I want to share my favorite story from the week. Maybe my favorite story ever.
One of the best things I've ever been a part of.
On Thursday morning, all the rising sixth graders and their counselors geared up for a five mile hike up the mountain - two and half up, two and half back. We got our water, got our groups, got pumped up, and started our way up the mountain. The trail was not one bit easy - a lot of the walking was straight up and the terrain was rocky - and it was soon clear that one group was tearing ahead much faster than the other.
I was in the second group.
The Rock Hill crew.
There were about twelve of us.
Through repeated rounds of 'Call Me Maybe,' 'What Makes You Beautiful,' and 'Baby' and back and forth 'whooooaaaaaaa' from Fee's Rise and Sing, we made our journey.
There was one sweet, sweet little boy in our group who was convinced that he couldn't do it. He thought he couldn't climb that mountain so he stopped a lot and said 'can't' a lot, and shed lots of tears. But the group wouldn't settle for that and they encouraged him and pushed him (sometimes literally) and spoke words of life to him and for four hours, got him up and down that mountain.
every step. every stop.
They didn't complain, show selfishness, or were harsh.
They never stopped loving.
What is most powerful to me about that time was the character and the servant leadership and the Christlike attitude of the four teenagers that were with us. The cheers, the words of life, the encouragement, the pep talks. There were several times I saw hands on shoulders, eye contact, you CAN do this. do you hear me? you CAN do this. Through the grueling pace and the frustration I'm sure was there but couldn't see, they walked alongside that boy and they cared and loved him to the top.
And the sixth graders! Our group stayed together! No 'this is too slow, I'll meet you guys there.' There was cheerfulness and NO COMPLAINING and so much encouragement. One boy in our group is an avid Boy Scout and does 15 mile hikes all the time. Before we left, he told me this hike would be a warm up. Yet he was with us, in the back, the whole time - walking beside his friend, stopping beside his friend. the.entire.time.
I saw kids and students rise up and choose to die to self. I saw Jesus. There was no tough love or rough words or behind the back exasperation. There was joy and love. Lots and lots of love.
I've never seen anything like it.
And the more I think on it and the more I process it, I'm not sure exactly how yet, but I think it changed me.
I've been reading a lot of Reggie Joiner lately and he's been writing a lot about engaging people in the mission of the Gospel. Not just telling them the story, but giving them the opportunity to engage. To be a part of the story. And I can't help but think that up and down that mountain, we were engaged in the mission of the Gospel. The caring, the loving, the leading, the life giving, the serving. There. That's where we see the power of Jesus.
Because in trial and in struggle, that's where and when we are made more like Him. You either lie down and turn around or you choose to keep moving forward in dependency and in worship of Jesus. That mountain hike was hard. The pace was grueling. But I saw God there! In the very heart of the struggle. I saw Him in the hearts, words, and actions of those teens and middle schoolers. I saw Him in the dying to self and putting others above themselves. In the trial, their concern was for others.
In trial and struggle, in action, in doing, in experiences, we are given permission to rise up and become more like Jesus.
Leaders don't lead from in front, they lead from among. And I am grateful for the opportunity to witness an incredible group of leaders who loved their brothers and sisters to the top and back down again. They chose to be missional and they chose to serve and they chose to find joy in it all. They chose to sing, to put others first, to care people to Christ. They chose to put love in action.
I am so proud of these people that I love.