In early October Collegedale Academy’s senior class ventured out near Tellico Plains, Tenn., for Senior Survival, an annual six-day trip anticipated to be a restorative time. Surrounded by nature, they put aside such distractions as phones, iPads, and iPods to reside in tents and hammocks. They set out to discover the bounty that the wilderness has to offer, and participate in activities designed to teach them key principles like teamwork, interdependence, and trust.
As the week progressed, one could detect a gradual change in the attitudes of the seniors. Some began the trip unsure about trading in the luxuries of home for rough camping conditions. However, the week’s team building activities taught them that they need each other to overcome the world’s obstacle courses, and, most importantly, they need God to guide their lives.
Here are some testimonies from two Collegedale Academy students, reflecting on this fall's senior survival.
By Joëlle Kanyana
I’m a mostly confident person, but for all four years of my high school career, I never quite felt like I completely belonged. I have always had great friends, but I’ve had a sense of detachment, like the fact that my interests have never been those of a typical high school student, or the fact that I don’t have the “all-American” look. This keeps me from completely melting into my class.
On the second to last night of Senior Survival, I sat around the nightly campfire and watched my classmates. As they joked and laughed with each other, I sat apart from them thinking, “Four years here and I still don’t feel like I truly fit in.” The next day, after an excellent talk with a few of my female classmates, I learned that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. The girls encouraged me and reminded me what I’ve always known to be truth: God made me with loving care, and the aspects of myself that are unique to me are intentional. In addition to that, I am surrounded by people who genuinely care about me, and together, our unique gifts and talents serve to strengthen the Body of Christ. Senior Survival solidified this truth in my head.
Pray Without Ceasing
By Jordan Madrigal
"Good morning Mr. Sherwood!" I said, as all the seniors gathered around for the second morning worship. I did not know the
following words out of my mouth, "Can I pray with you?" would have such a profound impact on my spiritual journey.
I prayed with my religion teacher, Mr. Sherwood, and asked that God would give him the words that needed to be spoken that morning. I was not expecting that prayer to benefit me; I just wanted to lift Mr. Sherwood up in hopes that someone listening to his words would learn something new.
Before Senior Survival, my perception of prayer was very much distorted. I wondered what the point of prayer was. I felt like I was talking to thin air with the thought of how far away God was, and I wondered, "If God already knows the end from the beginning, why should I request things from him?"
Mr. Sherwood began his talk, and after staring at a smoldering ash pile, watching yellow jackets fly around my class mates, and
whispering to my friends, Mr. Sherwood started saying something that caught my attention. He talked about his daughter's first steps, and the inevitably that she would stumble and fall. But when she fell, he ran to her side picked her up, threw her in the air, and tickled her chin saying "Good job! I am so proud of you, you just walked two steps! Now get back on your feet and do it again!"
Our spiritual life is much the same way. As my spiritual journey began, I got up spiritually and started making progress, but just like a baby's first steps, I was bound to fall. This is why prayer is so important. By offering requests for others, we are giving God, our heavenly father, the spiritual authentication to launch his super strategy to do all he can to reach out to others that have fallen wether it is through something or someone. We need to pray for others, and others for us so God can use all of us to help each other back up. Mr. Sherwood finished his talk, and my prayer was answered. I ended up learning the meaning of prayer, after I had prayer without expecting to learn anything!
By Murray Cooper
Photos by Ronnie Pittman