Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mission Trip Retreat - Camp Highland

Oh what a fun, exhausting, exhilarating weekend we just had!!  The Slovakia mission trip team just went on a team building retreat to Camp Highland in Ellijay, Georgia.  We left from Buckhead Church at 6:00pm, stopping to have dinner across the street at On The Boarder.  After dinner we headed up to Camp Highland and arrived around 9pm.  I rode with Laura and we had a great time getting to know each other a little bit better.  

Camp Highland is a summer camp and everything is all outdoors... I wanted to preface the rest with this just so you understand the following:  there was no air-conditioning, we were outside almost the entire time, and we are in Georgia (aka humid as all can be and even at night it didn't get below 85 degrees --  during the day on Saturday it was mid-90's).  This is an added element to everything that we did!  But with everyone sweaty and gross we used the opportunity to let our guards down even further.  It was amazing!!

I figured that since we arrived so late we would just put our bags away and maybe have an 'around-the-campfire' type of event.  I was so wrong.

They gathered us all up, threw us in the back of a military type truck, and we went to the first team build event.... a huge swing 30 feet in the air.  One person would get harnessed up to a rope, the rest of the team would pull the rope so that the harnessed person would go to the top of a 30 foot pole, then the harnessed person would have to let go of their rope and they would swing out over a huge cliff.  Granted it was pretty dark but it was still a little scary.   All that you could see was what was available via flashlight.  Of course I went 2nd to last, was so nervous from watching everyone else go that when it was my turn I let out a blood-curdling scream as I let go!  It was soooooo much fun!  And it was great for us to start working together as a group.

After the swing we stopped by the main cabin for dessert before heading to bed around 1am.

The next morning we awoke to breakfast served around 8am and then headed back out for more team building.  The first event was a rope course.  The rope was a tangled mess around knee height and we had to get the entire group from one end of the rope course to the other, we had to step thru the course without hitting a rope, and if you hit the rope you were frozen where you hit it making someone have to come thru the course to rescue you.  To begin, we decided to each go thru individually, two people made it safely thru before I attempted the course.  And on the first step I hit the rope!  After that it was down-hill from there and we managed to get everyone caught in the course.  We were allowed a reset, came up with a new plan (that the 'weakest link,' aka me, would go thru first and then if I got stuck someone would come behind and rescue me).  I got about half way before hitting a rope.  The team lead, Tim, came thru and rescued me.  We found during the rescue that the course was soooo much easier when done in pairs.  We could support each other, balance each other, and hold each other up.  Once we realized that, everyone went thru in pairs with the rest of the teammates coaching from the sideline.  This time we made it all on the first try!!

After a discussion on what we learned and how we can apply what we learned to the group, to the mission trip and to Christianity we went onto the second team building event of the day... the 12 foot wall.

We had to climb a 12 foot wall using only each other.  This time we worked much better as a team. We put a plan of action together and got one of the ladies (Ashley) up the wall.  We found that our original plan needed adjusting and we adjusted after each person was on the wall.  We worked very well as a team and on the first attempt we were able to get everyone over the wall!  It was a lot of work and by the end we were all tired!!

After a discussion on what we learned and how we can apply what we learned to the group, to the mission trip and to Christianity we went onto the third team building event of the day...    lower ropes course.

We had a tight rope about knee height from the ground going between about 7 different trees.  We had to work together as a team to get everyone across the rope and to touch the last tree.  As a team we decided to try to snake everyone across the rope together by linking up as a long group.  We used each other as well as the trees to balance and we made it all the way to the last length before one person fell.  Once someone falls we have to start over.  By this time we are exhausted and hungry!  We have been working hard to balance, we have been chatting the entire time about what is not working and what is working, we have been pulling and pushing and gripping on each other to stay on the tight-rope and now we have to start over!!  After a regroup we tried again.  We made it to the exact same spot before someone fell again.  However this time we are too tired.  Its 2:30pm and we haven't ate since breakfast!  We decide as a group that if we really wanted to keep going it would take another 1/2 hour to an hour to figure out a solution that would work but we were fine with not passing this course.  We just wanted lunch!!

