AdventureFest 2021 Recap

Speakers: Jonathan Wyns (Friday), Marc Sauers "Sharky" (Sat), Tom Sember (Sat), Jimmie Rivera (Sun

Worship: The Morgan Dolan Band

Chili: Will return 2022

Written by Pat McCloskey (06/14/2021) posted on

So, I am laying in my tent Friday night listening to the Biblical rains falling on my rain fly and hoping that it will stay dry for me as I get through the night of really foul weather at Adventurefest 2021. For those of you who might be wondering what in the world is Adventurefest, it is a really spectacular weekend of men getting together at Agape Farm and Retreat Center in Shirleysburg, Pa. It is an annual thing that my friend Mark (aka Shark) Sauers and I attend in the mountains of central Pa where there is axe throwing, bon fires, drones, bike tosses, motorcycling, mini-bike riding and for us mountain biking at Raystown. Typical frivolity for a group of 150 or so of us who get together to camp and listen to really great messages from pastors affiliated with the Assembly of God Church.

So, before you hit the click button, give me a chance here to explain the good news presented by the pastors starting with Jonathan Wyns on Friday night as the welcoming speaker. Accompanied to the ” Long Building” by the musical excellence of the Morgan Dolan band, we were treated to a message that initiated the theme for the weekend called ” Boots on the Ground.” A military term basically adapted to the message of getting into your boots and moving forward to present the good news of the Gospel to your friends and family and having the courage to stand up and be the men that we were created to be- as husbands, fathers, and friends. The typical misconception of Christian messaging today is that it is condescending, or ” above it all.” When really the opposite is true when you hear testimonies of guys who sold drugs, used drugs, recovering alcoholics, and general sinners expressing their need for the saving message that Jesus died for our sins and welcomes us into His fold if we only believe. That is it. A positive message if I ever heard one and one that I feel needs to be shared. Shark always says why wouldn’t we share good news? Like telling our friends and family about a good restaurant or a good bike or a good pair of skis. Stuff that we do all the time. Why not share the good news of the Gospel? I did not grow up in the Pentecostal tradition so over the years it took me a little time to understand and be comfortable with the vigor of the messages presented and received by the men. But let me tell you, if you have ever heard an Assembly of God preacher, you will not forget it. Whether you are a believer, have faith, or have no faith, listening to one of these guys stirs something deep in your soul that at the very least will make you think. Jonathan started that and as we made our way back to our soggy tents, I definitely thought about what the heck is going on in our world and what I need to do to at least try to make it a little better.

Saturday morning welcomed us with brilliant sunshine and after I cranked up the Jet Boil and prepared the Shark breakfast, he spoke to a group of 20 or so early risers about the need to move forward like the disciples did in the book of Acts. For those of you who know the Shark, he is a fun loving guy but never sell him short on his faith. The man can present. I was so impressed with my friend’s message about the rag tag group of fishermen who changed the world. The mountain biking at Raystown Lake never disappoints and we connected with our Adventurefest friend Roger Evans from West Virginia. Roger always rides with us and is a quality guy who we really like. Strong rider too. It was just the three of us this year riding but we connected with a young lady from Sunbury , Pa who turned out to be a terrific rider and gave us all we could handle with her riding skills and fitness. Sarah from Sunbury.

Saturday evening the band struck up again and the speaker was a retired fireman from Buffalo who is now a pastor with AOG. Tom Sember gave all of some sobering statistics like percentages of men who are absent in the lives of their children. Percentages of guys in prison who had no father growing up or an absent father. Inner city statistics of kids with no fathers or father figures. Really heart wrenching and Tom, in the AOG preacher tradition, put it out there strongly to us to be the men we are supposed to be regardless of the culture we live in today. Boots on the ground and take that step forward. He kind of resonated with me because I tend to not be a pushy person and am a little shy about sharing the gospel unless people give me an opening. But he said he didn’t care if people thought he was a “Jesus freak”. ” Who cares ?” he said, and we should not care either if we share good news especially in this tumultuous world that we live in. Sleeping in my dry tent again, and looking up at the stars, I thought a lot about what Tom said and rested comfortably after a good ride, good dinner, and really great fellowship and preaching.

