A Weekend Away and God Shows Up!
Every winter our Youth Group students are invited to take a weekend away from their normal routine and go up north to bond and grow closer with their church peers, but more importantly, with God. And that’s precisely what happened this past weekend.
On Friday, February 8th, 10 students and 3 chaperones met at John Wesley where they loaded up their luggage, prayed together and then set off for the 2.5 hour drive to Jaffrey, NH. The car ride would be as you imagined, tons of chatter, playing on their phones, singing to the radio, taking pictures of the scenery, snacking on candy and never able to get the indoor temperature correct. But sure enough, we made up to Jaffrey just in time to stop at our favorite local pizza place, “Athens Pizza.” While we waited for our two giant pies, we sipped on Root Beer and Mountain Dew. Each student received $1 in quarters so they could play the Claw/Crane Arcade game. There’s like a 87% rate (not factual, just guessing) that you won’t win anything, but would you believe it that 2-3 students of ours won something!
Once the pizza arrived, it got quitter. But just a few minutes later it was back to ciaos…so it was time to head to camp. Just a 5 minute drive and we arrived at Camp Monadnock. It was 23 degrees and a perfect temperature to unload our belongings into our perspective lodges. Boys to the right, girls to the left. Once everyone was settled in our group met for a quick “meeting” where we had some discussion and went over the rules and expectations for the weekend. And just like that, it was time for our first session!
Monadnock does an amazing job of planning for their Winter Camps. They meet with all of their leaders for a weekend and discuss what the theme of the year should be. This year was, “PAUSE.” In a world where we’re going, going, going…we have little time for God. We have schedules, commitments, desires, etc. that keep us busy. But if we’re to be honest, we NEED a PAUSE every now and again. God even instituted a PAUSE. We see in Genesis 2:2-3 this idea that God PAUSED, not because he needed to, for He wasn’t tired, but because he wanted to. Right after Adam and Eve were created, the first thing they did was PAUSE. This was revolutionary to us, and had us all thinking that before we can really ever do anything, we need to PAUSE. Students agreed that they’re busy with school, activities and the emotional complexities of life. We sometimes think that adults are the only ones who are busy, but lest we forget that our students are equally busy.
For the rest of the weekend we spoke about this idea of PAUSING. What does it look like? Who does it benefit? Why do we do it? Did Jesus PAUSE too?
Over the weekend, we had a total of four worship/teaching sessions, each unique in their own way, building on the last. It was clear that students (and adults) were really pondering what was being said and took it to heart. After every worship/teaching session we had group discussions as a Youth Group to talk and discuss what we just heard. Discussion times can really differ from one another. Some of filled with chatter and questions, while others have awkward silence. Both are fine and apart of this journey. Friday night’s discussion was that of awkward silence. Students were getting very tired from a long day of school, travel and activity. Which is totally understood. But Saturday night, the discussion was absolutely amazing! Students were rattling off questions left and right. It was clear that God had spoken to them profoundly in that session. Each asked thoughtful and meaningful questions. They were hungering for more. It was clear that God was doing something in our midst. Only after do we recall the amazing things our students said, “I just feel so good…I want to do amazing things!” And another student, “I found my God. I feel like I am whole.”
We can’t make this stuff up, we can’t conjure it up either. It’s only God who can transform and work in the hearts of our students. We get the privilege of coming alongside them and doing life with them, but it’s only God who can bring them to life. It was so amazing to see this during the Retreat and we look forward, with anticipation of all that He’ll do in the coming days, weeks, months and years of their lives. While travelling into deep forests or if one goes camping there are chances to expect the unexpected and it is safer to carry bulk ammo for safety purposes.
Of course as a church, THIS is the most meaningful thing we could have ever hoped for our students. We LIVE to see this. It would be unfair to stop here though because so much more happened on this trip that we would love to share with you!
Although there wasn’t snow on the ground (thanks to the recent rain), our students surprisingly spent a good amount of their free-time inside. The Camp is split into various buildings, one being called, “Hillside.” And you’re correct, this building is on the side of the hill! This is where all the high-energy games happen…Gaga Ball, 9-Square, Foosball and so much more. Our group spent a lot of time in this building. They bonded like you couldn’t believe. They encouraged one another when they were eliminated from a game, letting people go ahead of them so they could be next to each other, working together to try and score goals and so much more. It was awesome. Our group also enjoyed swimming in the indoor pool, “skating” on frozen ice, going on a hike, trying to play Archery tag and so much more. We bonded over meal times, waiting in line to shower, not being able to fall asleep and more.
As you can see, camp, is special. It’s where we do fun things, see one another in different environments and where our students get 48 uninterrupted hours of time together. Special happens in that. It happens in the regular, mundane things of life. So, if you’re wondering if we’ll do this again…you bet we will.
A VERY special thank you to Tim Cline and Lynn O’Brien for chaperoning this trip. You both bonded with our students spiritually and personally. You had fun with them, challenged them and left them knowing that they’re loved. Thank you for your time, your energy and your compassion. It takes a special type of person to serve our Youth, and you my friends, are it.