Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Have you recovered? Nope.

The number one question asked after returning home from the annual youth retreat at Hickory Run State Park is,

"Have you recovered?" 

I can happily reply, "Nope, and nor do I want to."  

Because here's the thing.  I spent the weekend with 40 amazing youth and 21 dedicated adults and it was awesome.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love that my call to serve at Trinity involves spending time with youth who are ready to learn and live out God's love and call in their lives.  

The weekend kicked off with great mixers, some study, some games and the holy experience of joining hands as everyone participated in a time of prayer.  As we gathered together that first night, the group was comfortable enough to share worries, joys or just a word of thanks as we prayed aloud that night.  It was wonderful and holy and a fantastic beginning to the weekend.  

As I feel asleep, I gave thanks to God for safe travels, milkshake and fresh baked pretzels.  I thanked God for clothespins, laughter, music and a game we invented in the Poconos called El-ball.  I thanked God for voices that prayed aloud and asked God to be present with us as the weekend continued.  

I woke before the alarm went off and had time to listen to the podcast Pray as you go as I been by day with the quiet beauty of God's creation, just before the voices of youth were heard in the distance.  

The day began with breakfast, and a crew who started a game of sick ball that pretty much went on all weekend.  The sessions the youth went through in the morning, helped them prepare a skit for skit night, play some team building games and learn a little more about God's mercy.  

We enjoyed a tasty lunch of nuggets, tots and freshly baked cookies before heading out to Boulder Field.  I'm deeply thankful for the number of adults who attended the retreat who were willing to help transport the crew to and from Boulder Field safely.  

We had some laughs on the boulders...

We took some selfies on the boulders and even captured a bride and groom!

(laughter to the point of tears, not pictured because I almost stopped breathing for a bit)

Then it was back to camp for some free time, a snack and some small groups where the guys and girls had some time for highs and lows and chit chat.  

After an incredible feast of lasagna, garlic bread and salad, we enjoyed Skit night.  The three groups did a fantastic job of sharing Biblical stories with a twist - David's dancing was told by Joy from Inside Out, Queen Esther had to save the Jewish people from dinosaurs, and we saw what compassion from the Good Samaritan looks like in our day and age. 

In addition to these skits, youth shared songs, skits, a poem, jokes and dance routines that they created on on their own.  I was blown away by the talent in the room and the courage to share these talents on a stage in front of a group of people that had only been together for 24 hours.  

We then ate s'mores like champs.  (We don't mess around on this retreat.)

After the campfire, we gathered for worship.  
We confessed our sins, we heard Jesus say, "Peace.  Be still." to the wind and the waves.  We heard that Jesus says, "Peace. Be still." to the storms and worries and stresses in our own lives.  

We shared in a time of prayer, greeted one other with hugs and smiles as we passed the peace, and we shared in the Lord's Supper.  

We ended worship by the light of the candles that we lit from one another as we sang the song Sanctuary.  

Lord prepare me,
to be a sanctuary, 
pure and holy,
tried and true.
With thanksgiving,
I'll be a living sanctuary for you.  

Often, this is a song sung at the beginning of worship or study time as an opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on God and the worship experience.  As we sang it at the end, I couldn't help but give thanks (again) to God for working inmates among and through us as we deepened our relationship with God and one another as another day was coming to a close.  

Here is one youth's depiction of the weekend:

As I headed off to bed, I did so brimming with gratitude, thanking God again, for moments of peace, moments of laughter (to the point of tears) and all the moments in between.  I was thankful for pancakes, nuggets, tots, lasagna and s'mores.  I was thankful for study, games, worship and skits.  I thanked God for God's infinite presence among us that day and all days.  I prayed that God would bring us all peace in the midst of life's storms.  

The storms rolled through during the night.  The rain sounded wonderful on the roof and the trees.  

Sunday morning began and we were packing, cleaning and posing for a group photo before breakfast.  
We enjoyed sticky buns, strata and a breakfast dance party (sorry no photos) that was the best ever!  

From Shout to Ballroom Blitz (a new Pocono breakfast tradition) Handclap and Bohemian Rhapsody, we rocked that dining hall.  We danced, we laughed, we ate and we danced some more and after that, we were ready for seriously....Bohemian Rhapsody was our prelude to walking out to the chapel for worship.  

Our closing worship included songs, prayers, another reenactment of the Good Samaritan, and interviews as we practiced sharing our experiences from the weekend.  

Worship wrapped up with a time of laying on of hands as the chaperones blessed the youth as they prepared to depart from the retreat.  

With safe travels home, and a quick unpacking of the truck, everyone headed home for showers, naps or both.  

Now, as a few days have passed, you may wonder, have I recovered?  
And the answer is a firm, nope!  

Have I caught up on sleep?  Yup.
Have I adjusted to not eating with 60 of my closest friends?  Yup.  
Have I gotten back into the swing of things at home? Yup.  

Have I recovered?  Nope.  

Recovering from the weekend means that I have returned to a normal state of health...which is far from true.  This weekend transformed my heart and my life.  It transformed how I respond to the needs of others in my community and in the congregation I am called to serve.  This weekend has transformed my relationship with God and the relationship I have with the youth and adults in this congregation.  I am far from recovered and that, my friends is a good thing.  

This was the 50th year of this amazing retreat.  I'm thankful for those who have made this event a success in the past and prayerful for the hearts, hands and volunteers that will continue to make this event a life-changing experience for the youth of our congregation and community.  

If you haven't realized yet, I love what I do.  I'm deeply thankful that I'm called to serve a congregation where I can show and share God's love with an amazing group of youth AND do it with the help of so many amazing volunteers!  Really, y'all, I couldn't do it without you and the youth! 
I thank God for you, for this opportunity and this amazing life we are called to live together.  

And so with their permission, I close this post with a poem written by Phoebe E. and Jillian U. 

They shared it as part of skit night and have allowed me to share it with you. Thank you Phoebe & Jillian.  

For God’s love led me here, 
And I’ll always know that He is near.  

He leads us to do good deeds,
From building tables and planting seeds.

The earth is the Lord’s for all is his,
He led me to YouthQuake where I met Nizz.

I love laying in God’s green pastures,
as I listen to the words of my amazing pastors.

when I walk through his holy rivers,
the strength of the Holy Spirit gives me shivers. 

The skies above that shine through,
proclaim the work of His hands to you.

The friendships here will always grow,
and that is one thing we all will know.

One day I really hope,
we’ll be lucky enough to meet the pope.  

God’s love is never ending,
His angels are always tending.

For God always loves you
no matter what sins we will do.

No comments:

Post a Comment