By Rachel Shively, 4.12 Leadership Training Program Coordinator
One tradition of the 4.12 Leadership Training Summit in September is going offsite with the first year students who are joined by students in their fourth and fifth year. Hiking is a very popular activity among the staff at Joy El that creates many friendships and can be an amazing way to explore God’s creation. However, if you add a bus, 40 teenagers, scripture, and a tub of blindfolds, it can also serve as one of the most effective team building activities known to man.
At Joy El, the 4.12 Leadership Training Program is an opportunity for students in 8th-12th grade to grow in in godly leadership throughout high school by serving at camp and receiving Biblical training. In 8th grade, I had the opportunity to join the program myself and graduated from it five years later. Then, God called me to serve as the 4.12 Coordinator beginning in this past May which has given me the opportunity to challenge and pour into the female students throughout the year! This past weekend we hosted the September training summit and I was able to help lead the famous September hike that I had traveled many times myself in the program. While being a leader in this hike, I had the chance to see God work through one particular student in a way I would never have guessed!
A couple years ago when I was in my third year of the program, I was at a September training summit similar to the one this past weekend. Between one of the sessions, I decided to walk over to a first year student, Sarah* and tell her I liked her shirt. This simple comment led to her sharing her testimony with me along the wall of the gym that night which created a friendship that would last for years.
Leading up to this past September training summit, I had the opportunity to help lead the hike I had once walked blindfolded myself. However, due to an odd number of students, I was able to pair up with one of the students. This student was Sarah, now a fifth year student who has grown and matured in countless ways. She had the opportunity to lead me through the hike and I was able to see the leadership she had developed since that first training summit five years ago. We discussed senior year, her plans for the future, and what God had been teaching her recently from scripture. It was amazing to hear how far God had brought through the program!
When you are hiking blindfolded, you have to trust the person leading you even when you don’t know where that might be. This is what God did in my relationship with Sarah. I didn’t know five years ago that simply reaching out to a new student would become an opportunity for me to mentor and challenge her for many years after.
Being able to come along side students like Sarah is such a blessing and honor as they take the next steps in their faith. Please continue to pray for each of the 4.12 students as they grow and are equipped to lead for Christ as well. “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Philippians 1:9-10
*Name has been changed.
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Joy El Camps and Retreats is a Christian Camp in PA, we offer Christian camps and retreats year-round in PA and we are a retreat center in Pennsylvania since 1974. Our focus on making disciples is seen in Bible Adventure and the 4.12 Leadership Training Program