Jason and I spent the weekend at Camp Loucon in Lietchfield, KY with youth group kids from Presby Church Henderson and 85 other kids from the Presbytery of Western Kentucky.
One of the great things about Loucon is that they have adventure and team building activities that you can add into your retreat schedule. We do the usual retreat stuff–worship, devotional activities, games, free time…but we also do high ropes, low ropes, a climbing wall and a zip line. The point of the adventure activities is to give kids a chance to try something that might be different, difficult or scary for them, give them a chance to encourage other kids in their group, and to stretch individuals and groups to complete various tasks and goals.
We have several activities scheduled throughout the weekend and students sign up for the ones they plan to do. One of the most popular activities at Loucon, and one that everyone is old enough to do is the zip Line. The zip Line starts at the top of a ravine and you jump off a “cliff” and zip down to the bottom.
Our group loves the zip line. I love the zip line. It’s a little bit scary and a whole lot of fun!
But I knew one thing before we went to Loucon. Jonas was not going to be excited to try the zip line.
This was Jonas’ first year at Loucon. This school year has been fun because Jonas is finally old enough to be a legitimate youth group member. He’s been tagging along for years, but now he’s part of things for real.
He had a great time at Loucon. He met new friends, he climbed the rock wall, he did the low elements challenge course, he participated in energizers, worship, folk dancing and games. He surprised me when I asked for someone to pray during our morning gathering Sunday and he stood up and prayed for the 95 people gathered in Harbin Hall. He had a good attitude about activities, tried to be supportive (or at least quiet) during the group activities, and did what was asked of him.
But he did not sign up for the zip line.
Almost all of the rest of the Henderson group signed up for the Sunday morning slot. We gathered by the dining hall after breakfast and waited for our staff team. The group was not at maximum size. Jason decided to go find Jonas and see if he wanted to give the zip line a try.
Jonas was hanging out with some friends who had zip lined the day before. They convinced him to come up to the jumping off spot. He did. He was our crank man for awhile–he cranked the pulley that brought gear from the bottom to the top each time.
Jonas said, “I’m not going to do it. I’ll try it next year.”
And one by one, kids from our group jumped off the edge. And the group at the top was then smaller than the group at the bottom.
One of the kids handed Jonas some gear and he put it on, saying the whole time that he wasn’t going to do it.
He stood a little longer.
He asked if he could pray and he folded his hands and stood quietly.
The kids at the bottom began to cheer for him. “Give me a ‘J!’ ‘J!’ Give me an ‘O!’ ‘O!…'”
I prayed silently.
See, no one was going to push Jonas off the edge. That’s a step everyone takes because he chooses to take it. Whether he jumped or backed out, it was okay. For his sake? I wanted him to JUMP.
“It’s hard.” He said.
“You’ve done a lot of hard things,” I replied from my spot behind the rope.
Jonas has had a tough year so far. I wanted him to jump for him. I wanted him to feel the rush of the harness catching after the drop and that feeling of overcoming something hard.
And then, when they got to “S!” Jonas kicked off the edge.
“Who stretched today?” he asked.
Hands went up around the group–kids and adults who had done something that was hard for them and had grown as the result. Jonas’ was one of them.
Matt pointed at Jonas. “How did you stretch?”
Sincerely, Jonas replied, “Well, I bent down like this…” and demonstrated a good stretch.
One of the girls in our group looked at me and said, “That’s so Jonas.”