Upward Challenge 2017 lived up to its name.

Together we faced flooded tents, injuries and illnesses, and teaching challenges–all during one of the most well-attended camps in the history of Upward Challenge.

The challenges that we met and overcame were a part of an upward journey, towards Christ-likeness and corporate unity.

Tents

One night the guys tents flooded and they slept on the front porch. All of them took it in stride and were very cooperative with leaders and flexible in the midst of this unforeseen change of plans.

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Injuries and Illnesses

A sprained ankle and a couple of upset stomachs slowed some people down, but recovery was quick.

Teaching Challenges

Our material this year covered the Dunamis 2 material on spiritual gifts.

However, after realizing that 23 of our 30 campers were new to Upward Challenge, teaching needed to be adjusted.

In addition, many campers were coming with questions such as:

  • “How do I know God is real?”
  • “Why should we believe in the Christian conception of God rather than accepting another religion’s perspective?”
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Testimonies

We began addressing these questions through testimony-sharing in our evening sessions.

When leaders share about how they have experienced God to be real in their own lives, this lends credibility to belief in Truth for those growing up in a relativistic, post-modern world.

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Breakthrough and Encounter

Over the course of the week we saw campers:

  • decide to follow Jesus for the first time,
  • rededicate their lives to Christ, and
  • hear God’s voice for the first time.

Sins were confessed, and the silence of abuse was broken.  Through 21 personal prayer appointments, Jesus brought healing.

Visible Change

The work that God did in the campers became visible over the course of the week. One camper’s countenance turned from disengaged pouting and reservation to smiles, a lighter presence, and active participation. Other students moved physically from withdrawal in the back of the room to front seats on the back porch.

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Worship

A key ingredient in the life-changing transformation youth experience at Upward Challenge is worship through music. This year we were blessed to have a talented team lead us into the presence of God each day.

One team member shared her original songs which resonated deeply with where the campers were at and brought them with all their anger and questions to Jesus.

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Oh, and fun…

We had a lot of fun singing the “banana” song—ask a youth who went or watch one of the video recordings on Facebook—and “the chicken dance”.

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Rethinking Empowerment

On the night in which we usually do prayers for empowerment, our team discerned that this kind of prayer invitation would not address the spiritual thirst of all our participants. Instead, we chose to offer options.

Leadership forum five leaders up front a group of youth
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First, we began with a panel discussion.

Students were asked throughout the day to write questions they had on pieces of paper and submit them to the question box.

A moderator presented these questions to a panel in which clergy, clergy-to-be, and non-clergy were represented.

The panel spanned ages, both genders, and various personality types and spiritual giftings.

After this question-and-answer panel discussion, students were given options for further engagement.

They could process their learning and experiences through artistic expression in one station.

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In another, they could ask further questions of seminary-trained ministers and other adults.

If they wanted to receive prayer, they could go to prayer teams for prayers for empowerment or inner healing.

This activity worked very well for us.

The “fireside chat” with continued conversation and questions was buzzing with interaction during the entire time.

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Students could stay at one station or move from one station to the next as they wanted.

This provided adequate opportunity for students to encounter God in ways most relevant to where they found themselves. Intercessors covered each activity in prayer.

What’s next?

Youth at a camp about to play capture the flag
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This year we witnessed an overwhelming interest in Upward Challenge–we had to close registration early since enrollment had exceeded our capacity.

This momentum, coupled with a desire to start more Upward Challenges in new locations, is leading us to consider how God is growing Upward Challenge and how we can support and facilitate that growth.

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We ask for your prayers and financial support so that more leaders can be raised up and deployed to serve in God’s mission in the world.

We are asking specifically for wisdom and strategy as we seek to cultivate Upward Challenge leadership teams and craft training materials for new and upcoming leaders. We also ask for wisdom regarding facilities, timing, team-building, and other preparation for new camp launches.

Thanks to all who supported Upward Challenge NC through your prayers and financial support!

Thanks to parents for entrusting your kids to us, and thanks to all of our volunteers—this camp would literally not have happened without you. We praise God for where he has taken us and where we are going. All glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

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