The attitudes and reactions of our campers in the face of planned adversity and intentional suffering are perhaps best captured by Jesus, who upon hiking up the hundreds of stairs to the top of the canyon with a full pack in the sun, exclaimed, “I want to die.” One day later, Jesus accepted the challenge to try some rock climbing on an overhang, and he did it! Upon reaching the top, his euphoria was succinct: “That was super!” Another of my favorite quotes from the season came from Fidel, who confessed that he rappelled down the waterfall “Because it scared me, so I knew I needed to do it.” Two other boys from this group went back for a second descent down the rope because “It was so much fun!” The adrenaline they got while going off the edge was well worth overcoming the fear.
Just like in real life. When we accept the challenges and face our fears, the rewards are often a rush of adrenaline, a spurt of personal growth, and a realization of our potential. We overcome the risk of failure with determination and will, and accept the consequences.
Mickey (Miguel) accepted the risk of a life of constant surrender to Jesus and the fear of public humiliation when he decided to be baptized in the canyon in front of the group. His public testimony spurred discussions with the other boys, and it was the crowning moment of his camp. At some point he will fail; at some point he will succumb to the temptations of the world and have to swallow his pride in confession and repentance. At some point God will ask him to give up something he really, really wanted. But the life of peace, purpose and joy he gains in Jesus outweighs all of the risks.
Cristian shared the reason behind his sudden string of accidents on the mountain bike during the final stretch of four hours of madness down the muddy slopes of the mountains into the Amazon: “I had lots of fun during most of the ride, but I was holding back to stay safe. Toward the end I went all out on the bike, pushing my limits even though it made me crash three times. It was so worth it.” How often are we holding back, playing it safe, instead of experiencing the fullness of life?
Some of the young people to participate in the Tarija church camp came away with solid decisions and valuable personal insights. One girl confessed that “I wanted to give up something easy, but I gave up the hard thing to God.” One of the older boys shared that because of the personal devotion times anchored with deep-thinking questions to answer, “I feel empowered to fight my temptations. I understand them better and have a plan to avoid and overcome them.” These are just a handful of the victories achieved in the lives of our campers all season.
A different Cristian complained “I can’t do this” literally just steps away from camp heading uphill for a day hike. He repeated the conviction at least thirty times, without exaggerating. But three hours later he reached the high alpine lakes with the rest of the group, just putting one foot in front of the other, not focusing on how much it cost him, but focusing instead on the goal. I was so stinking proud of that whole group for making it so much farther than I ever thought they were capable of. How often do we restrict ourselves because of the effort involved, or accept other people’s inadequate estimation of our ability? Is there someone in your life that needs you to tell them thirty times, “Yes you can,” even when their defeatism becomes annoying?
Do we have the courage to force ourselves to do the hard thing, like Jhair and Josue on the rappel line? To take a long, hard look at the risks, to know the fear, experience the struggle firsthand and then decide to take a second stab at the problem? Victory is waiting on the other side. Sometimes victory is slogging through the jungle, getting bit by mosquitoes, getting rashes from plants, and after checking your compass heading time after time in doubt and lack of confidence, finally finding the treasure chest full of chocolate candies and rubber snakes. But usually it isn’t.
For us victory meant pushing teens to become more than they were the week prior. It meant accepting and utilizing the teachable moments that invariably appear during each camp at times when we have not planned for them to occur. Victory means our sponsors covering the entire cost of Josue’s broken arm. It means an entire group of kids trying the waterfall rappel when two years ago none were ready to make the attempt. Victory is not losing or damaging a single article of equipment thanks to the newly-implemented safety deposit strategy, resulting in greater personal responsibility in all of our participants. It means unforeseen business contacts and a small army of volunteers that helped with logistics, supervision and mentoring. It means impromptu fireside chats and unexpected mentoring opportunities. It means God glorified and God enjoyed.
Thank you for being a part of our cadre of supporters! Thanks to your prayers, donations, encouragement and even your likes on facebook, we enjoyed a phenomenal camp season this year. Be praying for the youth that made real commitments to be a better big brother, to resist temptation, to be a light in their neighborhood and home, to speak encouragingly, to act with confidence, to show determination in their studies, and to focus their thoughts on what is good and right. Check out facebook to see the albums of photos from (most of) our camps.