By Walt Groff

This summer, Walt Groff, pastor of Gracepoint Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rocklin, California, served as the spiritual coordinator for the teens-only mission trip called Ultimate Workout, in Panama. He shared his thoughts on the experience on his Facebook page and with Maranatha.

Would you pay money for someone to purposely put you in an environment devoid of your normal comforts? An environment with no beds, no central heating and air, no hot showers, and no familiar foods—with water you can’t actually drink? Add to that physical labor more strenuous than you are accustomed to.

That, my friends, is “Ultimate Workout.”

Young people from all over North America—and this year from England and Bermuda—paid for the privileges described above, all designed for their spiritual growth.

And beyond them were the staff members who repeatedly come back, paying their own way to support this unique event—fully aware of the “accommodations” waiting for them.

Why? Because it works. Ultimate Workout changes the participants. The high-school-age kids and the staff find themselves impacted by the investment in ways they never imagined.

This year the young people testified again and again about this group feeling like family. They spoke openly of the growth in their relationship with God. And they felt free to be vulnerable with this group of peers. They prayed together, sang like it meant something, and rushed to the front to share how they were seeing Jesus.

I wonder if this is what Jesus was doing with the twelve disciples? He dragged them all around Israel—sleeping on the ground, eating what they could find. Out of their normal circles they learned to depend on one another and to trust Jesus.

Some argue that the church is at greatest risk when it is comfortable.

Perhaps these young people and their leaders have figured it out. It is of great value to be made uncomfortable sometimes, because we need to learn to depend on one another and to trust Jesus.

Thank you, Maranatha, for the invitation to join this adventure. It was pure joy to see the impact that Ultimate Workout has in the host country and in the lives of the participants. It was a blessing to feel the impact myself.

This year’s Ultimate Workout welcomed 126 volunteers from the United States and eight other countries. From July 19-30, the teen participants worked on school and church construction projects, a Sabbath school building for an existing church, painting, medical outreach, and children’s ministry.

The Ultimate Workout is an annual mission trip exclusively for teenagers, ages 14-18. The project is designed to stretch young people physically, mentally, and spiritually. Participants live in simple accommodations, work hard, and focus on building a stronger connection to God through service. Next year’s project is scheduled to take place in Bolivia in July.

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