One of the great traditions of Adventurefest is the late night hike up the mountain to a wooden cross. It is there that guys present their life stories and how the Gospel has changed them. Growing up like I did, I had it pretty good. But listing to these guys from inner city Philadelphia give their testimonies about where they have been and where they are now and hammering a nail into that cross symbolizing that they are giving it all to the Lord to fix, I am always stunned. Greg Nass, the director of Adventuremen and Adventurefest works tirelessly with his amazing staff, for a year to put on this event and no matter how tired he is, he is always there at that cross and hammering a nail in for our children. That they grow up and know the Lord. Greg is an amazing individual.

Pastor Jimmie Rivera from the City Limits Assembly of God in Allentown,Pa. presented the closing message on Sunday. After Shark and I packed up right before another torrential thunderstorm, we made our way to the Long Building and sat in the front row to listen to a truly amazing preacher. Like I said before, AOG preachers are not shy and Jimmie talked about the courage of Joshua in the Old Testament in very graphic terms that had men wriggling in their seats. But the message was consistent with Boots on the Ground in that Joshua had great faith and put one foot in front of the other, and crossed the Jordan River to victory over the enemy. The perspiration was coming down Pastor Jim’s face as he put it out there about the importance of commitment and not to go back to the norm on Monday morning. Make a difference and be the man, father, husband, friend, you are supposed to be.

So if you haven’t clicked me off yet and are asking yourself, ” McCloskey- what on earth are you doing out in the middle of nowhere sleeping in a tent with a bunch of rowdies every year?” The answer is simple – good news to be shared. Mountain bikes, grills going strong, bacon, drones, basketball, mini-bikes, motorcycles, bon fires, fishing, camping- all make Adventurefest fun. But the messaging all make sleeping in the tent and roughing it a little out of the norm so worthwhile. Come to Adventurefest next year. Ask me, Shark or Greg Nass about it and we will give you details. Thanks for not clicking and reading.

” For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3-16


Speakers: Jeff Nock (Friday), Brett Rush (Saturday), Shawn Lehman

Worship: Da Toots

Chili: (1st) Allen Weyant, (2nd) Tom Burkey, (3rd) Roland Brubaker, (Golden Plunger) Bill Gramlich, Bill Reynolds

We had another successful year with hundreds of men from different churches filling the fields and woods of Agape Farm. Over 20 + guys were water baptized, and about 7 men who stood up to recommit their lives to Christ our Lord and Savior. We had the largest bonfire in our history with flames shooting about 50 ft into the night sky. A gaggle of dudes headed up to the cross to hammer in a nail until after midnight on Saturday. Over 50 guys did the nearby 1000 step challenge, and a group went on early morning Rucks, and countless bikers headed out on a ride around the lake. We had our largest recovery meeting ever. We had folks go on other epic adventures that we're not even aware of. We had guys come from several different states the farthest being North Carolina. Just getting men to head hours away for the weekend away from their families and responsibilities is a feat and an adventure in itself - sometimes the road trip is big part in building relationships that last. You see during other men's retreats the guys fellowship, but at AdventureFest we build relationships which I bet will last a lifetime. We're not a comfortable stadium chair in a climate controlled building, we're more like a camp chair next to a fire-pit with smoldering holes burned through it. These are just a couple of the ways in which we're very different from the others. We hope you'll consider bringing out your guys and joining us in 2020, and don't forget your camp chair! We'll keep the fire burnin'.

AdventureFest 2018 Recap

Speakers: Joey Cullen (Friday), Bobby Basham (Sat), Del Smith (Sun)

Worship: The Toots

Chili: (1st) Allen Weyant

Written by Pat McCloskey (06/12/2018)

Agape Farm in central Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful and tranquil pieces of property that one will ever have the privilege of seeing. Reclining in your tent and looking out at the rolling hills that surround the property and gazing up at the stars at night really makes you enter the spirit of what is Adventurefest, an annual gathering of Christian men worshipping the Lord in a rural setting. Greg Nass and his staff have done it right picking this pristine spot for a weekend of outdoor activities, inspiring worship services and changed lives of men from all walks of life.

Friday Night: We set up our camp on the hillside and cranked up the JetBoil for some tasty freeze dried meals ( really- not bad!) and relaxed as we sat around our fire in our camp chairs hoping that the weather would hold out for the weekend. Casually walking up to the long building, we were treated to a great message and inspiring music. Greg welcomed the group and Pastor Joey Cullen, recounted to us all about being a super hero by walking through our troubles trusting the Lord who has our back. We don’t walk around troubles, we face them head on. Finishing the night around a huge bonfire, the assembled men from all over the tri state area relaxed and one by one retreated to their camp sites for the night.

