June 8, 2010

SURVIVE: 10 Years Later!

Somewhere in life you cross this invisible line and begin to be a little more nostalgic. I guess it's all about experience. And probably not necessarily the number or years of experience, but the quality of the road you walk and the journey along the way. Yesterday was no exception for me. A flood of memories came washing over me, bringing me to laughter and even some tears of joy. The years I spent as a youth pastor - 10+ of them in one place - brought me opportunities and experiences that changed my life forever. And as the students here at our church left for camp yesterday morning, this brought to mind the experience and event that was probably more mind-blowing and life-changing than all the others put together: Survive!

It was 10 years ago this week that we loaded up for the first time and headed out to Shepherd of the Ozarks in Arkansas. I had this vision birthed in my mind of what I thought "camp" should look like, and as I visited this place the winter before the Lord affirmed to me that this was the place to come and make it happen. I had no idea that God would take my dreams and expectations and blow them out of the water! 

Our week together in the mountains was all about one thing: TRIBE! And this (I believe) is what set the tone for the foundation of our youth ministry: FAMILY! This was not about putting up with each other, but fighting for each other. It was an opportunity to discover that true worship is found in the vulnerable moments of standing before the Lord (and each other), stripped bare of pride and self-centeredness. There are specific moments that I can recall, standing in the great room of a log cabin, guitar wrapped around me, tears flowing down my face, believing that if the Spirit of the God was any more present it might knock me to the ground. So many moments of comfort and others filled with conviction. Moments that could have never been manufactured by any human - or even preconceived for that matter. They were life-changing!

The week of Survive was not just about being spiritually challenged, but also being physically pushed to limits that you wouldn't push yourself. I saw students who got on the bus to go to camp who "couldn't swim" run down a river bed, dive under water and retrieve a boulder. There were students who were petrified of heights who - holding the hand of a friend - took a leap off an 18-foot cliff. Kids, who probably would have spent the week sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, watching TV or playing X-Box, who were instead hooked to a rope with their tribe, trying to find their way out of the woods. Mind-blowing! And more than anything, what I saw year after year, moment after moment, was Jesus words in John 13:34-35 being cemented into the hearts and lives of our students and leaders: "The world will know you are mine by your love for one another". And there is nothing better than seeing God's people begin to believe this and live it out!

I hope that many of you who experienced Survive - whether it was just for one summer or all of them - will spend some moments reflecting on what the Lord did in your lives there. I would love to hear some of the memories you have. I know many of your memories are probably filled with Jeff Mangum and Nathan Hubble - two of my greatest friends! Or you may be so old school that you remember Jarrod being there those first 2 years - or remember my poor brother running up and down the river all those summers trying to video every move we made. (And God help me, I thought I was going to kill him if he videoed one more thing!) Physical, relational, spiritual - there are so many life-changing memories. 

So, at the risk of sounding "nostalgic" after all these years, I'd love to ask you one last time: "Do you have what it takes...to SURVIVE?"


Jason said...

There are two main events that stand out to me about Survive that I will never forget!

Forgive me for not remembering the exact years but the first memory was the very first time that we took on the challenge of the "Travois Race." Running through the river carrying every single team member across the finish line was one of the most physically challenging and rewarding "games" ive ever been a part of. In all the years that I attended Survive, there was not a single event that required the strength and endurance that this raced demanded!!

The second "event" was based around one of the years that Jeff Mangum asked every single person to step completely out of their comfort zone and physically wash another persons feet! I remember sitting on the cabin floor while he was asking the sponsors to gather up some bowls of water and towels thinking "are you serious?" I wanst about to pick up someones feet and actually clean it for them! As he continued to describe the true meaning behind Jesus washing the disciples feet, God completely laid it on my heart that this was something I had to do. I will never forget the look on the "individuals" face as I walked over, sat down and washed his feet. Being able to join in on that experience is something that I will never forget!

Thank you Survive for so many great memories!!!

kfierbaugh said...

Even though I never experienced Survive personally, I feel like I lived every moment through the very animated stories the boys and the Johnson kids shared when they returned home. We were unable to go to bed the night they returned until every detail was described at LENGTH! One kid would recall a story and it would become a shouting match as everyone would add to the unfolding drama!
I remember that I learned to pray very specifically for the boys physical, psychological, and spiritual growth while they were gone. In fact, I remember one year I was at home doing laundry and the Spirit overwhelmed me to get on my knees right there in the laundry room to pray for Aaron. I found out later that in that exact moment, he was surrounded by a group of his very close friends and brothers in Christ, laying their hands on him, lifting him up to the Lord! It was a very powerful moment for both of us!
Please be praying for Aaron as he continues to plan for the weekend of October 15, when our new church will undertake it's own Survive for the first time! The legacy lives on because of all that you have taught him Brian.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your obedience to the Lord, and expecting so much out of our children! They will never forget!

Val said...

I only was able to go one time as a student... and it changed my life! I can still remember Jarrod speaking about "running the race" and how much it challenged me... I am still running the race today! Also, the amazing spirit-filled worship with you and Nathan leading. Thank you so much for your ministry in Wichita and your heart for the lord! God Bless!

Brooke said...

Oh Brian, I can't put into words all the beautiful memories God so purposefully orchestrated over the years at Survive without tears. It was really a supernatural monster all its own.

I will always remember standing in that huge grassy horse poop filled field looking up at the night stars and being in awe of God's majesty.

Or the time I was knocked to the ground on my face sobbing with the ugly cry completely humbled by how unworthy I am of God's love one year.

The flour sock incident is one to remember and all the dance parties in the rain:) Or me walking with the tiny twig on the video...and did I mention Court was right behind me. grrrr. Or the year you made us walk to our cabin from the entrance b/c you thought that would be fun.

We leave for camp Monday and I know God is going to be alive and breathing right where we're at with all the changes that have followed in the past year. Can't wait to see what happens.

Brian Mayfield said...

So great reading all of this! I know it's contradictory (after I just wrote about it) to say that I can't possibly put my thoughts into words. But as I read what I wrote, it doesn't even begin to sum it up. Just thankful and humbled that God did that in us & through us all those years. What an amazing experience!

Aubrie said...

Maybe someone already posted this, but I will always remember when I think Carolyn and Linda put algae in the boys' burgers.

I remember Stephanie throwing Bethany into the shower and turning the cold water on her because Bethany smothered Steph's pillow in lotion.

The dance parties were ALWAYS amazing and I really miss them.

I miss Survive every summer and get really "homesick" for it. I want to just be able to go back and sit outside around the campfire with family.

Miss you guys so much!