I don’t remember ever seeing such determination in a teenager. Heather’s white-knuckled grip on the rope ladder held firm, despite her sweaty palms and exhaustion. She’d been climbing one of the most difficult routes on the new Upward Tower for several minutes but seemed to have stalled half-way up. I thought she would give up any minute, allowing her safety team to lower her to the ground, but then something exciting happened.
Her cabin mates, sensing that she was on the verge of abandoning her ascent, gathered around the tower, shouting words of encouragement and urging her upward. Heather fixed her eyes on the next grip point and pulled with all her might. The shouts of inspiration grew stronger then, fueling Heather’s resolve. One difficult step at a time, she continued her climb. Slowly and steadily she approached the top of the tower, forty-feet above the ground. When she reached the top, cheered erupted from the ground, and the lesson was cemented into place.
The Upward Tower isn’t just about climbing and zip lines. Before the group began the activity, I explained that the name comes from Philippians 3, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I described how a relationship with God isn’t just about getting into heaven, but God calls us upward into a closer connection with Him. Many people give up and walk away from God when the going gets tough, but the Upward Tower teaches us to be determined and uncompromising in our pursuit of Christ.
All summer, our campers have been experiencing this lesson first-hand as they have taken on the challenges of the Upward Tower. In the process they've gained not only an unforgettable experience, but also a lesson about their relationship with God that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.