Saturday morning- up early rising to the alarm of a distant rooster and what sounded like a million birds, we prepared some coffee and oatmeal and met our group to mountain bike on the famous Allegrippis Trails which surround Raystown Lake. I am always amazed at the ministry of Mark “ the Shark” Sauers as he stopped at a very scenic overlook and preached a message to our group of mountain bikers. Slowly, other groups passed by. Some stopping, some not, but like last year, the ones that stopped, were enveloped by Shark’s moving words about the care of our sons and the need to be evangelists representing the body of Christ in all that we do. You never quite know how this will be accepted by groups riding by, but by the reaction of two seemingly good riders who paused for a rest, it was not what I expected. Shark boldly preached and as one guy cracked a beer out of his pack and observed, the other bowed his head in prayer as Shark closed. Not what I would have expected by the appearance of these two experienced riders. But that just goes to show you that if you put it out there, the Holy Spirit moves in ways that we can’t comprehend. Another proof to me that we never know when the seed of faith can be planted and God does the rest.

The most moving moments after the ride came at the lake when Pastor Greg and his staff baptized new and recent believers with a true water baptism. As I sat and watched, I heard stories from guys whose lives have changed due to committing their lives to Christ in a most demonstrative way. I heard stories about time in prison, selling drugs, gang violence, guys who said they should be dead had it not been for the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Truthfully, I don’t come in contact with believers like this. The worst thing that ever happened to me was a flat tire. But I thought to myself, I am no better than these guys. We all fall short of the glory of the Lord and their stories of redemption inspired me. It continued on the hike to the cross at the top of the mountain. As we all assembled again to the light of torches and the vision of that wooden cross full of the nails representing the years of believers giving it all to Jesus through an outward sign of pounding a nail in that cross. Stories came again of drugs, jail time, murder, and others, relating to infertility and the longing for a child. People with varying degrees of struggle and having the courage to stand there, facing their demons, and giving all of the pain, and all of the sin and pounding a nail in that cross brought tears to my eyes once again. Adventurefest does that to you. You become friends with guys whose lives have changed and hear stories and hug each other with a true sense of affection for a new friend. We are all alike. No matter what our struggle, no matter what our pain, we put it all out there in the name of the savior Jesus Christ and allow Him to direct our path.

Sunday Morning- arising to a message from Pastor Dell Smith, we all huddled under the long building in wonder at the raging storm and heavy rain pounding the roof, but grateful that the weather held off until we all were safely packed up for the weekend. Once again the Shark, invited Jason ( a fellow who camped down the hill from us) to join us for coffee and fellowship at the long building. Once again, I was taken aback at the kindness and sensitivity of the Shark in putting out a welcome to a stranger who ended up as a friend in Christ for life. Driving home, thinking about the weekend and the goodness of the Lord, the Shark suddenly pulled over when he saw a car off the road in the ditch. I missed it, Bill missed it, but the Shark was once again observant and we went back to find a frightened young lady that had slid off the road during the storm. We called the State Police and eventually the girl’s parents arrived and all was well. But again , I thought to myself that the spirit of Adventuremen was alive and well with Mark “ the Shark” Sauers and once again he was an inspiration caring for others when we did not even notice.

Blessings abounded that weekend and it is reflected in the stories of the men whose lives have been changed forever. We were challenged by Pastor Greg to bring a friend next year. One friend!!! We all can do that and one by one, house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, can expose men to the spirit of the Lord in an incredible weekend outdoor experience. Come to Adventuremen 2019 and spread the word. Time is short and hell is hot, men. Spread that good word!!!! Halle………………..LUJAH!!!!!

Left to right: Bill, Todd, Bill, Roger, Shark, Pat

AdventureFest 2017 Recap

Speakers: Jerry Conley (Friday), Tom Rees (Saturday), Robert Bennett (Sunday)

Worship: Front Street (Saturday), Redemption's Promise (Sunday)

The Chronicles of McCloskey documents 2017. Click here to read the deets.


