Tuesday, October 07, 2008

EL RETO FINAL 2008 (week 5)

EL RETO FINAL, The Final Challenge! This is it, the final week!
This year we totaled 72 students who made it out for at least one of the five weeks. We have learned some great life lessons through this event and we’re excited for how things have ended. I believe with all my heart that God ordains everything that goes on during this time and with that confidence, through all of the challenges we faced, we know that God is telling us something!
This week was a little different because it was the final week. As we began with announcements, I asked if anyone of the teams had found the hidden 1000 point prize. Funny, the two teams that had all three clues didn’t succeed in finding it, but did succeed in leaking information.

“There is a prize of 1000 points
hanging on something wooden
within eyesight.”

“In this year’s RETO, here we have not visited,
but there was a time that here we played a game.”

“If you have attended Abundant LIFE Youth Group meeting,
you have been very hot.”

The Overcomers, who had only received the first clue, also received some information from another team and came forward with an uninflated balloon that I hung from a branch of a tree in our back yard. Pedro, the leader, looked all over in our trees and bushes and finally found the balloon with the words, “1000 POINTS.”
Good job Pedro.

We proceeded as each team presented their choreography and song. We gave them a tract with music, but no words. They had to come up with their own lyrics and make choreography to go with the music. Each team had the same reggae style music to work with. They all did a tremendous job and I was actually surprised that some even did it! These students are learning to step out of their “comfort” zone more and more and not worry about what people say about them. It was great for them! My prayer is that this confidence will bleed into their personal day to day lives.

The lyrics needed to relate to the theme of this year’s RETO, “Decide Your Destiny” and the bible story of their team’s name which I didn’t hear much of either. I think the phrase that sticks out most out of all the songs was by “The Angels of Good” who started out this year on the bottom and stayed there because of some bad, unrespectable attitudes. One of the new generation students, Guille, sang, “This challenge we have lost, but God is still with me.” What a concept. I think they got it! To be able to understand that God is with us and still loves us even though we fail sometimes is HUGE.

Here are some photos of some of their moves…
Guille for "Angels of Good."
Riki with "Fearful."
Team captain, Gollo, performing for "Fearful."
Keyli and Maira for "The Messengers."
"The Chosen" crew.

WOW, be careful Juan!
Alfredo spinning for "The Chosen."
Ruben doing what he loves, rapping for the crowd.
"The Overcomers" crew.
Freddy rapping naturally..."yup."
Chuy jumping from all fours!
Now he's spinning.
I don't know what this is.
Walking with his hands!
When we were done with that, we had a time of worship. As I lead worship sometimes, I look out to see who is actually worshipping. Sometimes like this time, I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the “fringe” youth raising their hands as they involved themselves in worship with their eyes closed. Lord, touch their lives!

The past couple of years we’ve had a guest speaker come to share a message that relates to our theme. This year I invited a friend of mine from La Cruz, Sinaloa, Sergio Barreda.
What a great job! Gracias Sergio! He spoke on what it is to make decisions and how important it is to be able to make decisions in our life. The most important decision we can make is to accept Christ into our hearts and decide to live for him. This year’s verse is Joshua 24:15, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” When I asked Sergio two months ago to be our speaker, he told me later in a phone conversation that God had laid on his heart a message and a scripture. We had not talked about this before and come to find out that the scripture God gave him two months ago was the same scripture we have been using this year in EL RETO! We were on the same page!

Unfortunately, the roof to the new church is not on yet and the message was cut short due to rain. However, I know that God had all of that prepared. After we put all the sound equipment away and moved over to another part of the church grounds, the minimal rain had stopped and we had a time of prayer over the students. One girl, Maira, from Santa Fe accepted Jesus into her heart as Geña prayed with her. There were a number of other students that received prayer for other reasons as well. This, to me, is all worth it. When students come forward and admit a need before God and man. Lord, touch their lives!

When we were finished praying, we moved into the conclusion of the whole RETO event. Mili announced the results of the choreographies and she had the students going crazy! I sat back thinking, “she does this way better than me!” which is not a bad thought! When the final results of the choreography winners was announced after a very suspenseful and exciting 10-15 minutes of announcing, The Overcomers came out on top.

