Two days after arriving home from Ballet Magnifcat!, I embarked on a very different adventure. On Monday, July 17th, Lydia and I left the house at 5:30 a.m. and drove to the Turners house where we picked up Rebekah and Elizabeth Turner, and Rebekah Olm. We then continued on our way to our destination: The Inn of the Last Resort, a ministry of Christian Training Centers International, located in Franklin, North Carolina.
After driving around 6 hours, we finally made it to the Inn around 2 p.m. It was wonderful to see old friends from last year (all of us except Lizbeth had attended Heroes last year, and Lydia had been an intern there), and breathe in the beauty of the mountains. We found our rooms and unpacked, and before long the week's activities began.
We started by playing a few games to help learn everyone's names. Then we headed upstairs for a quick talk given by Susan Pons about manners. I'd heard most of it before, but it was fun to hear again the proper way to eat, serve food, introduce people and so on. The young men were also given instructions in the proper way to seat a lady. Yes, chivalry is alive and well at the Inn, and it's wonderful! Each mealtime, the young men would pull out our chairs, and serve us our drinks. Throughout the week they'd also open doors for us and help us carry heavy things, and so on. It was nice to be treated like a true lady! It makes one feel so special.
One thing that I must make clear about Heroes of Today is that it is NOT a camp, as Larry Pons always says. It is a training center, training young men and women to follow God and be heroes of our day whenever the chance arises. While at Heroes, we are challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
After supper, Derek Selby gave us a talk about a lot of ordinary people in the Bible who were following God, and who probably had no idea that God was going to use them like he did. We learned about Daniel, Samuel, Joseph, Gideon, Joseph – the wife of Mary, Mary the mother of Jesus, and more. We were challenged to totally surrender to God, and be willing to follow God's totally unpredictable plans for us. Then, we were told to change into something that could get wet, and meet in the pavilion for further instruction. It was already past 9 p.m., so what on earth could we be doing? Well, we were soon to find out.
Arriving in the pavilion we were blindfolded, and, holding hands with our roommates and led by our counselor, we were brought through the woods into a clearing. That first night we truly had to learn to trust our roommates and counselor, to get through the woods safely. We were allowed to remove our blindfolds for a few minutes, as we were divided into 5 different teams of 7 or 8 people each. My team was: Daniel K, Eric, Nathan B, Sean, Savannah, Katie, and I. Once in our group, we were shown a log, some rope, and a small saw, then blindfolded, and told to make a cross. With an intern to guide us and make sure we didn't cut ourselves, we began sawing the log into two pieces. Our log was so thick though, that after a long time of not getting through, a few of us were allowed to remove our blindfolds and finish making the cross.
Once the cross was completed, we were told to shoulder our cross and once again go through the woods, arriving at a very fast-flowing creek. We then had to carry our cross up the river, against the current, symbolizing going against the tide of our culture today. It was really hard to make it up the creek, for we had to go through this almost small waterfall type place. It required the whole team to stick together, holding on to the cross, and pushing together to make it up. Now remember, it was around 10:30 p.m. at night, and the only light we had was that of a few flashlights. I pushed with those carrying the cross, but as they pulled the cross through and up the river, I lost my footing on a very slippery rock, went underwater, and began being swept downstream. Thankfully, Daniel had lodged against a rock and was able to catch my hand, prevent me from going all the way downstream, and someone from behind was able to push while he pulled, and I was able to finally get through the rapid and stand up. It was really hard, and I swallowed creek water, which didn't feel very good, but I was grateful for my teammates' help. The water was pretty cool, so I was shivering by the time we were finally able to get out and trek back to the field, carry our cross, of course! We were given towels to attempt to dry off a little, and got to admire God's beautiful creation, seeing the amazing stars He made.
We finally got to go to our rooms, take a quick shower (we had 6 girls to one shower!), and crawl into our nice warm bed. It was after midnight by the time the lights went off, and the week had already began with a dramatic start.
The theme of the week, we soon learned, was "Take up your Cross". We literally carried out the verse, "take up your cross daily and follow Him", as we had to bring our cross everywhere with us - to our table at mealtimes, to our room at night, and with us on our challenges. We also had to be careful not to leave our cross unattended. If we did, it somehow always disappeared... and we'd have to find it.
Tuesday we arose at 6 a.m., had our individual quite time, and exercised as a group. Thankfully, the girls had the option of either power walking or running, and after running on Tuesday, I power walked the rest of the week! Developing shin splints on Wednesday didn't help any, that's for sure.
Tuesday morning, Susan Pons and Sally talked to us about life. They talked about the horrendous assault on it in our culture today, what with abortion and the start of euthanasia, and how we need to take a stand against it. Will then talked to us about being a counter-culture, going against what the world says. We did things at Heroes, that really went along with the Rebelution's slogan, “Do Hard Things”.
