I had no cell service in the mountains of Colorado, so I had to write my blogs each night and wait to post them once I got home. I'm home...and here are the incredible experiences of the past 5 days:

The Trek
I had no idea how long a bus ride to Colorado with 50 kids would seem! I can honestly say the trip was exactly what I needed right now though. I sat next to a sweet, sweet leader that I just met a few months ago. We were able to talk about life…real life…and all that God is challenging us with! I so needed that.

We stopped in cities I’ve never even heard of at times I’m not usually awake. I remember a rest-stop around 4am. I got off the bus and could barely breathe from the stench of poo. I’m pretty sure I coughed! I found my way to the building and there to greet me was a giant statue of an alien…or something.

Sleeping in the bus chair was torture, I don’t ever want to experience that again. Unfortunately I have to break that rule in 6 short days when we make the trek back home! But next time I will know better than to sit amongst the high school boys...I can’t even explain with words the strange noises they made and the incredible volume their voices reached…for 18 hours straight!!! But it’s nice to be humbled again, and reminded that I will be put in challenging and frustrating situations so that I MAY GROW!!!

The Beginning
It’s the 2nd night at Silver Creek and I feel like God’s work has finally begun!!! I have waited for this moment for so long and am so glad to finally see why I’m here and not at home with my kids. The group of girls I am with have amazed me with their willingness to be real and open to what God wants to show them this week. They are respectful, kind, honest, beautiful girls and I am so happy to share this experience with them!!

The first night at cabin time we talked about self image and how God sees them. I had them go around the circle and say something beautiful about the person to their left. I was so proud of what they came up with! Then I had them go in the bathroom and look in the mirror. I asked them to repeat the following phrases after me, “I am beautiful, God thinks I’m beautiful, I am God’s beloved.” It was so neat to hear their voices together, I won’t forget it for a long time!

Tonight at cabin time we talked about things that are holding us back from God and preventing us from fully believing that God loves us. We talked about things like wanting to be popular, needing to be loved by a boy, being labeled and feeling stuck in a box…oh I don’t miss high school. I asked the girls to write down the walls they had up on a piece of paper and for the first time all week, there was complete silence for 5 minutes. I wanted them to know how proud I was of them for going deep and being so real and I played a song for them that means a lot to me. Joel Hansen from Westwood wrote this song about a counselor who went to save a girl drowning in the water, “She took her hand, and never let go”…both girls died that day. I wanted them to know how loved they are by God and by ME! Can’t wait to see what’s to come for these amazing girls…

Amazing Grace
The past few days have absolutely drained me…physically and emotionally. Yesterday, all of my girls faced their fears when they went through the high ropes course. I watched in amazement as they went up in the trees one by one and encouraged each other through the difficult course. I was so proud of them as they zip-lined back to the ground, and the looks on their faces after they were safely back on solid ground were priceless!!

Later that day we went exploring and the crazy girls actually jumped into the freezing cold river which is made up of snow run-off. I stood on shore and took pictures…nice and warm!!! The rest of the day was full of leader meetings, swimming in the hot springs, friendship bracelet making, praying, and singing.

Facing Fears
Today was…I guess I don’t even know what word to use here. I woke up with a knot in my stomach knowing that today I would have to face a very real fear of mine. White. Water. Rafting. Just typing those words make my heart race and stomach turn. There was NO part of me that wanted to experience white water rafting in my life, but when I asked the youth pastor if I had to go, he reminded me that God asks us to face our fears, not run from them. Not the answer I was hoping for, but he was so right. So today I made myself put one foot in front of the other and get on the bus headed for Noah’s Ark, the Christian based rafting company we would be using for our trip. The closer we got, the harder it was to breathe and when I got off the bus and saw the river, I lost it. This probably sounds absolutely pathetic, but I am not a risk-taker. I would never choose to do an extreme sport like sky-diving, bungee jumping, or white water rafting. Apparently my fear was not hidden well because several other leaders on the trip saw me in the parking lot and came over to pray over me. I was so grateful for their prayers and felt better as I walked with all of the kids over to our guide. Then the guide started talking about all of the “what ifs” and I lost it again. I felt like such an idiot as I silently sobbed, surrounded by 150 brave high schoolers who couldn’t wait to get in their rafts. I don’t think I stopped crying or shaking until we were a few miles down the course. Seriously…so embarrassing!
I will never forget the joke of our boat- We were only one mile into the 6 hour ride and going over what I would call “white caps/very large waves” when I asked our guide if these would be considered a Class 2 rapid. (He told us we would be experiencing Class1-Class 4 rapids throughout the course and I wanted to know if these were on the higher end…cause they felt that way!) He turned to me with a confused expression on his face and said “No.” I thought, Oh good, this is probably a Class 3 rapid so they won’t get much worse than this. And he responded, “No, this…is just water!” I almost jumped out of the boat and swam to shore. I still wish I had. The next 6 hours were extremely difficult for me, I will be totally honest. I hated how I felt, but I couldn’t convince myself that this was fun. I remember getting out around the half-way point and standing on a rock. I think I took my first deep breath of the day. My abs hurt from being so tense, and I was emotionally drained. Our guide had told us that the worst rapid was coming up…the one with the sink hole. He said that out of the 12 trips he took per week, at least 2 he would flip during this rapid. As we were eating lunch, I just prayed to God that he would take my focus off my fear so that I could do my job paddling and get us safely through the rapid. As I stood up to get back in the boat, I accidently put my hand on a cactus. That prayer was answered!! My focus was now on the ridiculously painful burning in my hand after my girls pulled out all of the cactus needles.