Mili did such a great job at this, that instead of me announcing the final results of this year’s RETO, I was more than pleased to give her the honor once again of announcing who had the most points in the final tally. She excitedly accepted and off she went…
“6th place with 976 points, ‘Angels of Good’”.
“5th place with 1,010 points, ‘The Messengers’”.
“4th place with 1,430 points, ‘Fearful’”.
“3rd place with…WOW…4,542 points, ‘Eagles’”
“2nd place had 4,921 points”
…and after another 10-15 minutes of suspenseful and exciting announcing, she announced first place…
“and first place of EL RETO 2008 with…WOW…7,337 points…THE OVERCOMERS!!!!”
“2nd place goes to ‘The Chosen’”.

Now, did they actually win? This was the moment that I asked if there were any teams who had found the hidden treasure.

“A big opportunity awaits you if you find the treasure. If you win the FINAL
CHALLENGE, you will end up in first place. Search amongst the rocks where the
tournaments are held.”

“In The Village of The Cast Away with a Braveheart, you saw The Passion of Christ, The Almighty.”

“Mathew 13:44. How was the treasure hidden?”

“Line up the palm tree with the corner of the palapa”

With just the first two clues, “The Chosen” found the hidden treasure after only the 2nd week. When the leader, Ruben, found it, he asked me, “So, about the treasure, what do I do with it, do I open it?” I responded, “Are you sure you found it?” “Yes” he said. “Show it to me” I replied. He went into the house and came out with a tiny bundle of fabric tied up in twine. “Here it is.” “Hmm,” I hmmed, “Good job!” And I went on to explain to him that he can open it and inside he will find a message for him and that he didn’t need to share it with anyone. I told him to bring it to EL RETO FINAL to present it to me then and we will continue from there.

So, did he bring it with him? Yes. And we had one Last Challenge between “The Chosen” who had found the hidden treasure and “The Overcomers” who, if it hadn’t been for the hidden treasure, would have won already. Now it was getting suspenseful!

So, we had all the teams line up in their formations just like we had done every week and one last time the teams went in to the decision room to vote for the team they wanted to win. The Chosen and The Overcomers didn’t vote because they couldn’t vote for their own team. So, the other four teams, one by one, went in to vote.
The first team to vote was the “Eagles”.
Then the “Fearful” came in to vote.
The next vote was from “The Messengers.”
Finally, the last vote came from “Angels of Good.”
It was a tie! However, this was not the way either team was going to win. What they received for votes were “shots”. I made up a game on the computer in Excel much like the board game Battleship. We had each team choose 20 squares on a grid of 100 squares (10x10). What they were going to do was try to guess which squares the other team had chosen.

"The Overcomers" choosing their squares.

So, The Chosen had two votes, that’s two shots. The Overcomers had two votes, that’s two shots. We also gave The Overcomers five shots to begin with for having been the team with the most points at the end of EL RETO. So, the score…The Overcomers 7, The Chosen 2.

The opportunity to gain more shots continued with a series of questions. I had 20 questions for them. Ten questions about RETO history and ten Bible questions. Right in the middle of this, it started to sprinkle again and we had to pack up. We continued to finish the questions the next evening.

Sunday evening, 5pm, we continued. They arrived and received a bonus shot if their whole team showed up wearing their team’s color. Neither team qualified. Then, we gave a bonus shot to the team that won best attendance (by percentage). The Chosen got another shot. Now, before we continue with the questions, the score is The Overcomers 7, The Chosen 3.

