Tuesday, September 16, 2008

EL RETO 2008 (week 3)

Another great week with challenges and rewards. Three more students joined us to make the grand total of participants 71! That breaks last year’s record of 70.

This week we started where we left off the week before, in Arrayanes. The team captains shared with their team a devotion time while we had our staff meeting to explain what everyone was going to do.

After devotions, the staff took off to their stations and the activities began. We had a grid drawn with chalk on the back of the movie screen with 60 squares; 5 squares per team.

The letters for the different teams "M" stands for "Mensengers".
What they had to do was throw a piece of wet toilet paper on a square. Each square had a point value 1-4-7-10-50. Their goal was to hit their own square, but if they hit a square of a different team, that team would receive those points. Each team got to throw, but according to how they arrived in the previous weeks’ race. The last place team got one throw; the 5th place team got two, and so on until the first place team got 6 throws. This determined how they would start the race for this week.
Fermin making his toss.
Yair looks like a real pitcher!
Cecilia took a try for her team.
The Overcomers who only had two throws won by a huge margin—thanks to other teams who hit their squares; so they left first to start the third race of EL RETO 2008.

From the church in Arrayanes, they received a note directing them to the baseball field where they received their next clue. The clue told them that one person was to go to Cofradía by bicycle picking up bags in designated places along the way. They received their first bag at the field and picked up four more on his way to Cofradía.
Off to the baseball field.
Chuy takes his riding serious!
Chuy and Beto running accross the river to the bags hanging on some wood in the middle (you can see them behind the bushes).
Beto is off and cycling!
This is the final location of the bags. Martin is there making sure they take them.
While the cyclist was racing down the dirt road, the rest of the team got in a vehicle and went directly to Cofradía’s town center where they had an activity to do while they waited. They had to bob for beads, trying to get the color of their team’s bead for points amongst others that were negative points as well as beads of the colors of other teams which were points for the other teams.
At the baseball feild, hopping in the trucks.
This is where the beads were; in a tote-box full of water!
Cecilia bobbing for her team!
Julio takes a mouth full!
Once the cyclist arrived in Cofradía, the team stopped bobbing for beads and began to open their bags. The bags contained puzzle pieces which formed their next clue that read, “In order to please God, you must walk in Faith.”
"The Overcomers" trying to put the pieces together.
Finally, the puzzle is solved and they have their clue!
That led them to get in the vehicles and go to the town of Santa Fe (Holy Faith). That was their final destination of the third race. En route, they chose different team members to participate in the next series of challenges as they looked at their menu.

Yes, their menu. We moved the Banquet up to the third week this year to catch them off guard; everyone expects it for the fourth week. This event was the most exciting yet, as everyone was crowded around the fence, cheering their teammates on and laughing as others gagged. This is definitely a challenge, but they did it!
Restaurant Santa Fe
The first two items on the menu were a dish of rice drenched in soy sauce and spaghetti cooked in a lot of Olive Oil and Flaxseed.
Rice and spaghetti.
Wow, Pedro, you make that rice look good!
Charlie (above) and Roger (below) posing for the camera!
Sergio is really trying to get that last bite in his mouth.
Then there was the Jalapeño Pepper! This was a HOT item!
Guille is thinking about it..."Do I really want to do this?"
Let me at 'em!
Gollo's starting to feel it!
Yep, he's feelin' it!
Ruben is too!
Pati got second place, but only by a swallow!
Then they had a drink of some kind of medicinal tea.

And how could we have a meal in Mexico without a taco? Next on the menu was a Bumble Bee Taco covered in Larva salsa. Yum, yum!

Adolfo trying his best.
To finish the menu off before the surprises, the dessert dish was a huge marshmallow covered with chocolate and hidden inside were coffee grounds. Hmmm.

Maira was a great sport!
There were two more items available to repeat diners, but they did not know what they were until we brought them out…

Ewe, a cow eye!?!
Ruben concentrating!
Fermin trying to let is slide down.
It was just too much for Abraham.
And finally, play this video to see what was next…

Down he goes!
I am still amazed that they did this! What an incredible nutritious meal!

To finish the Banquet before heading to “The Valley of Decision,” each team had to down a 3.3 liter bottle of cola. They really liked this one!
"The Chosen" were really thirsty and came in first place.
And the final score of the event had Los Temerosos "The Fearful" coming out on top!

THE VALLEY OF DECISION. This week we decorated the Decision Room with candles which made it even more exciting with the mix of the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ in the background.
This was so much better than last week!
The voting area.
Again, each team, one by one, went into the Decision Room to vote for another team to do chores. Only this time, they knew that the team they would be voting for would also receive another clue to the whereabouts of the Hidden Treasure. Once they were done voting, quietly they left the room and went back outside to their formation. This week, the team that was immune from the vote was the team whose cyclist arrived first in Cofradía’s town center. That team was “The Chosen.” After electing to keep their immunity, no one could vote for them. In the end, the team chosen to do chores was Los Mensajeros “The Messengers”.
"The Chosen" showing their vote for "The Messengers."
The vote was four to one (Overcomers) to one (Eagles).