Before the big rapid, our guides got out to pray. They watched as other groups(non-Christian organizations) went through the rapid and when they got back told us that the boat directly in front of us dumped 3 people as they went through it. That was information I did NOT need to know! Before I new it, it was our turn, and all I can remember is the guide screaming at me “Paddle now, this is not the time to freeze up on us.” We made it safely through, as did the rest of our group. We pulled off to the side to watch the others behind us go through it just in case anyone fell out and needed us to rescue them. After our whole group made it through safely, he said we would wait just a little while longer and watch as the next group went though…again from a non-Christian organization. We watched as they went down the first plunge, and when the boat came up for the second part, you could see that the back of the boat was now empty. I could barely breathe as I saw a few boats pull off of shore to go rescue the people that had fallen out…one of them a 6 or 7 year old boy. I cried again. I don’t think this is anything I would ever consider fun! I was in awe however that we were the only group that prayed before the rapid and we were the only group to make it though safely. God Answers Prayer!!! The rest of the course seemed to last forever and all I wanted was to be back on solid ground. I can honestly say that I don’t ever care to experience that again. Did I face my fear…yep. Did I conquer it…don’t think so.

Both Feet In
Every day, Brian gives 2 messages. The message in the morning is short, and then the kids are asked to go find spot alone somewhere at camp and do their “Reflections”. The message at night is a lot deeper and afterwards we go back to our cabins and have “Cabin Time”. I had been praying all week that my girls would go deeper and really be honest during our time together.
I wasn’t prepared for what would come out during our conversation tonight. Something finally made them open up, and I realized they were all in such different places in their relationships with God. Some questioned everything we had talked about, some doubted that God could really loved them, and some just sat silently. They said things that hurt me to the core, and it dawned on me that I was once in the same place as them. It’s easy to say now that I am certain there is a God and that Jesus died for our sins. But I remember when I first believed that doubt was always popping up. These girls are exactly where I was when I became a believer, it was the summer before 11th grade.
After a deep breath and a quick prayer, I told them this was a safe place to ask their questions. I could see that many of these girls had faith that was only “one foot in the water”, meaning that they were keeping one foot on shore just in case. I decided to be bold and told them that they needed to have “both feet in” if they wanted to experience all that God had planned for them. That meant turning from their sins and what they struggled with and believing that the Bible and EVERYTHING in it is the word of God. I told them that God asks us to do things that aren’t always easy or what we want to do, and that sometimes when something feels uncomfortable or hard, that’s right where God wants us to be. I could see some of them trying to fit God into a tiny comfortable box, but that’s not how He works! I hope that tonight plants a seed in them, if only a tiny mustard seed.

And the Kingdom of God grows…
Tonight during Brian’s message, he shared with the students about God’s love for each of them and His call to hand over the “steering wheel” of their lives. We had communion and listened to beautiful song about God’s forgiveness. Then he asked all of the students to find somewhere around camp to go and sit and just be with God. As they students were praying, the leaders prayed over the students. I was amazed by how God would place an image of one of my girls in my mind and a specific prayer for them. This had never happened before and it was so powerful. As I walked to our cabin to meet with the girls for our cabin time, I felt as though I was being prepared for something. Small understatement!

We started going through the questions Brian had sent with all of the leaders and I was amazed by how open and real the girls were all finally being. Many of them shared that they felt the presence of God for the first time that night, and through tears they talked about their brokenness. I could feel that God was all over that circle and offered to them the opportunity to pray the prayer of salvation with me. I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured or guilted into such an important decision, so I said that I would be out praying in one of the gazebo’s and if they felt led to commit their lives to God, or to recommit their lives to God, that they could join me and I would help them through that prayer.

I sat there in prayer for a while, wondering how long to wait. When I heard someone coming up the path, I looked up to see who it was. I will NEVER forget the image of ALL 8 of my girls walking up that path!!! Together, in the gazebo under the stars on the mountainside in Colorado, we prayed the prayer of salvation.

Three of them, for the first time.

It truly was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. We all put our arms around each other and sang “Amazing Grace”…I so wish I could have heard what the people in the cabins around us were thinking! It was terrible! But I will never be able to hear that song again without thinking of the 8 amazing girls I spent this week with, and their powerful prayer to God.

I am so thankful to be a part of this ministry, and I go home a changed believer. God is so Awesome.