August 28, 2015

How does an indoor climbing gym connect kids with Jesus?

A couple of weeks ago I sat in the lobby of GOAT talking and praying with a group of “friendterns”, as I prepared to experience my first trip as a new member of the GOAT family. I was super excited and a little nervous—not really knowing what to expect. We were about to hang out with some high schoolers from the Phoenix Center. Goof off. Play some games. Climb some rocks.  

I began to wonder how we were going to make an impact in the two short hours that we got to hang with them. Especially since we weren’t allowed to share the Gospel with this group directly. But it didn’t take long to realize my lack of faith and how I was putting God in a box and limiting the great things He is capable of doing.  

When the kids arrived and we all circled up in the lobby to go over safety rules and get to know each other, I noticed their disengaged looks of boredom. They seemed to be hesitant about spending their afternoon in a climbing gym with some quirky, excitable strangers that they had nothing in common with.  

But their faces quickly changed when Tommy started talking. Tommy is one of GOAT’s junior guides who came to GOAT as an at-risk kid, joined the Adventure Team, and is now working for GOAT and leading his peers on trips. He explained to them his story of finding GOAT and how he was literally in their spot a year ago—at the Phoenix Center and all.

It was really cool to see how the demeanor of this group of kids changed once Tommy got on their level. It seemed as though their minds shifted from thinking that we were a group of leaders who were far removed from their world and anything they had experienced, to feeling understood and gaining a sense of hope. Tommy told them of the hope he found here at GOAT and the friendships that changed his life. He encouraged them that their circumstances now did not have to define them—and that they could find hope and freedom from their struggles. And that GOAT was the very thing that made that a reality for him.  

From that moment, these kids really seemed open to being at GOAT. We played a game called Nitro Swing—which totally broke down walls and made us laugh a lot. It was such a good time! I really do believe that these kids got a glimpse of Jesus that day and the freedom that comes with His presence–even if they weren’t completely aware of it.