When we were done asking the questions, each team had answered correctly 11 of the 20 questions. That made the score, The Overcomers 18, The Chosen 14.
Then, we continued with a relay race. Five members of their team had to bounce on a ball the length of the meeting hall at the base where we were, bounce around the staff standing at the other end, then bounce all the way back. The winner of this event would receive five shots! This was so far the most exciting event game.
Pedro rounding staff member Mili.
The fifth Overcomer started bouncing on his ball while the 4th Chosen team member was still trying to round the staff member. But, oops, the Overcomer falls off his ball and looses control. He gets back on and starts uncontrollably bouncing his way down to the staff member at the other end.
By this time the final Chosen member, Ruben, gets on the bouncy ball. He glides his way down to the staff member, rounds him and is catching up to the Overcomer who is nervously struggling to keep “on the ball.” As each team is literally yelling at their team member, “Go! Go! Go!” the excitement builds.
Ruben flying around staff member Juan Pablo.
And amazingly, Ruben in what seemed like three hops, bounced past the finish line within a couple of feet of the Overcomer team member! It was exciting! The score then was, The Chosen 19, The Overcomers 18.

There was a final mini challenge for them to do so I had them line up facing each other. This can sometimes be a challenge in itself for a leader. Sometimes people don’t follow directions very well. The Chosen were having a tough time, probably the excitement from winning the last bouncy ball race. However, The Overcomers were very obedient, and made formation just like they were told right away. I was amazed and told them thank you because during the whole RETO they had always been “on the ball.” In EL RETO we give out what is called a “Filipo.” This, in Spanish, is the city of Philippi where the Philippians live. Paul’s letter to the Philippians was an encouraging letter. Whenever we want to give an encouraging word for something great that someone has achieved, we give them a “Filipo.” So, I gave The Overcomers a Filipo and the score before our last mini challenge was; The Chosen 19, The Overcomers 19.

What they were to do now was to stand on one foot with their eyes closed. They could not switch feet or move around. This was a pure test of skilled balance—try it! The person who was standing last won 3 more shots for their team. In the end, Pedro stood the test and won three more points. The score; The Overcomers 22, The Chosen 19.
Pedro stood the test!

Now, for EL RETO FINAL. This is where the teams were to try to guess where the other team had chosen squares on the grid. The team with the least amount of shots, The Chosen went first. We had them use all 19 of their shots before we gave The Overcomers a chance to guess. If they chose a square that was of their own team, the other team received a point. If they chose a square that had both teams, neither team received a point. When The Chosen were done guessing, they had found 7 of The Overcomers’ squares and accidently hit two of their own. The score was; The Chosen 7, The Overcomers 2.

Now it was the Overcomers turn. They only needed to find 5 squares of The Chosen and they had 22 shots! All they needed to do was to tie the game. If it ended in a tie, they won since they were the ones being challenged. In their first four shots, they made four hits on The Chosen making the score 7 to 6. Then, a miss. Then, oops, they hit their own square making the score 8 to 6 in The Chosen’s favor. With 16 shots left, they only needed to hit two more. Four or five more misses, then a hit! Eight to seven was the score and it was starting to get really exciting. Now, with the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ playing in the background, people were starting to bite their nails. Ten shots left, a miss. Nine shots left, a miss. Eight shots left, a miss. Seven shots left, a miss. Six shots left, we turn on the video camera because it was more than exciting. None of us could believe that these guys kept on missing! Six shots left with the camera rolling and the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ in the background, everyone was quiet, everyone was waiting in anticipation…A MISS! WOW! Five shots left…another miss! FOUR shots left…a miss! THREE shots left…now, all they need is to find one square of The Chosen, if they hit their own square, they’ll have to find two more of The Chosen with only two shots left! With three shots left…a miss! TWO SHOTS LEFT and the score is The Chosen 8, The Overcomers 7. They only need to find ONE square! Two shots left…OOOOOPPPPPSSSS!!! THEY HIT ONE OF THEIR OWN SQUARES!!!! The score now is The Chosen 9, The Overcomers 7. ONE SHOT LEFT! You do the math. Yep! With that mistake, THE CHOSEN WON!!!!!!! This was wilder than wild! The students from The Chosen were going crazy that they had won EL RETO! The students from The Overcomers sat in disbelief. They had dominated all month long in EVERYTHING. The margin between them and 2nd place was incredible in the final tally. But, because of the hidden treasure, The Chosen were given an opportunity to challenge them in ONE FINAL CHALLENGE. What can we learn from this?

