366 days ago, I spent the day racing Rev3’s Knoxville race. I had such an amazing experience last year that I had planned on the 2012 race at Knoxville being my first “real” effort of this season. This year’s Rev3 Knoxville race was this past weekend. Many of my Team Rev3 teammates raced this weekend – I was looking forward to meeting some of the new folks, reconnecting with folks who were on the team last year, and seeing some of the folks from Rev3 (Carole, Charlie, Eric, Ashley).
This year, however, I didn’t race. I didn’t even head up to Knoxville to be a spectator or volunteer. What did I do instead this past weekend? I went on a weekend retreat/mission trip with a group of middle school kids. I’d like to share a little about the weekend. I promise I won’t get preachy or too religious, but I’d love to give you a glimpse into our weekend and why this past weekend was every bit as good (and probably better) an experience as I’d have had if I was up in Knoxville racing.
This was the third year in a row I’ve gone on this trip, and each year I find it immensely satisfying, fun, and exhausting. There were about 150 sixth, seventh and eighth grade kids that went on this trip. We headed south from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach for 72 hours of wild and messy games, amazing music, and worship.
I roomed with 20 eighth grade guys – and I’ve got to tell you, that was an experience! Very little sleep was had by anyone (I think I had a total of 10 hours). More Monster and Red Bull and Mountain Dew was consumed that I thought humanly possible. Some unimaginably crazy things happened – one of the guys bought a pregnancy test because he’d heard an urban legend that if he ate jalapenos and drank Sprite it would generate a false-positive test, kids took turns trying to one-up each other in terms of grossing each other out…. essentially guys being guys.
The really amazing thing about this weekend’s trip, though, was witnessing the real transformation that some kids went through. For many kids on this trip, this is the first time they really came to know Jesus. For others, it was a chance to deepen their relationship. I’m constantly blown away by how deep middle school kids can be. So often, people look at kids who are 11 to 14 years old and just think of them as kids. I’m here to tell you that while they are absolutely young, and can certainly act like idiots, middle schoolers are amazingly eager to have a relationship with Jesus. They are perceptive, caring, thoughtful, not afraid to love on others, and accepting of differences. As a parent, I’m uplifted by these kids. As a Christian, I’m blown away by how God works in these kids. They have unconditional, crazy love for God. It’s so refreshing to see – especially when much of the things we see in society today often paint teens as selfish, unrepentant, hell raisers who only want to party, get high, get laid, or blow off life.
Honestly, this weekend wasn’t impactful just for the kids. We had about 50 adults on the trip. Many were “regulars” – having gone on the Daytona trip every year for multiple years. There were also a few “newbies”. One newbie guy in particular – who happens to be an acquaintance of mine – is not what I’d call a “religious guy”. I have no idea if he is a Christian or not. Were you to ask me before the weekend, my response would have probably been that he wasn’t one. He was as impacted as some of the middle schoolers, if not more. It was amazing for me to see a guy who fits the stereotype of a “guy’s guy” (tough exterior, football player, stubborn, etc) break down, cry and give his life to Jesus. Amazing stuff. Inspiring.
So, while I really hate that I missed the race in Knoxville this past weekend, I wouldn’t have missed the weekend that I did have for anything. I know that there will be other races. More opportunities for me to go swimbikerun. More PR’s to be had. I also know that because of this past weekend, lots of lives were changed. People became focused on their love for something way bigger than them. And no matter what your religious beliefs, you’ve got to admit that those are amazingly great things and one awesome way to spend a weekend.