The chore for this week was to wash the staff vehicles we used in the races. There were four vehicles for the 5 team members that showed up. But, they got their third clue to the Hidden Treasure AND a second clue to a 1,000 point prize. At the Valley of Decision, I mentioned to them that there was a prize of 1,000 points within eyesight hanging from something wooden.

I will not mention the second clue because they’re the only one’s that have it. However, because all six teams ate either the cow eye or the live goldfish, they all have at least the first clue to the Hidden Treasure. The clue says, “A big opportunity awaits you if you find the treasure. If you win the LAST CHALLENGE, you will end up in first place. Search amongst the rocks where the tournaments are held.”

EL RETO UNCOVERED. The week leading up to Saturday was a very rough one emotionally. Mainly with the team who is having problems. I mentioned in the last report that I was able to speak to many of the team members and I tried to encourage the captain of the team to face the Giant and continue with the RETO as leader. I did not know if he was going to participate or not. From what he said at the end of our conversation, it sounded like a no. But, to my delight, he showed up on Saturday and an amazing change had taken place in that team. They seemed united, something they were lacking, and encouraged to continue.

Personally I was encouraged to see more involvement in the staff as far as taking ownership. They are really working hard and this ministry is blessed to have some great people committed to the development of the spiritual lives of these students.

One last thing that happened was pretty intense. A young man who does not come to church, but has participated in EL RETO for the past couple of weeks and was here last year as well, was taunted by an “outsider” to fight, so they started. The outsider is known for fighting, and later I found out that these to guys have a history for this activity. For the young man who had been participating in EL RETO, I had compassion on him. I felt protective of him and amazingly he listened to what I had to say. The outsider ignored me and left the premises. As we left the location for the next activity, the outsider approached once more and I stood between him and the participant showing him the palm of my hand as I said, “In the name of Jesus, step back.” I repeated this a number of times and each time he took a step back until he retreated completely. I kept the RETO participant with me as we left the location and I took him to where his team would be arriving momentarily, and then left him under the pastor’s care who was to be the chofer of this guys’ team. So, if God is orchestrating all these events, why would He allow a fight? Something that I saw was incredible. Normally, I don’t have much patience for fighting; it was amazing that I actually felt a deep concern and compassion for our participant. I believe that God was showing not only me something, but all of us and I’m looking forward to sharing this with the students. What happened that afternoon was a picture of what happens spiritually with each one of us. It’s a picture of a wolf coming into the pen and attacking one of the sheep. God as our Shepherd protects us from the enemy. The enemy may try to come and attempt to devour us, attack us, or distract us from what God has for us. But, God has already won the battle. We can rest assured that He holds us up on His shoulders, protecting us, keeping us safe. God is Love.
This event has been funded by generous people from the United States and Canada. If you would like to make a donation and invest in the "Cofradia Youth", please click here, THANK YOU!: https://www.egivingsystems.org/v3.0/index.php

Monday, September 15, 2008

EL RETO 2008 (week 2)

Eleven more students came out to participate this week making a total of 68 students who have participated in EL RETO this year! We are excited about the number of different students who have a chance to hear about God’s Word and learn practical ways to overcome life’s difficulties.

We started this week out with each team captain sharing a devotional with their team. This is a great opportunity for the captains to gain experience sharing God’s Word and applying it to EL RETO. To see the students involved in this is something that excites me a lot!

One of the challenges for this year is choreography to a musical track that has no words. To make it even more challenging, they have to make up their own words. This is definitely going to be an adventure for some. They will present it at the FINAL RETO on September 27. We gave them some time this week to practice their choreographies at the beginning of the meeting.

Gollito practicing one of his moves for the choreography.
While they were doing this, we had a separate challenge for them individually as groups; Deal or No Deal. One by one, the teams came into a room with me where I hooked up to a Deal or No Deal game on the internet. The team that made a deal for the most money won this game, immunity of chores, and left first on their second race of the year. The winners were The Messengers making a deal for $72,000 while their briefcase unfortunately had the $1,000,000! The next place was all the way down to $10,000. Last place, $75! It was fun and exciting as they had to make decisions of whether or not to continue with the risk or take the deal given to them.

The winning team!
After All the teams had played, they received a note that told them they needed to go to the baseball field for their next activity. They had to round the bases and accomplish a task at each base in order to advance. To get to first base they needed to enter “Penny Wars”; which is a separate challenge where each team fills a bottle with change. Each coin has a point value and in the end, we use this money for the winning team’s prize.
In order to advance to second base, they needed to learn a tongue twister and say it, once they accomplished that; they needed to learn my handshake in order to advance to third.
Pedro and Mili at the third stage of a nine-stage handshake.
Watch the video here with Angel and Mili...