Tuesday afternoon began the challenges we had to accomplish with our team during the week. Our first challenge was to make a silent drama to a song, which we did for the group that evening. For our next challenge we did the “sleds”. We had to walk up the extremely long driveway, with our team of 7 on two long wooden planks, held by ropes. It's hard to explain, but it was pretty hard, and almost everyone had blisters on their hands after doing it.
Tuesday night began group discussions, where we discussed things to do with media/technology, and one's identity, and what we should be doing as teens in today's world. I think we actually got to bed on time that night – 11 p.m. was the official light's out, but it didn't always happen!
Wednesday morning was what was called Labors of Love. After breakfast, everyone was assigned different jobs to do to help the Inn, everything from helping in the kitchen to working on the prayer trail that was being built. I worked in the garden, where I learned a lot about weeds.=) It was tiring work, since the garden was in the sun the whole time, but it was kinda fun working with the soil, and as I said, pulling a lot of weeds out the corn and green beans patches.
Wednesday afternoon held more challenges, with our team doing the marble roll up steep Pons Hill, and then doing the low ropes course. It was all fun, but challenging, obviously!
Wednesday evening was one of my favorites. We did what was called “Prayers and Squares”. After supper we divided up into three groups to pray for Israel, our government leaders, and our culture. Then, it was time for square and line dancing! For those of you who've never done it, square dancing is tons of fun! I've only done it twice, this year and last year, but I've thoroughly enjoyed myself both times. I guess I pretty much just like any kind of dancing though... ;-)
Thursday we skipped exercise (yes!), and left for white water rafting right after breakfast. There were two groups, the girls and the guys. It was a lot of fun... scary at times, but fun! We went on class 4 and 5 rapids – the highest there are. The lack of rain had affected the water level of the Chatooga River, however, so we kept getting stuck on rocks! It was still exciting though, and I accomplished the goal I had. I didn't fall out on any of the rapids, which I praise God for! =) I just couldn't imagine falling out and getting swept along the river with all those rocks, like some did. Aside from various bumps and bruises that we all got, no one ,thankfully, got seriously hurt.
The girls got back from rafting before the guys, so we listened to a talk given by Susan Pons, which turned out to be one of my favorite. She talked about manners, modesty, mystery, and marriage. It was really encouraging to be challenged to be true ladies in the way we act and the way we dress, having true modesty. She talked about the mystery we as women have, and how we should keep it that way, kept only for our husbands. She talked about how the women's movement destroyed the shielding and covering of us women, but how we should still be covered. It was really wonderful to hear Susan address all of it, in her genteel way.
Thursday evening we again had more group discussions, this time about how we deal with swearing from friends, and also different aspects of boy/girl relationships. It was really good to be able to discuss these things with our peers, and also to hear the guidance from the staff present. The training center is a wonderful and special place, where they always point you to the source – God's word – and challenge you to stand for Christ, even if you're standing alone.
Friday morning we hiked up a mountain – still carrying our crosses – and worshiped as we saw God's wonderful handiwork displayed. We then did what is called Sitting at the Feet of Jesus. Everyone got quiet and talked and listened to God, away from all distractions, just spending time with Him. We then had a sharing time about what people had heard, worshiped some more, then went back down the mountain where we had a picnic. On the way back to the Inn, we got to stop by a waterfall, which was really pretty! North Carolina was just gorgeous, with all the green foliage, hazy mountains, and beautiful water!
Arriving back at the Inn we finished up the challenges, our last one being Frisbee Golf. At supper the team placements were announced. We got last, but that was okay. We had fun!
Friday evening Larry Pons talked about the depth of the human heart, and how no one but God can truly know it. We then went on a last walk with our cross as a team through a pathway lighted by candles, and listened to different interns read verses we had studied during devotions. Arriving at a place shaped like a cross, we were allowed to lay our cross down for the last time, and spend some time talking and praying as a team. We then proceeded to the amphitheater, where we they “passed the torch” onto us, and challenged us to go back home standing firm for Christ. We stayed late, worshiping and praying, with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Saturday, sadly, was the day to go home. It was raining, so we didn't have exercise, yet Ben Barnette still tried to break the record for running Pons Hill, which he missed by only sixteenths of a second! We took a group picture, ate our last meal together, and everyone cleaned and packed up. We had fun signing each other's shirts, then all too soon it was time to say goodbye. It was hard to leave everyone, because you get so close at the Inn, bonding happens really quickly. I've made friends there that I know will last.
We left around 11 a.m., and had an interesting ride home, having to turn around because of something forgotten, then being caught in heavy rain and missing our turn, but we eventually got home, finally around 8 p.m.! I was really tired, since we got an average of maybe 6 ½ hours of sleep each night, and it's taken a while to recover! I'm really glad I went however, and I learned so much.
Thank you so much, mom and dad, for sending me!
The whole group - almost 40 participants in all