and that is how I learned about it.

For my first vision quest, I went to an organization in Montana that I had read about online. There was a small group of questers there. The other participants and I spent a couple days learning together, and then went to our isolated sites on a mountainside for a few days of fasting and prayer. It didn’t go as I expected, but it was very helpful to me.

Years later I learned that my father had also gone on a vision quest as a young man. We were at a family reunion, sitting around on lawn chairs telling stories, when he began to describe his experience. Somehow, I had never heard him talk about it before.

“Dad, I didn’t know you did a vision quest when you were younger.”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve been interested in Native American religions for a long time, you know. I had read about vision quests, and I thought it would be worth trying. That was when we were living in Massena. You were just a baby then.”

“Huh. I had no idea. How did it go?”

“It went pretty well at first. I took a few days off work,and I went out to a campground by myself.” (Dad was early in his career as a pastor then.) “But I probably should have picked a better spot.”

“How come?”

“Well, I was out at the Hoopy Hollow campground-”

“The what?”

“Hoopy Hollow. That was the name of the local campground. Anyway, word got out that I was there, and that I was fasting. So before long one of my parishioners came out to bring me some food.”


“Yep. She brought me fried chicken, pudding, all kinds of tasty stuff. I was hungry, too, so I ate it. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I went out there, but it worked out all right.”

I guess sometimes the best part of life is learning to take what comes and enjoy it, even if it wasn’t what you had planned.

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Courtney Ball

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