At third base, each person on their team had to eat one huge marshmallow in order to advance to Home.
Chuy chomping down.
Gollito about to take a bite.
Francisco...don't hurt yourself!
At Home, they got a note telling them to go to the bridge between Cofradía and Arrayanes with one of the staff members. They had to walk, run, or hitch a ride. Unfortunately, we ended up giving them all rides because we were running short on time for the event that was to take place in Arrayanes.
Arriving at the bridge.
Once they reached the bridge, they arrived at a fork in the road with a sign that said, “Tierra o Mar” (Land or Water). If they chose land, they had to memorize a series of symbols, cross the bridge, and put those symbols in the same order as they were on the other side. If they couldn’t remember, they had to go back and forth until they got it right. Two teams chose “Land” and paid for it.

If they chose “Water”, they had to go down the hill to the edge of the river, memorize a number, cross the river, and write down the number on a piece of paper on the other side. The four teams to choose “Water” chose well and arrived at the final destination about a half an hour before the other two teams.
The Fearful, running down the hill.

Now, to cross the river!

Arriving on the other side.
The final destination was the church in Arrayanes where we played a RETO classic called “Gladiators”. This was the third year we played this game and the first time we were actually able to figure out how to score it sensibly. Each team had the same amount of players run through the maze (a first) and the team throwing water balloons got one point for every time they hit someone (modified) and one point for every person of the other teams who did not make it through the maze (a first). It was a real good time!
The Messengers throwing their balloons!
Look out!
Fermin is about to reach the end.
The Angels of Good ready to fire!
Cecilia sneaking her way to the next set of tables.
Go Brayan!
Angel racing to the finish!
When the game was over, we all went back to Cofradía for “The Valley of Decision”.
"The Valley of Decision"
This week instead of asking a series of questions, each team had to vote for another team to do chores. This is just like Tribal Council in the program Survivor. Each team, one by one, had to go into a room where I was, write the name of a different team on a piece of paper, and quietly return to their formation outside.
The vote box.
There was one team, The Messengers, who received immunity from the vote because they won Deal or No Deal. This was REALLY COOL!!! I did everything I could to try to keep a straight face. Once all the votes were cast, I walked out with the box, back to where I normally stand, and read the votes, one by one…just like on Survivor. The team that received the most votes was, conveniently named, “The Chosen”.
"The Eagles" showing their vote for "The Chosen" who were sent to do chores.
They also received the first two clues to where the treasure was hidden after they finished doing their chore which was to sweep the area where they played Gladiators and pick up all the garbage.
Gaby sweeping up the garbage.
"The Chosen" working all together to finish up the job.
EL RETO UNCOVERED: Opportunities abound in EL RETO for personal growth. Many have faced many challenges already, including me. As I mentioned last week, I need to work on my delegation skills. I think I did a little better; however, sometimes working with people can be a little difficult (I can hear some of you say, “Duh”). One of the big things for me is trustworthiness. I need to be able to count on someone to do their job and be where they need to be when they need to be there. This flows into all 52 weeks of the year with this ministry. I believe that one of the motivating factors in being trustworthy is taking ownership. I absolutely love it when people take ownership of what they’re doing, this is something I saw this week and I really appreciated it.

On another note, one of our team captains had a huge struggle this week. At the very beginning of the event, only himself and two other people from his team showed up on time. All the others were working on their new flag (this was the team that needed to rename themselves). He told them to come, I told them to come. They did not listen. There was an incredible lack of respect for the team captain and he was brought to tears as the frustration level rose. So, he decided to go home and no longer participate in EL RETO. He was definitely facing a challenge of his own, one that I’ve lived through with the same people he’s dealing with. I talked with the team; they decided to stay together and hopefully some of them become aware of their individual selfishness. The theme is “Decide Your Destiny.” The captain decided his destiny with the individuals he chose to be on his team. The team decided their destiny when they chose a borderline blasphemous name, it was bound for destruction. I am convinced that God is orchestrating ALL of the events that go on during EL RETO, not just on the weekends, but during the week as well. I had the opportunity to talk individually with a number of the team members and for the most part they understood the consequences of their decisions. There are a couple of members that are semi-new to the youth group and I was a little concerned for them. Needless to say, deep down, they wanted to quit. I don’t blame them. As I shared with them some of the ways we can learn from this, they were encouraged to continue. Later on, I was able to talk to the team captain who decided that he was not going to participate anymore and tried to help him see the big picture. In reality, this is life. Life is a CHALLENGE. I shared with him some of my own experiences with similar situations and let him know that what he is living is real life and it will continue throughout his life. Right now would be a great opportunity to learn how to deal with these kinds of things. As God calls him into ministry as a leader, this will not be the first time he encounters “opposition”. I left him with something to think about: give up, or get up. He can give up and be overcome by the situation which has potential for learning nothing. Or, he could get up, dust himself off and face the Giant in his life. He listened to what I had to say and my prayer is that he will take it to heart and be able to learn some real life applications through this. He’s a real good kid!

By the way, the team’s new name is “Angeles Del Bien” Angels of Good.

What a tough week!

This event has been funded by generous people from the United States and Canada. If you would like to make a donation and invest in the "Cofradia Youth", please click here, THANK YOU!: https://www.egivingsystems.org/v3.0/index.php