I desperately needed Jesus to survive
Not too many students at Regents Theological College are trained in leading extreme jungle expeditions. Natasha Jesson shares her story.
Give us a little background. How did you become a Christian?
I grew up in a small village just outside Loughborough, with my mum, dad and brother. Mum is a Christian, Dad wasn’t (he passed away 2 years ago), and I grew up going to church with mum, whilst my brother and my Dad stayed at home. I became serious about my faith around age 16, after my parent’s divorce, when I became part of my high school’s CU and joined a new church called Open Heaven in Loughborough.
What led you to undertake a survival expedition?
I have always enjoyed travelling and adventure, and I always want to try new things. At 17 I went on an expedition with school which changed my life. Instead of continuing with my university applications to study maths I decided to apply to do an expedition leaders training course out in Belize.
The training course I was on was for 'Extreme Jungle Expedition Leading', so we had to learn how to hunt, find water, set traps, track animals, make shelters, first aid, and jungle medicine in the jungle within the Cayo district of Belize. That course took around 6 months. Afterwards, I worked leading groups on treks through the jungle.
When I got back I started work at a UK Outdoors centre called Whitemoor Lakes, as an activity instructor. I led groups on activities from canoeing to climbing, and from archery to obstacle courses. I also kept up freelance expedition work with various different companies in various different countries.
Whilst I was doing all of this I was also very blessed to have been involved in a few church plants along the way. When I was out in these extreme places and conditions I felt what it was to desperately need Jesus to survive.
I realised how vital my relationship with God was. More so, I realised how much I needed to pursue more intimacy in my relationship with God; my Bible, prayer time, worship time all became precious.
Feeling that desperation and seeing others desperate for more of Jesus is what impassioned me to want to come to Bible College. (As well as a much-needed nudge from Jesus too!)
Did you ever feel like giving up?
All the time. Jungle survival and outdoor pursuits sound exciting and fun, and they are. But, I have had more than my fair share of injuries, infections, and insect bites to last me a lifetime. A sense of comradery helped get me through, especially at Whitemoor.
Day in day out our team would have our lives in each other’s hands as we worked. Working like that with people builds a level of trust that is hard to find outside of your own family. With bonds like that you keep going for the person next to you, not for yourself.
But having Jesus with me really saved me, sometimes quite literally.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to do follow a similar path?
As women, we are often told we can’t do things because of our gender. So I would say, nothing is impossible. When you’re walking hand in hand with Jesus there’s nothing you can’t do.
Do you have any other goals you’d like to achieve?
Ha ha! Apart from finishing this degree? I’d love to do a Masters in Theology. Seeing churches grow and experiencing God so closely and tangibly has made me want to study Him more.
Who is your inspiration?
My Mum. There are not many people who would let their 18-year-old daughter go to the middle of the jungle to hunt and survive. She must have been so anxious and worried about me when I was gallivanting around the world, but she never let her worry or doubts stop me. She’s always been there for me, praying. She’s amazing. I’d love to be as brave as her.
You’re studying at Regents at the moment, what are your plans for the future?
Masters, and then hopefully a PhD. I’d like to teach others about God and the Bible in a lecturing capacity.