It seemed impossible, but God enabled us to utilize amazing athletic ability to demonstrate the Gospel message – the Easter story that teaches all of us that Jesus lifts us up to God’s amazing grace.
We partnered with Kevin and Emily Durham, who are the faces behind This is My Story ministry. Through their ministry, Kevin and Emily help people understand their individual stories in Christ and how to share them. It just so happens that Emily is also a five-time contestant and finalist on the “American Ninja Warrior” television show. As we sat down with the Durham’s to pick their brains on everything Ninja Warrior, we learned that every obstacle course has a Warped Wall. This is a tall, steeply curving wall with a short run-up that competitors must conquer – some say it’s the most difficult and seemingly impossible feat.
The SuperStart team immediately connected this visual to the most monumental obstacle of our lives – overcoming sin. The same overwhelming sense of impossibility a preteen would feel if faced with the Warped Wall is the same feeling all people experience upon realizing there’s nothing they can do to fix the separation their sins and disobedience caused between them and their Holy Father.
We opened our teaching program by talking about God, His holiness and power to create. As we explained our Creator, Kevin appeared on top of the Warped Wall on the stage. Preteens saw that Kevin represented God sitting above all creation. The next teaching point was how God created humanity for the purpose of being with and glorifying Him, and the scene added the Durham’s preteen daughter, Hope, to the top of the Warped Wall with Kevin. Hope’s presence represented all of humanity.
As the teaching continued, we enticed Hope to climb down from her place by her dad. We did this with a giant lollipop, which we explained was one of Hope’s favorite things. As she did, we explained to the students that this is what we do when we sin. We turn from our Father and chase after other things – making them more important than Him. Because our God is holy and our sins make us unholy, humanity is separated from Him with NO WAY of getting back on our own. At this point Hope acted as if she no longer cared for the lollipop and tried to climb back up the Warped Wall to get to her dad. But of course, Hope is the size of a fifth grader and had no chance to make it back up the wall by herself. She needed help.
Enter American Ninja Warrior Emily Durham – Hope’s mom.
The teaching transitioned from sin leading to death to God’s plan of salvation through Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection – the Easter story. Representing Jesus, Emily entered the scene from on top of the Warped Wall with Kevin, representing God. Seeing Hope alone in the sadness of not being able to get back to her dad, Emily climbed down, sat beside her and put her arms around her. We unveiled the truth of Christ’s sacrifice and how it has removed humanity’s sins and enabled us all to be back with our Father. This prompts an amazing act on the Warped Wall – Emily positioned herself halfway up the wall, and as Hope ran up, Emily grabbed her hand and pulled her up, giving her the momentum she needed to reach the top. At the top of the wall was Kevin, reaching down with all his length to catch Hope and lift her up the rest of the way.
The attempt was successful, and the result was a beautiful picture of Hope back on top of the Warped Wall with her dad. It was a wonderfully sweet representation of how through the help of Jesus Christ all people have the opportunity to return to the loving arms of their Father in Heaven.
The lesson concluded with Emily running up and conquering the Warped Wall on her own, joining Kevin and Hope at the top.
What an incredibly creative picture God gifted the preteens at SuperStart of His purpose, love and sacrifice for them. This didn’t just affect the preteens – our SuperStart staff will be forever blessed by not only getting to be a part of crafting such a picture, but by the everlasting image it imprints on our hearts.
Praise to Him who can do the impossible! From all of us at CIY, Happy Easter.
Patrick Snow is the senior director of weekend events at Christ In Youth. His email is Patrick.email@example.com.