As with every Upward Challenge, this year (2015) was different than last year, but beautiful and wonderful in its own way.
Last year, we completed the last of the series for Upward Challenge, so in 2015, we started back at the beginning with 4D Human.
Each Year is Unique
We had a refreshing bunch of new kids, including six 13-year-olds. It was gratifying to be able to provide them with the Upward Challenge foundation that they can continue to expand upon throughout the rest of their high school years.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:2 (NIV)
A Home for Upward Challenge AK
We have found a wonderful home for Upward Challenge Alaska in St. Therese’s Camp. This was our second year there, and even driving through the gates of camp on day one felt like coming home.
We love the camp’s director, Rudy, with his love of God and his servant heart. It was a blast to get to work with him again.
Listening to and Connecting with God
It was exciting to witness God working in the lives of everyone at camp and meeting people one on one, right where they were. And that really seemed to be the theme of this year; listening to God and developing that personal connection with Him. What helped develop this theme were the prayer exercises, every day, that focused on finding that quiet spot with God.
Heaven on Earth
One way this was emphasized was through our prayer shack. During one of our leadership meetings our prayer coordinator was given a vision for the prayer shack about having heaven on earth. Her vision came together beautifully to create an environment to help people really meet with God. The t-shirt design was designed to reflect this heaven on earth vision as well.
Encounter and Empowerment
After a week of focusing on meeting personally with God, Friday’s prayer for empowerment was especially exciting!
One young man found himself skipping and shouting from the back porch, “I’m a Christian! I’m so happy!”
One young lady asked her friend who was on a prayer team to “hook me up with Jesus,” and then she spent the rest of the evening filled with holy laughter, giggling with Jesus.
Two students made professions of faith and a few even received the gift of tongues. It was a wonderful culmination of the week!
Raising Up Youth Leaders
After last year, Sam Hale encouraged us to get our young people more involved in leadership.
We invited three of the YAMs, (Young Adult Mentors), to join the leadership planning team, which met throughout the year, and then once at camp, they had more up-front roles: leading devotions at the morning circle time, helping to present the camp overview on the first night, and orchestrating the games on Monday as well.
We look forward to finding more ways to get them involved in leadership!
An Opportunity to Serve and Minister
We loved having all of our out-of-state visitors! Sam Hale and Benjamin McEntire joined us from North Carolina, and Andy and Laura LaBo came from Michigan. If anyone is interested in coming next year, we’d love to have you. Just be sure to plan on a couple of extra days so we can show off our beautiful state.
Next year’s dates for Upward Challenge Alaska are June 19-25, 2016
UCAK 2015 Quick Facts:
Total participants: 42 – half were 20 yrs. and under, half were 21-70+
Camp administrator: Lisa Coleman
Camp director: Steve Coleman
Teachers: Judy Cook & Sam Hale
Prayerful Re-Entry into Everyday Life
Two weeks after Upward Challenge, some of us met to debrief the week. As we shared, we realized that many of us had been hit with re-entry difficulties – medical ailments, feeling that what happened at camp wasn’t real, loneliness after leaving the community that had been built at camp. We were glad that we could be together and pray for one another. One of our adult mentors wrote up a booklet of Spiritual Pitons, Scriptures of encouragement for when times get tough and confusing, and we gave these to all the campers.
Expanding the Ministry of Upward Challenge in AK
In an effort to nurture the strong sense of community built during this one week in the summer, we hope to add more events throughout the year, including dinners, lock-ins, and weekend getaways. (It helps that our kitchen leader owns a bed and breakfast!)
Join Us in Prayer
Pray for God to protect and grow these young people in their relationships here and in their local churches and with God throughout the coming year.