repairing and painting the open-air cabins we were staying in. I was better than most with a hammer, nail and paint brushes and maybe that was an opportunity to find a place in the group. It was worth a chance. There ended up being about a dozen of us in a really long van. My friend, Jon, ended up being able to go at the last minute which was a huge relief.
He and I were good friends in soccer and choir and we were the same age, plus he had an older brother Jeff, so Jon knew valuable bits and pieces of info on the older kids. Just enough to keep them from total attack. And then there was the dynamic duo. Becky and Stacy were both cheerleaders and doctors kids that were 15. When I saw that Becky had signed up I was relieved, because I knew that at least one older teen would be kind to me and that seemed to be enough to write my name in the box on Sunday.
The van ride to Wilmore, KY seemed like forever, but I acted tired and sat in the very back to avoid having to talk, but was really listening to every word spoken by each person as I was beginning to learn how I was going to navigate in this new world I had entered. I listened to Big Mike make fun of Stacy and Jon, Sarah complain about her parents forcing her to come, Becky talk about tennis,soccer and her dog and a dozen other conversations from worlds that were all unknown to me. Every word spoken seemed larger than any words I’d heard before as I leaned against the window in that back corner seat. After we arrived they toured us around, we made our bunks and reported to dinner at 6pm. We ate simple spaghetti camp food while a young bearded man named Don, in his 30’s played a guitar and sang. He didn’t stand in one spot and let people choose to listen, he sang out openly while walking around with his guitar. At one point he put his foot up on our picnic table bench and played a song. He had such a pleasant spirit-filled voice and no fear. I was drawn to that spirit free from fear from the time we arrived. Little did I know that soon enough, that same soft voice would be all that mattered to me.
After dinner we played some fun teamwork games in the pavilion followed by a campfire with story-time. Before bed-time we played hide and go seek and then a few of the older kids tried to get me to go snipe hunting. I half played along and half didn’t. I didn’t want to steel their joy of making fun of someone younger but didn’t let them completely have their way either. The biggest reason I did it though was that Becky was playing along too, so it was fun. And before you know it, it was lights out! It was February and below freezing in our cabin. I was so glad that Dad let me bring his army sleeping bag. I had to unzip it in the night it got so hot. As I laid their sweating, I was so excited that I had survived an entire day without anyone being cruel to me or me doing or saying anything completely embarrassing.
It was freezing in the morning but we got to breakfast and then right to work on repairing the cabins. All morning we replaced boards, painted inside and out and then had sack lunches to take on a rickety bus to go ‘repelling’ the camp people said. I had seen repelling on TV before where you have ropes around you and you slowly go down the side of a cliff or mountain. I wasn’t big on heights, but that’s what this ‘Confrontation Point’ was about, confronting your fears to realize how much in Christ you really CAN do.
After the 45 minute bus ride, we all hiked deep into the woods. There were no trails leading us because our guide, Don, just knew the way from years of experience in these woods. I was toward the back of the single file line as we finally slowed to a stop. As I looked up at where we were I thought there surely was a mistake. The whole hike I had been expecting that we would come to a cliff to repel down. We were standing at the bottom of a cliff. Don said, ‘Here we are.’ I thought I was surely going to die. The other guys were excited, but the girls and I were silent. Becky never struggled with a loss for words during a moment of silence, "Are you kidding me? Do you really think we are going to climb that? There is no way I can climb that. I’ll never make it. It’s not for me." She didn’t have a bad attitude at all, it was just a matter of fact statement and for sure she was speaking for half of us. I was too panicked to speak. At a chubby 180 and no muscles in my arms it would take a miracle for me to do this.
The size of the cliff was like a football field that stands straight up. Our goal was for all of us to get to the top. There were seven guys and five girls. Our guide was the first to go, since he needed to tie off hooks and the safety rope at the top. We all watched and he made it seem at least easier to imagine. He told us as long as you follow the pattern, it’s a snap with the one exception being at about 60 yards up there is what they called ‘Dead man’s grab’. It’s the one place where you have to jump up and slightly out away from the rocks and for a split moment use all upper body strength or you will fall.
Every guy went before me and all the girls waited with me. Up they went and we got to see all of them succeed, but like a sheep being led to the slaughter it was the strong ones first followed by the weaker ones and I was the last guy. Don laid on his stomach over the top of the cliff to give guidance and encouragement as to where to go and to where to put your feet and hands when it was difficult to see or feel. There were several places that required me to trust his voice and jump, hoping that a ledge, crack or rock would be there for me and it was. Everyone knew I was the weak chubby kid. There was no hiding it and all the girls knew that they weren’t going until they saw what would happen to me. I could hear every whisper from the group of five below and when I would leap or stretch and lose my balance they would scream and it echoed through the valley. At several points, I focused more on being successful for them than myself making it. After twenty minutes, I was so excited and frightened to make it to the impossible ‘Dead man’s grab.’ I could also see Don up above as he talked to me about this big maneuver. He had every bit of confidence that I could make it. Up on that cliff and throughout the valley, you could hear the silence for miles while I took a deep breath and gathered the energy I had left. After the longest minute of my life, I jumped up and out.
That split second of arm-strength came and went as I began to fall down the side of that cliff. Girls screaming their lungs out and the sound of loose rocks flying filled every crack and space. Finally, the rope that was tied around my waist snapped tight and then began the spinning swing. Dead man’s grab is on the far side of the cliff and the safety rope hangs from the middle of the football field rock face. So face down, I fell thirty feet and then feeling choked to death around my stomach my body swung back and forth across the whole side of that mountain. Non-stop screaming kept coming from the girls and I kept yelling and moaning while spinning out of control. All during this deafening chaos, I could hear Don’s soft, quiet voice, ‘Rob, I’ve got you. You’re ok. Just hang on and spread out your arms and legs. I’ve got you. You’re ok.’ I would say to myself, ‘I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok.’
I finally came to a rest almost back at the bottom of the cliff. No one more than I was relieved that I was indeed ok and to my surprise, Don said, ‘Ok Rob, now let’s do it again.’ And I did. I made it up that cliff in six or seven minutes with a new super-human strength I didn’t have before. It was indeed my fear that was slowing me down. When it was finally Becky’s turn to go, it was one of the best moments of my life. After the first five minutes of her climbing she yelled at everyone, ‘Just shut up all of you, nobody speak to me except Rob.’ We all made it up and repelled back down. After she made it to the top, we didn't speak again, but on the bus ride back she sat next to me and laid her head on my shoulder and fell asleep.
Through Story Exploration
The 'good', life can be a great adventure, but you can't stay at home, you must sign up! However, the lies spoken, especially during the 45 minute bus ride back to camp. These lies would later spread much harm.