114-Over The Laser and Through The Lava, Up The Cargo Net We Go…
It was hard to tell from the blank stares that I was receiving if gears were internally turning or there would be an upcoming long sigh of boredom. Then, with the initiative of just one student stepping gingerly from the small four-foot by six-foot tarp onto the even smaller carpet square, ideas began to buzz. “Our instructions are written?” another student doubtfully questioned, while still another began herding his team tighter together into the corner of their confined floor space coaching, “Check the bottom of the carpets!” I could feel a small grin begin to form and my eyes begin to light up as momentum began to build up within this team of 10 Flint high school students as they entered the world of what was once known as “Adventure Challenge Track.”
“I see something!” And as soon as the words came out of his mouth he was on the move, scooting his way across the polished wood gymnasium floor, feet not leaving the carpet square as the entire team learned that the floor is lava and one step would send them all back to the start. “Ohhhhh” came a realization from one team member who helped me set up the course by taping a piece of the first puzzle to the backboard of the idle basketball hoop. Since he was nearly a foot taller than myself, a quick jump-slap was much faster than tracking down a ladder! I could now see several members of the first of three teams to attempt the obstacle course scooting across the gym looking for all seven pieces to the first puzzle.
“Laser…? Over there!” they said with the realization that they were on the right track, moving toward the physical challenges that they walked past but maybe paid no attention at first. Now, they had to get all ten team members over the six-foot high “laser” and onto the crash pads on the other side. It was a whole new approach to the high jump and if they completed this challenge, the rope ladder and cargo net up to the ceiling awaited them. After a second puzzle, whose pieces were scattered on the cargo net, some fifteen to twenty feet above the wood planks below, they had to swing across the “abyss” and land on a platform that made their starting tarp look like a mansion. “One hour ten minutes,” I was proud to hear from our other volunteers who were keeping time. “Great job guys!”
I haven’t been in Flint for very long, but one thing that I have seen firsthand and through many conversations with community leaders who have been here much, much longer: when it comes to sports basketball and football are your ticket out of here. There is a plaque hanging proudly in the hall of Southwestern Classical Academy of Terry Crews, who was drafted into the NFL and is now a widely recognized American actor. Who wouldn’t want the dream of playing in the NFL or NBA? As a kid I wanted to do everything I saw in movies or could dream up, from being a train engineer, fire fighter, fighter pilot, professional soccer player and Lego designer! When it comes to professional sports, a high schooler has about a half of one percent chance of going pro. There have to be other solutions out there! I believe that there are and they don’t involve being a professional climbing guide either (despite what you might think about me). We need community, faith, and relationships that build strong networks of support for our rising generation. I wouldn’t be anywhere without such a community and the direction of the Holy Spirit in my life. The very fact that Project Forty has this opportunity at Southwestern is due to my relationship with my pastor and board member. It is our community at Good Church on the north end of Flint that has fostered the potential energy that could launch a movement in Flint through their youth program, 181. If I were on my own, a small ministry moving to Flint City, we wouldn’t have ever even made it this far. We have a long way to go, no doubt, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through the foundation of Good Church, 181, my supportive and amazing wife, and the ongoing relationships that are forming—God can take Project Forty wherever He so desires.
So where do we go from here? We press on! Project Forty is all about building relationships and helping teens learn to lean on a relationship with their Creator and their community to push beyond the limits that they may think are holding them back. Let’s break out, find those puzzle pieces, get over the laser, climb the cargo net and swing across the abyss to a target we thought would be way too hard to hit… it’s not too difficult by the power of God and the team He has assembled for this life we are blessed with. Let’s go.