It was the last day of GenJ camp.

And 842,403,030,000 gallons of water were rushing toward Portland.

Meanwhile, sitting in a coffee shop that morning, I casually discussed possible print ads with the editor of that week’s camp “newspaper.”

It had been a normal crazy week at the Generation Joshua (GenJ) iGovern Leadership Camp. The week’s simulation centered around the explosion of a 48-foot high turbine in the John Day Dam, located on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. In this scenario, the dam collapsed like a pile of dominos, sending billions of gallons of water rushing downstream.

The GenJ “White House” (staffed by students appointed by the “president”) scrambled to do damage control. They published an official story stating that a failed flow control had caused the turbine’s catastrophic failure.

The official story didn’t ring true to the young newspaper editor, but she couldn’t pinpoint the reason.

Of course, as director of Generation Joshua, I knew something the editor of the paper didn’t: a GenJ “Senate” committee that was simultaneously meeting on the far side of the campus also knew the official story wasn’t true.

I pushed aside the newspaper ad ideas and locked eyes with the editor. “Look, newspaper ads don’t matter right now. Find the truth.”

She knew exactly what I meant.

She stared back, thinking hard. “I tried, but I don’t know how.”

Finding the truth

I see this every day in the real world: a generation of young men and women who have great potential but lack both the tools and the conviction to stand for truth in a way that inspires others to rally alongside them. Bombarded with propaganda and overloaded with information, tomorrow’s leaders need to be equipped for the task.

That’s why I get up and go to work every morning.

GenJ stands on the front lines, inspiring and training young men and women to search for answers about faith, freedom, and truth. Working directly with these engaging minds is one of the best parts of my job, which is how I happened to be talking with the editor that day in the coffee shop.

“Ask questions. Drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the daylight,” I told her.

I could see the wheels turning as we worked through the facts. Her mouth suddenly formed an O as she realized that a key part of the story hadn’t been explained.

She grabbed her notebook and the arm of her longsuffering photographer. Together they charged across the campus on a mission for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The young editor dug relentlessly, even ambushing unsuspecting GenJ senators: “Senator! I need a statement. Is it true . . . ?” The camera flashed.

Bit by bit, she uncovered the facts as she waded through the sea of inconsistent stories and fake news.

Finally, she tracked me down.

“I found it—the truth. The people we’ve been blaming are actually the good guys, and the people who we thought were good . . . are not.”

It was her own Pentagon Papers moment. She knew the truth.

Bringing the truth to light

But it’s not enough for leaders to know the truth. They also have to know what to do with it. Though others argued against it, the editor resolved to go public with her discovery. She reported that it was not a “mechanical issue” that caused the turbine—giant blades of death spinning at 300 mph—to explode.

A hacker had inserted a virus into the computer’s safety systems, preventing the safeties from responding when the turbine started to fail. Blame for the catastrophe, however, was placed on the dam operation staff. How convenient.

Meanwhile, the person who hired the hacker schmoozed it up with the congressmen throughout the week, donating heavily to their campaigns.

The editor had fulfilled her role. In the end, the creative innovation of the GenJ “president” and his staff averted a massive flood in Portland by having the dam carefully release water pressure through other channels.

That week, the editor and 154 other students learned vital life lessons about leadership, their own personal strengths and weaknesses, and the power of knowing the truth.

A lesson for us all

We do a great disservice to tomorrow’s leaders if we inspire but don’t equip them. We do an equal disservice if we equip but don’t inspire them.

We don’t need more political hacks or inept idealists—we need competent visionaries to step into the public sphere, qualified to wisely and winsomely speak the truth.

Each iGovern Leadership Camp prepares young men and women to make a positive difference in our nation, equipping them with humility and courage amidst political atmospheres rife with corruption and cultural opposition. Our unique blend of government simulation, leadership training, and field trips, combined with Christ-centered teaching, devotions, and worship, seeks to develop leaders who are outfitted mentally and spiritually.

Through these avenues, we create exciting-yet-challenging experiences to bring teens face to face with the importance of civic engagement and truth, along with the understanding that they can make a difference . . . and therefore should!

As 2019’s GenJ campers take what they learned back to their homes and into their futures, new students are already signing up for iGovern 2020, in need of the same crucial lessons in leadership, faith, and civic stewardship. These campers, like the young editor, will find growth opportunities unfolding at each GenJ event, pushing them out of their comfort zones, expanding their thirst for liberty and truth, and reinforcing their conviction to preserve these values for future generations.