I first attended Challenge back in 2010. I was originally introduced to it by my older brother who'd attended in 2009 and said it was such a great experience! I was 13 years old at the time and excited to do something that would push me physically and mentally, so I signed up for Challenge Basic. When we first arrived the staff was professional and prompt signing us in and telling us where we could wait with the other recruits. And so began one of the most developmental weeks of my life.
After physically testing us against a PT standard, we were put through several different challenges in a way that specifically required teamwork, but we didn't have any sort of organization yet. This began teaching us the lesson that we couldn't do these things by ourselves, but that together and working as a squad we could overcome the obstacles in front of us.
We were eventually split into squads and were then taught survival skills, land navigation, tactical squad movement, basic application of first aid, hand-to-hand combat, basic firearms, rappelling, and many more important skills that were all ultimately building our teamwork as a unit. Learning each of these skills was a tremendous growing experience for me, but more important than all the other skills I learned was really the confidence the experience built in me. Knowing that I was capable of learning all these hard things, that I could accomplish all these tasks and work together with my squad to accomplish bigger things than I could do by myself actually showed me how far I can go. This experience was vital to my coming of age, especially in teaching me to trust in my fellow squadmates and giving me confidence in important and quick decision making.
Each night as part of our end of day process we would go through a time of worship with all of us singing together. The second night of worship I felt a real burden knowing that, just like I wasn't able to go through these different challenges without my squad, I was also fully incapable of saving myself from my sin. As the worship leader explained the words of the songs we were singing, I just felt this overwhelming emptiness over my inability, and dread at the feeling of knowing that what I deserved was hell. That night I prayed to God saying that I knew I was a sinner, incapable of saving myself, but knowing that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I confessed my sins and my need for a Savior. There wasn't some overwhelming feeling of something magically changing, but I knew that I actually had something I could be confident in and Someone I could depend on.
I finished that week of training overwhelmed by how much had been accomplished both physically and spiritually, and confident that I had much farther to go. I went on to attend Challenge Basic again in 2011 and 2012, and with each experience not only did I continue to develop the skills taught, but my confidence in myself and my trust in my teammates developed to a level I never thought possible.
I truly think that Challenge is an experience that every young man should have the opportunity to go through. To see how far they can go, to understand what they're truly capable of, and to learn that there are other men out there going through the same things they are and willing to work along side them.
- Josiah F.
Image: Josiah at his 3rd Basic in 2012 (after already passing staff selection)