If someone asked you to hike 42 miles in 52 hours by yourself, would you do it?
My guess is no (unless your name is Dave Williams and you have the resolve of a superhuman to walk for days upon days). That’s where community comes in.
This past Sunday, 4 high schoolers, 3 recent high school graduates, 6 leaders, 2 kids and 1 youth pastor embarked on what was supposed to be a 30 mile hike through the Jefferson Wilderness. We showed up bright and early at the church offices, replaced a couple duffle bags with backpacks, rationed some dehydrated food, hid a pair of Tevas from a misguided leader (Chacos only), and took off for the forest.
From the get-go, the team was laughing, joking around and occasionally roasting one of the new middle school leaders (sorry Lionel). This theme continued throughout the trip: the team was comfortable and free, content being in the presence of one another, happy to simply be themselves.
God has woven transparency and freedom into the hearts of the youth and leaders at UFC this summer, and it was a sweet thing to see play out on the trails. Whether it was being open about when they had to go to the bathroom, or asking tough questions about life and God that lingered in the back of their minds, or being honest about how tired they were, the team found freedom in the presence of Christ-Centered community.
Not many people would be able to barrel through 42 miles by themselves in the middle of nowhere, and I think God designed it that way. We weren’t meant to be alone, and the youth at UFC get that. We were meant to be free in community, and the youth are taking that and making it their own.
While hiking up hills that seemed to never end, the team leaned on one another. When one of the littles needed help climbing over a fallen tree, there was a person glad and willing to help. Where individual strength fleeted, the strength of community stepped in, reflecting the strength that comes only through being in community with a strong God.
My guess is that you wouldn’t have hiked 42 miles by yourself, and I praise God for that because, like the youth at UFC, we need strength that is not our own. We need the strength of God Almighty, and the support of his church. There is freedom in letting go of our own strength and in embracing the strength given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ and his people. There’s no telling what kind of mountains we’ll be able to climb when we embrace this, and I’m thankful to the Lord that this group has caught that vision.