We are celebrating the successful week of Upward Challenge BACK IN PERSON after being online for the last three years! Something we loved about Upward Challenge: Global Edition (online) is that it allowed us to get to know other youth connected to PRMI across the globe, and surprisingly, this year in person was no different.

We had 18 students and 17 volunteers throughout the week onsite at the Community of the Cross, who had the place swimming with life and energy. There were 6 people from the United Kingdom, 4 from Canada, 2 from Central America, and the rest from the United States.

Upward Challenge is a PRMI program for high school-aged participants. It was developed over 20 years ago, using the Dunamis material of PRMI while making it student-friendly. The hope is for participants to encounter Jesus Christ and learn the dance of cooperation with the Holy Spirit by taking a week to retreat in the wilderness of Western North Carolina.

This year, hope and desire did not change, but we know there has been a shift in our culture, and biblical literacy is not the same as it was 20 years ago. In relaunching Upward Challenge in person, we made some renovations to the program.

The team spent the last couple of months discerning and fleshing out the teaching content and schedule for the week of camp ahead. Some of the teaching sessions focused on:

  • The Authority of Scripture
  • Sharing the Kingdom Story (using the Gospel Tool outline)
  • Hearing the Voice of God
  • Who is the Holy Spirit

We were intentional about finding ways for students to be equipped with the necessary tools and spiritual disciplines to live out a deeper walk with Christ in their everyday lives.

The final morning, as we wrapped up with communion and prayers for empowerment, one of the students saw a picture of bridges and the murk of sin underneath as he was receiving prayer. He shared it with another student, who instantly had the verses of Matthew 7:24–27:

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

It was amazing to see God speaking to the students. We watched them learn how to hear his voice and build foundations of faith through the practices of solo time, worship, and lab exercises. They built fellowship and koinonia with other believers, and maybe the most difficult experience was giving up their cell phones except for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

One student commented:

“It was the first time I saw Jesus and experienced Jesus and God the Father as like a friend and not some weird celestial being in the sky. It brought me a more personal relationship with Jesus.”

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Victoria Geurink (Upward Challenge 2023 Director) being prayed over before teaching

There is always so much more that goes into a week of camp, with its highs and lows and each person leaving with their own personal experience, but overall it was a blast. Both students and volunteers walked away having heard about Jesus and having the chance to encounter him. We look forward to what might be in store for future years to come.

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