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Ascending the Heights Devotions

Each night begin by standing in a circle and praying. While standing, recite the Lord's Prayer, explaining that after praying the group will stay silent for a period of time in order to allow each person to reflect silently in their minds over the day's events.  After praying and standing quietly to reflect, invite the children to sit in a circle. Each devotional comes with some basic suggestions and some scriptural references to connect with the day's events. You will find some key words or stories from which to draw some points to discuss with the campers.

Encourage the children to speak from their experience do not be afraid of silence or even tangents but do try and keep the conversation focused. The idea is to get the campers to relate to the material that they were exposed to in the day's activities, especially the material that was covered during Orthodox Life, Street Wise, Arts & Crafts, and Chapel.
Avoid speaking for prolonged periods of time and attempt to get each child to contribute. If necessary begin the conversation by connecting the day's events with your own experience and try to then stimulate conversation by asking an open-ended question (an open ended question is one that cannot be answered using a "yes" or "no" response).

The suggested time frame is between 15 to 30 minutes.

General Information
This year's Camp Emmanuel Retreat's theme is "Ascending Everest." In our Orthodox Life and Street Wise sessions we will attempt to make a connection between the endeavor to climb Mount Everest and one's own personal spiritual journey, ascent towards the heavenly kingdom.

The technique of mountaineering has numerous lessons that can help us to impart some of the spiritual necessities every "climber" needs to "ascend" the spiritual heights. What mountain has inspired such acts of courage, exhibition of skills, resourcefulness and perseverance as Everest? In a like manner what "climbers" have proved their inner-strength more than St. Catherine, St. Sophia, St. Haralambos, and St. Nektarios? Like Sir Edmund Hillary these masters of the climb have truly ascended the heights and proven that we can indeed reach the top!

Session 1: Preparing to Ascend
Basic Suggestions (these are meant simply to stimulate ideas but not to provide the sole focus for your material):

  • Each climber needs over one ton of supplies to reach the top of Everest. What materials are essential to success?
  • Before attempting to reach the summit, climbers spend years planning for and meticulously mapping their ascent.
  • Assembling a team is paramount to success. What qualities are needed?
  • Have the campers develop a list of items they believe are useful for their spiritual ascent. These items can be physical, i.e. Bible, prayer rope, or non-physical, prayer, etc.

Ascend: 24.3 – ff, "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully."


  • Isaiah 40.3, "A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"
  • Matthew 3.1-ff, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"
  • Amos 4.12, "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
  • Malachi 3.1, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare they way before thee."

Session 2: The Climb
Basic Suggestions (these are meant simply to stimulate ideas but not to provide the sole focus for your material):

  • The icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent
  • Climbers are tethered to a life line.
  • Climbers are tethered to one another.
  • Trust games.
  • This can save you or kill you it depends upon the skill of the one you are tethered to.
  • Obstacles are sure to arise, how are they planned for?
  • What happens to the body during one's ascent?
  • What is a Sherpa?

Climb: Luke 19.1 – ff, "[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchae'us; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way."

Session 3: The Summit
Basic Suggestions (these are meant simply to stimulate ideas but not to provide the sole focus for your material):

  • How much time do you have to reach the summit?
  • Why is it called the death-zone?
  • The last part of the ascent is in many ways the most dangerous, why?
  • How many have made the summit?
  • What made their attempts successful?
  • How did they overcome obstacles?
  • How have climbers described reaching the summit?
  • How has reaching the summit changed them?


  • Micah 4.1 – ff, "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come and say; ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths.'"
  • Exodus 19.16 – ff, "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightning, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was rapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up."
  • Exodus 24.15 – ff, "Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel."

Session 4: Living in the valley below
Basic Suggestions (these are meant simply to stimulate ideas but not to provide the sole focus for your material):

  • After reaching the summit each climber descends to live in the valley below.
  • What do they take with them?
  • How does their experience change the way they react with those around them?
  • Does the summit stay with them even down below?
  • Why can't you stay on the summit?

General themes:

  • Moses and Mount Sinai
  • St John's "The Ladder of Divine Ascent"
  • Jesus' transfiguration on Mt. Tabor
  • Mt. Athos

Read the story of Jesus' transfiguration: Mark chapter 9, Matthew 17.1-8, and Luke 9.28-36. Notice how the story does not end on the mountain, rather Jesus and his disciples must leave the mountaintop, and descend to the valley below. Notice also what comes immediately after the story, the healing of the boy who had seizures. In other words, Jesus leaves the mountaintop to serve the people who live in the valley below.

"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!' And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.' When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only." Matthew 17:1-8.