After lunch we went to the last course of the day... high ropes.  And they aren't kidding with the high ropes.  You do some of the craziest things imaginable about 30 feet in the air!  First we got all harnessed up and walked up to the first tree.  There were about 7 elements that you had to go thru and they each got more difficult as you went along.  On this one I knew that if I didn't go first I would get too nervous so I volunteered quickly to go first.

Element #1:  tight rope with 2 ropes on the side for your hands.  Since this is the first element the hardest part is knowing that this is the first element.  I was just beginning and when I looked down I could see how high up I really was.

Element #2:  wooden bridge.   I had to walk across a wooden bridge that is held up by 2 tight ropes and wooden planks that are set different lengths from each other.  There was no where for my hands to go and the bridge can be quite wobbly.  I am not too afraid of heights however the hardest part is actually picking up your feet.  It takes a lot of lower body strength to keep the bridge stable and every time you pick your feet up the bridge would move.  Scary!  I got to the point where I was saying 'I trust Jesus' on every step.  That I would be ok even though I was scared to pick up my feet.

Element #3:  tight-rope with 2 ropes attached in almost a x form.  I had to grab the first rope, go half-way down the tight-rope and pick up the 2nd rope.  Scary to reach out and grab at something when you are so unstable. 

Element #4:  A tight rope with another rope for your hands that is very droopy.  What I had to do was get the droopy rope as tight as possible before crossing.  I was so nervous and scared on this one that I had one of the camp counselors help hold the rope tight as I crossed.  I was not afraid to say that I needed help.

Element #5:  3 hanging logs.  There were 3 logs that had foot grips on them.  I had to grab the first log, pull it close to me, wrap my left leg around it, and then hold on for dear life while I let go of the platform and put my right foot on the second foot grip.  Then, once the log stopped swinging, I had to let go of the first log with my left hand, grab the 2nd log, wrap my foot around the second log, and go thru the process again on log 2.  Then again on log 3.  Knowing that I was just dangling from a log brought out a ton of fear!!

Element #6:  3 hanging ropes.  The next element had a tight rope with 3 hanging ropes across them.  You had to walk on the tight rope, grip the 1st rope, keep it tight as you walked to the 2nd rope, then let go of the first rope, tightened the 2nd rope, walk to the 3rd, and do the same process all over again.  This was the scariest one for me.  I had the hardest time mentally with this element and I had to really focus on getting across and on nothing else!  Luckily I was able to also hold my safety harness and use that to balance as well.

Element #7:  wooden planks.  There were 4 wooden planks hanging from 2 tight ropes.  The planks were about the size of a balance beam (from gymnastics) and they were very swingy.  I had to use the tight rope that was able to hold myself up with my arms while scooting my feet along the wooden planks.  Once I got to the end of one I had to stable myself, grip the 2nd tight rope, move my feet from wooden plank 1 to wooden plank 2, and then do the same thing 3 more times.  The hardest part about this was that I was already physically and mentally exhausted.  I was drained, I was sweating profusely, I knew it was the last one, and I just didn't want to do it!!  Hehe!  But I made it across and I felt so accomplished!!

The final part was a zip line.  They got me all harnessed in and this was the easiest of them all.  The only hard part was leaving the platform, knowing that you are safe when you jump however still having all the built up fear from the rest of the course.  It took a minute for me to jump but once I did it was a fun ride!!

By the end we were all exhausted but had gotten soooooo much closer.  We stopped by the shower and then headed back home.  We mixed up the car rides a little bit and we were able to chat some more to get to know more about each other.  We stopped at Zaxby's for a quick meal.  
Sherry took a few pictures of all the events so if I am able to get those from here I will add them all here.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera!!  I will have to remember it for Slovakia!!

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