Speakers: Jimmy Rivera (Friday), Sam Childers a.k.a. Maching Gun Preacher (Saturday), Wayde Wilson (Sunday)

Worship: New Hope (Saturday), Paul Housman (Sunday)

The 5th Annual AdventureFest (Freedom Fighters) was a tremendous weekend filled with great weather, lots of guys, and testimony after testimony about God's presence and provision.

Our special guest - The Machine Gun Preacher

Forty-four guys stepped up to complete the 1000 Step Challenge in support of a young man who lost 80 lbs specifically to make it up this mountain with vigor this year. The warrior flag was carried to the top as encouragement and reminder to be a Freedom Fighter in all areas of our lives.

Many fishing trips were charted without a single fish caught - skunked this year, but hey, that's why they call it fishing and not catching. However, many little fish were caught in the small lake at Agape.

Late night campfires raged, drones buzzed the sky, hatchets were thrown at targets and potatoes were launched across the field from homemade potato guns. We had so much fun that we forgot all about tossing the Huffy bicycle, which actually went missing. A mystery to be solved. There were no sightings of Big Foot this year, although some guys thought they heard him in the bathroom a few times.

Guys came forward for salvation, healing, and answers to prayers during the course of the weekend. Nearly 20 guys were baptized in the Agape lake adding to the tens of thousands that have been baptized since the early 1960’s.

It's not about the numbers, it's not about the fun, and it's not about the food. It's all about relationships and giving men the opportunity to connect with our Lord Jesus Christ in the great outdoors - standing firmly on the soil that He created and strong under the sky that He painted.

Freedom Fighters! #FF4JC

The Machine Gun Preacher and his gear with some of the Freedom Fighters

2015 AdventureFest RECAP

Location: Agape Farm (our new home)

Speakers: Bob Chilinski (Friday), KR Mele (Saturday), Paul Housman (Sunday)

Worship: Good News Blues Band (Saturday), Alan Booth Project (Sunday)

Quote: This weekend has changed my life forever - Tom Breit (South Hills Assembly)

2014 AdventureFest Recap

Location: Raystown Lake (our last year here)

Speakers: Todd Pugh (Friday), Pete Rostosky (Saturday), Lance O'Brien (Sunday)

Worship: Alan Both Project

Beautiful weather prevailed once again at this years AdventureFest...our largest year yet with over 100 guys in attendance all enjoying God outdoors. Friday evening Pastor Todd shared with us an encouraging word before we broke out into our groups and hung out around the campfire until the early morning hours sharing stories of adventure, testimony, and of course lots of bad jokes under a star filled sky.

Saturday morning brought the smell of sizzling bacon and steak as groups prepared for a day of adventure. Some guys went on an epic hike at the 1000 step challenge, they even got lost for a time but thankfully found their way back. Others went charter fishing on the lake and caught record size hybrid stripped bass. Groups of cyclist headed out for a day on world-class mountain biking trails while other cyclist headed out for rails to trails. Some guys just hung out around the campfire and plucked a guitar, or played games.

After we were all spent and beat from the days activities we came together for a chili cook-off. The big winner this year took home a $120 Buck knife. The Alan Booth Band lead us in some amazing foot tapping worship to prepare us for our key note speaker Pete Rostosky. Pete is a larger than life kinda guy and shared stories of Steelers football, hunting, and encouraged us to be us "Way/2BU".

Sunday was the best church services we have had had to date with Pastor Lance sharing Gods word. The Holy Spirit blew in like wind and landed on us all - literally we all felt it. Guys were kneeling and praying over each other for miracles and needs of all sorts.

One man accepted Jesus Christ at the base of the cross down in the woods, with many others hammering in a nail for strength, new beginnings, or on behalf of someone else.

We actually outgrew our Raystown location and will be moving to Agape Farms nearby so we can still enjoy all the world class recreation opportunities that Raystown has to offer without all the limitations that campground required. Look for big bonfires, wooded and field camping, louder music, hatchet throwing and...drum roll please....potato gun's. BOOM!

Josh caught one of the largest fish ever pulled out of Raystown Lake during AdventureFest. To date he has set the record at AdventureFest for the largest catch. Do you think you have what it takes to beat it? If so give it a try and see if you can take the crown!

