By Michael Haugan, Junior at the University of Minnesota
Hello from the great frozen north! My name is Michael Haugan. I am a student at the University of Minnesota and a native of the same great state. I am a junior studying Ecology, Evolution and Behavior with a minor in Norwegian. Skol Vikes!
Growing up in a devout Catholic family, I always felt I had a close enough relationship with the Lord. I believed in God, loved God, prayed with my family, received the sacraments, tried to behave, asked God for things, and was told God loved me. I thought, “OK, great! As long as I keep doing these things, I’ll get through life as a decent person and go to heaven!” Entering college, however, I felt like something in my life was missing. Sure I was happy, but everything felt routine and lacking in meaning.
I happened to notice something about some new friends of mine: a sort of joy and peace that was hard to explain. I knew it came from God and I wanted it! After I learned that they were a part of SPO, I figured it was something worth looking into.
Throughout this past year, my relationship with the Lord has come alive dramatically. I attribute this largely to the brotherhood I have found in SPO Household and Formation. Not only did I make the best friends I have ever had, but they have also taught me how to know God better through personal prayer and worship. They taught me how to be vulnerable in sharing about my spiritual life (a hard thing to do for a stoic Minnesotan). Through living our journeys towards the Lord together, we are able to help each other find how God is speaking to us. I have learned to hear God speaking to me in prayer, through daily interactions and in the beauty of His creation. Furthermore, SPO has also given me a team that holds me to higher standards and gives me a push when needed.
This January, myself and 14 other men in SPO journeyed to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness bordering Canada and Minnesota. We spent four days camping on the frozen lakes, gathering wood, hiking over hills with our gear pulled behind us on sleds, ice fishing, and keeping warm.
This trip was a great example of the brotherhood I have found in SPO. Brotherhood and adventure go hand in hand. Adventure helps a young man prove to himself that he has the strength he typically doubts he has, and brotherhood gives him the spark to succeed. This was especially true on the first night in the wilderness. There was a channel of open water between the lake we were on and the main lake we were trying to get to. The only way to the main lake was to hike three quarters of a mile over craggy hills littered with rocks and logs while carrying 50-100lbs of gear. Luckily, we were all motivated to succeed by the example of one another. Each of us wanted to serve the other by getting over the hill with as much gear as possible.
Yet, it was not only on the difficult parts of the trip that brotherhood was cultivated, since during a hike with some of the guys, we decided to climb the highest peak we could find. After coming to the summit, we were struck by the beauty of God’s creation. As a group, we decided to pause and thank God for his gift of nature. After a few minutes of silence, we sang a hymn for His glory. While sitting around the fire at the end of each night, we continued to enjoy the solidarity of building closer friendship through food and conversation.
This trip taught us many lessons, both physical and spiritual. The element of danger on this trip helped sharpen us for our lives ahead by constantly calling for audacity and courage. In the end, we built strength and brotherhood so that we could offer both of these things to others, who find themselves searching for the Lord at the University of Minnesota. I would like to thank all the supporters of SPO who make this way of life possible.