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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: End (02/13/06)

TITLE: Camp Hilltop
By Carol Sanford



Two bright yellow buses were camouflaged among autumn’s brilliance as they meandered down the back roads enroute to Camp Hilltop. My sixth graders were excited about their field trip. Not knowing what to expect from the day, they had heard rumors of having to implement teamwork to be successful with challenges outdoors. Upon arrival, all passengers alighted. We climbed the steep hill to the lodge for orientation and group leader assignments. Soon my ten students and I headed to the woods for our first session with Shawn.

The morning passed quickly. My excellent group tackled creative tasks that had to be solved as a team. As students brainstormed possible solutions, they listened and encouraged each other. I was impressed with the way they worked together. All displayed much determination to finish even the most difficult assignment. Shawn was an easygoing and capable facilitator.

After descending the hill for workshops and lunch, we trekked back up. Head down, arms and heart pumping, I reached the top, grumbling silently. Looking up, my groan became audible as I saw our next group leader…Bill. The father of the camp director, he was more of a taskmaster than a guide. All day I had hoped to escape an experience with him.

My students spent the next hour attempting to slide an orange golf ball down a series of hand held chutes into a bucket about forty feet from the starting point. The curved chutes were actually sections of plastic drain pipe, each a foot long, cut in half lengthwise. Repeatedly, the ball would drop, forcing the team to start over. Initially, I was unconcerned knowing my gang was motivated and resilient. My struggle was with Bill. He was an “in your face” type of leader. He would confront his charges nose to nose and sternly shout at them, “Focus!”

Over and over, Bill chastised them. As time passed, exasperation replaced patience and negativity erupted. They blamed each other for their inability to finish the task, and threatened to quit. My previously enthusiastic boys and girls felt so defeated. I tensely and angrily stood back, recalling just how mean this guy was to kids. At one point, he walked past me and remarked, “I just love it when they get so frustrated.” I was appalled by his comment, and berated myself for not memorizing the 800 number for Child Protective Services. I had never considered myself an enabler in guiding my students, but glancing at their crestfallen and discouraged faces, I wanted to rescue them right then and there. Watching that ball continually fall to the ground was excruciating. I truly felt their pain. However, I said nothing, being as intimidated by Bill as my students were.

Finally, Bill asked if this was the only station they wanted to work on that afternoon. All responded with a resounding, “NO!” He told them they better start to focus and work as a team because nobody was going anywhere until the job was done. More attempts followed without success. At long last, as if by a miracle, the chutes were lined up and down went the ball into that bucket.

Their shouts of joy were unmistakable as they “high-fived” each other with delight. I was amazed that the agony of the ordeal was quickly forgotten as the bliss of victory was embraced. Glancing at Bill, I was surprised to notice he was just as pleased as they were. Assembling into a circle, the students summarized their experience. They were very relieved the difficult test was over, but more importantly, were thrilled to have endured and prevailed.

Happy again, my group had time to conquer one more challenge. In good spirits, we descended the hill for the last time and boarded the bus to return to school. Reflecting on the day, I realized there was a lesson to be learned from the ball and chute affair. The NIV in Hebrews 12:11 states, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” God wants his children to share in his holiness. What a joy it is to recognize truth in the seemingly insignificant happenings in life, remembering the eternal victory that awaits us at the end of the journey…a crown that lasts forever.

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Member Comments
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Garnet Miller 02/21/06
Wow! I don't know if I could have endured Bill so long. But, you are right. We must endure to receive the reward whatever it may be. Very well written story.