2013 AdventureFest Recap

Location: Raystown Lake

Speaker: Bruce Kote (Saturday) Greg Nass (Sunday)

Worship: Alan Booth Project

This year’s AdventureFest was an epic retreat of outdoor recreation, food, worship, and testimony. Guys from 9 churches gathered from across PA and Maryland to praise God in the great outdoors at Raystown Lake Pennsylvania in a camping/tailgating environment. Our special guest, Bruce Cote took us on a virtual hike of the Appalachian trail and spoke in detail about his 2000+ mile journey with his wife and how he came out with a spiritual awakening and a new direction from God. Over the course of the weekend several men were saved, and water baptized in the refreshing mountain lake waters of Raystown Lake.

2012 AdventureFest Recap

Speaker: George Krebs (Saturday)

Worship: Alan Booth Project

John Fedesco was the winner of the $1300 bike that was donated by Big Bang Bikes.

2011 AdventureFest Scouting Trip

Awesome! This was the most commonly used term to describe the weekend at Raystown Lake. Whether we were ripping down a trail or just soaking in the beauty of our Creator's masterpiece, nothing was repeated quite as much as “awesome.”

Our journey began with a 7:30 a.m. rowdy carpool meeting in Monroeville that involved several men with excited dispositions, elevated by the effects of our friend Juan Valdez. Sixty-five miles per hour later we were on our way. The ride through the Appalachian Mountains was pristine as to be expected, but even better was knowing that we would soon be settling within them. Experiencing Christ through adventure had already begun.

We soon arrived at the Susquehannock Campground to the intoxicating smell of campfire and a narrowing road that could only mean one thing.....our campsite. We made it! Unpack. Set up. Eat. At this point our friends from Mechanicsburg were here and we were ready to hit the trails. Special thanks, by the way, to Eric, Walt, and John for great fellowship and trail guiding. We entered the trailhead after a hill climb that got our lungs opened and hearts pumping. Wow – before we knew it, we were twisting, turning, jumping (more like sailing) through the air at warp speeds! I could practically smell my brakes burning like a semi down an 8% grade. Each bend's G-force whipped us around the berm only to be launched over the next dip; then another, and another. “Man, this is awesome,” I kept thinking to myself. The yells of excitement from the others confirmed that they, too, were catching big air, one after another. The slightest mistake could land you over a hillside that even a 13-year-old wouldn't venture down.

Several miles into our ride, the effects of 90+ degrees began to take its toll on our bodies. Water was low and warm and sweat was running over us instead of the dried creek beds. With a few miles to go, and hopefully no casualties, it was time for a break. Images of cold watermelon, grapes and mangoes glazed over our faces like a mirage on a deserted island. Back to the trail. We all made it out alive but were reminded that we are human. Thanks to the IMBA for the Allegrippis trail system! It was well planned with fast slopes, jumps, rock gardens, hill climbs and every challenging aspect of a genuine epic mountain bike ride.

We found ourselves back at camp were a feast a la Nass awaited. But first, a jump in the lake was a must to bring our body temperatures down somewhere under boiling. After jumping several times from a rock ledge into the crystal clear water of Lake Raystown, we emerged to dry in the hot summer sun on our walk back to camp. Awaiting us were chicken breasts over charcoal, spaghetti with deer meat (thanks to Jim Teague for the venison donation), salad, chips, cold lemonade, and much more. After all, when you burn over 2500 calories, it's only fitting to pig out…I mean replenish, right?

Following dinner was a fantastic study on the Armor of God. Greg put together a creative twist on the material relating it to the sport of mountain biking. God was with us as we shared testimonies and good fellowship. Soon after the study, we stoked the campfire and headed off to what would turn out to be a long night of praying for a breeze. Our tent acted as a sardine can for five grown men only separated by a heavy layer of perspiration. That was enough for me and Chuck. We laid on the very rock we jumped from earlier just to cool down from the light wind swirling on the lake. Did I mention it was 2 a.m.? Well, every adventure has to have a story.

Finally morning had come with a break from the previous 88 degree night. We broke down camp and saddled up for one last easy but wild ride on the trails. The lake shore turned out to be a great spot for our lunch before heading home. As always, it's never fun to leave a great escape, but, I guess our bodies needed rest.

So, the next time you're in the mood for an adventure that leaves you wanting to do it all over again, do it with us next time!

Brian Loizes

This is the group that started it all. We went down to Raystown in 2011 to scope a location for 2012 - the first AdventureFest. From Left to Right. Jon, Walter, Andy, Eric, Greg, Brian, Chuck . Jim Loizes photo.