“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you” is an oldie but goodie, but they are fitting words for Tulsa Adventist Academy’s annual High School Challenge. In late August, our high school embarked on a fabulous “challenge” at Fall Creek Falls State Park near Spencer, TN. After a trip to Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium, we continued to the wooded, hilly park, set up camp, and enjoyed five days of hikes, waterfalls, swimming, and playing volleyball at the park.
Andrew Spooner, pastor of the Bristow and Okmulgee, Oklahoma churches, joined us, and he and math teacher Larry Seery inspired us with daily dialog from 1 Timothy and its application today. Pastor Spooner also was an incredible listener and counselor to our students and he presented daily stories/practical lessons on living in the world, but not of the world.
The purpose of the challenge is to help students get to know each other and the high school teachers better and bond at the beginning of the school year. All students are put into groups with different grades to help them collaborate on preparing food, cooking, and cleaning up afterward. Some students learned how to use a manual can opener; others, who excel at food prep, helped those who have never ventured into the kitchen by showing them how to properly dice, slice, and serve.
Through strenuous hikes to stunning waterfalls and chilling natural pools, students relied on each other to pull through and step way outside their comfort zones. “I’m not going down that trail,” said a freshman, “I am terrified of heights.” With encouragement from teachers and students, she hiked up and down and faced her fears bravely, overcoming many scary moments.
Other students bonded through tears of caring and sharing similar heartaches such as losing a parent or other loved ones. In particular, several students, Pastor Spooner, and some teachers became a tight-knit circle one evening after the realization that they had more in common than not. Students allowing each other to be vulnerable in this safe environment strengthened their resolve to tolerate each other and admit that their “dislike” of others may be misplaced. Some were amazed that they could share their emotions without creating conflict with each other, so the teachers counted this as a win for all!
Despite the raccoons, blisters, bruises, and hyper humidity, we were blessed by deer and fawn passing near us, no rain until the last day (we ate ice cream and played games to pass the time), safety while traveling, good food, new friendships, starry skies, and a clearer understanding of how to navigate as a Christian teenager in this sinful world. Visit Tulsa Adventist Academy on Facebook or Instagram to see photos!