EL RETO UNCOVERED. Words cannot express the excitement and the feeling of fulfillment as EL RETO 2008 comes to an end. We will live out its wake in the coming weeks as we talk at youth group about things we learned and as we hang out with each other during the week. I think the two words that would best sum it all up would be…TEACHABLE MOMENT. There is SO MUCH to get out of this whole event. Especially, when we look at it through the lenses of “What can I learn from this?” Knowing that the Lord is the one who ordains all the events for us to be able to know HIM more and GROW in our spiritual journey with HIM gives us confidence and trust in HIM throughout our day-to-day life. DECIDE YOUR DESTINY is what each of the 72 students encountered one time or another in EL RETO. From the beginning when each team chose a name for their team from a Bible story, to the end when The Overcomers made a mistake by choosing one of their own squares in EL RETO FINAL giving the victory to The Chosen.

It’s interesting to note that the two teams who had the names that had the most relation to our theme “Decide Your Destiny” were the two teams that made it to the Final Challenge. “The Overcomers” overcame all the other teams and came out on top in the final score. However, “The Chosen” it seems were “chosen” to win in the end. As I have mentioned in a previous post, there was another team who decided to give themselves a close to blasphemous name out of pure rebellion and trying to be “cool.” That team was in last place from the beginning until the end. They are the one’s who said,"We have lost this challenge, but God is still with me." They stayed in it and didn’t give up! Does what we label ourselves have anything to do with our “Destiny”? My answer is, ABSOLUTELY! The hard thing for most people is renouncing the lies that the enemy has so often placed in our head. Paul says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV; Romans 12:2).

Another interesting thing is how this whole thing ended. Looking at it from the perspective of the winning team, The Chosen; The Overcomers had a lot more points by the end of the month. The Chosen really had no chance to win coming in to the final day. There were not enough points available for them to reach The Overcomers, especially after they came up with the 1000 point prize! The Chosen’s only hope was GRACE. This was a picture of God’s grace and how he gives what we don’t deserve…forgiveness of sins. The Chosen experienced grace of another form by winning the final challenge. It was not in their hands, they had to sit and wait for the final outcome.

The Overcomers on the other hand deserved to win! They dominated in almost every activity coming in first place in most. Now to have this hidden treasure come in to play just didn’t seem fair. In fact, that’s exactly what the leader told me, “This is not fair!” This was probably the biggest lesson we could have learned this year. LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Sometimes we go through things that just don’t seem fair to us. Things happen to us and things happen around us that affect our lives. It’s up to us to DECIDE how we will respond to certain situations. Are we going to stay on the ground and “label” ourselves as incapable people, losers, helpless and hopeless? That part of life is in our hands. We don’t have to stay there; we can get up, dust ourselves off and DECIDE to change our mind. We don’t have to be “victims.” We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are capable because Christ is capable. We are not losers because Christ is not a loser. We are not helpless and hopeless because Christ loves us and he has a plan for us. Again, I am completely convinced that God ordained what happened at the end of the RETO. For as much as The Overcomers tried and wanted to hit a square of The Chosen, they couldn’t. They hit their first four and missed on the next 17! That night, I sat down with everyone to talk about what had just happened. This was an awesome teachable moment. In the morning, we had just heard Sergio who preached the night before give his testimony and it was interesting that the same scenario came up. For as much as Sergio tried and wanted to kill himself, he couldn’t. He had the gun up to his head, pulled the trigger and it was a blank. The gun didn’t work. With the gun still in his hand, he hit his leg and the gun went off discharging the bullet as it immediately lodged itself in the brick wall. How does that happen? God. God was protecting Sergio’s life because his mother was praying for him. He told himself, “I can’t even take my own life!” He felt like a loser. The students heard that in the morning, and experienced it in the evening. 17 shots and they couldn’t hit the target after nailing the first four! They felt like losers! How does that happen? God. God allows things to happen in our life to teach us to depend on him. He is in control! The Overcomers learned a tough life lesson that night and it’s something that will help them in their future when they encounter struggles and issues that just seem unfair. They can overcome!

EL RETO 2008 is over, but it still lives in our minds. Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe and for teaching us so many different things. Help us to remember what you have taught us.

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