MORRIS – Imagine drinking water as your only beverage for an entire year.
Now, imagine a teenager doing it. No pop, juice, sports drinks, milk, tea or five-hour energy drinks.
For two high school students this year and another two the year before, water was their only libation for 365 days.
“The first three months were literally terrible,” Morris Community High School junior Jordan Wren said. “Then, as I got used to it. It got easier.”
“I had cravings for a while,” Wilmington High School sophomore Caleb Swick said. “When I started, it tasted really terrible.”
Jordan and Caleb, were two of several at First Christian Church in Morris who accepted the challenge at their youth camp last summer. Several tried the challenges, Youth Minister Kyle Wolfe said, but Jordan and Caleb were the two who stuck through to the end.
The students are offered the opportunity to accept a blind challenge at the end of their Christ in Youth summer camp and have until the next camp to complete it.
Jordan’s and Caleb’s was to drink just water. Wolfe said the idea was to bring awareness to the millions in the world who don’t have access to clean water.
Morris senior Meghan Miller and recent Morris graduate Sam Obrochta had the same challenge last year.
“Hands down, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Miller said.
“There were some hard moments,” Obrochta said. “I’ve never been a huge pop-drinker, but coffee and milk were the hardest things.”
On Monday, the four returned to the camp that started them on their challenges – Christ in Youth at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where they will celebrate meeting the challenges they feel God gave them and perhaps accept another one.
“CIY’s goal is to amplify the call of Jesus in students’ lives,” Wolfe said. “It can bring them to Jesus and then to the kingdom walk, making him part of their lives in everything they do. They realize it’s no longer about them, but about what he wants in their lives.”
Participants stay in college dorms during the weeklong conference, which includes lessons and singing in the mornings, small groups later for discussion, free time in the afternoons and rejoining the whole group each evening.
“It’s fun,” Wolfe said. “The kids just love to connect with each other and exert some independence. They get to know each other better, and they meet other teens from all over the country.”
On the last day of the camp, sealed envelopes are offered to each teenager, with a blind challenge issued inside. It’s not required to take an envelope, but students who do are asked to commit to the challenge inside.
Wolfe said the challenges range from easy to difficult, and the students have until the next year’s CIY to complete them. They include running a marathon, joining a club at school they might not normally join and memorizing a particular book of the Bible.
Jordan said seeing Sam and Meghan do it last year gave her confidence she could do it, too. She said she felt for the children in Africa who don’t have clean water to drink.
Before taking on the challenge, Jordan drank mostly root beer and juice. It was hard to give up the root beer for the first few months, but it became easier as the weeks went on. The knowledge that God was supporting her made it worthwhile, she said.
“It feels really good that I did it,” she said. “I feel like I’m pleasing him.”
Last summer was Caleb’s first year at CIY, and he said he felt called to accept a challenge card.
“The first week was really hard, then you get used to it after a while,” he said.
Caleb’s little sister, Ella, and his mother, Melissa, did the challenge with him. Ella did have a little juice each day, but otherwise, only water.
Sam and Meghan did the challenge the year before last and relied on each other.
“We were accountability partners,” Sam said. “We had each other to turn to, and that was huge. A year is a long time.”
Sam said she had never taken a card at CIY before that year.
“That whole week, I was really pumped,” she said. “I knew something big was coming. I guess you could say it was a God thing. I prayed about it, and I opened it, and there it was. At first, it seemed simple. I thought, ‘Oh I could drink water for a year.’”
It wasn’t quite as easy as she thought, though. It wasn’t for Meghan, either. But once she got used to it, Meghan said it wasn’t as difficult.
“I was hoping for this one,” she said of the challenge. “I knew this would be a really hard challenge, and I thought it was the one for me. It strengthened my Christianity. I felt like it was a mission.”