What a Weekend!
Pastor Melody - March 15, 2022
Our hands and bodies were FREEZING, but the Spirit was setting things on FIRE! That’s how I would describe the middle school retreat last weekend. What an amazing bunch of youth! What passionate adult leaders! What a rock-solid Youth Director! What an amazing weekend!
So… Let me ask you, do you have fears? Do you seek out perfection for yourself in school, work, your looks, and your accomplishments? Do you worry about what your peers think of you? Are there places and people that cause you anxiety? I bet you could answer yes for more than a few of those.
We have all faced challenges in our lives. But this is especially true for our middle school youth. It’s a time of growth of identity and self-awareness unlike no other in a child’s life. There are physical things changing. There are mental things changing. There are emotional things changing, and maybe most of all: spiritual awakening is full speed ahead. It’s the reason we spend time working with this age group on the Affirmation of Baptism. So, this weekend we explored these questions and more in our “Survivor” themed retreat, meant to acknowledge all those changes and how we perceive the world around us.
We were all prepared. Forms signed, Covid tests taken, everything packed, and we set out for Lutheridge on Friday after school. We loaded up cars with everything we needed. 25 youth and 6 adults for a weekend away!!
It started like most retreats. We spent time getting to know each other. (Especially since it had been a couple years since some of them had even seen each other’s faces.) We had to reconnect and get reacquainted with each other. But it didn’t take long for the laughing and the silliness to begin. I knew it was going to be good when I started asking questions, and EVERYONE was talking the first night. I knew in that moment that this was going to be an epic weekend.
If you’re familiar with the legendary TV shows from the last decade or so, you’ve heard of “Survivor”. It’s a show that brings people to an island (or somewhere clandestine) and has them compete in challenges and eventually be the last one standing. It was super easy to think about how Survivor related to life in middle school. The first challenge was to figure out the memory verse for this weekend. All I gave them was lines on a poster board and one letter at a time. They figured out the verse with only seeing four letters! Are you kidding me?! I was blown away. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. I thought to myself that maybe all the challenges that I planned for them were too easy!
That night, we all headed to cabins for a good night’s sleep, well as much sleep as excited middle schoolers will let you have on a retreat! The next day we woke up to snow on the ground. Remember it had been in the 70s last weekend?! Now, in the high 20s, we started our day. The kids were COLD. But they were ON FIRE!!
Now, I don’t have enough room and time to tell you about every activity and fun moment we had, but here are some highlights: Power outage, keeping our eyes on Jesus, relay race, Jesus has his eyes on us challenge, great food, power back on, we’re perfect in God’s eyes challenge, no heat, voting fears, perfection and peers off the island, clues, camp initiatives, games, crafts, smores, songs, dancing, devotions, and armor of God….WHEW!
Did I mention the heater broke?!? We were ALL cold, very, very cold. But…
There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work this weekend! We all left with full hearts and the knowledge that Jesus is with us wherever we go. Jesus walks with us in the difficult times of life, especially in middle school. In our fears, Jesus is always watching over us, caring for us, and lifting us up when we fall. When the desire for perfection overtakes us, God is there telling us every hair on our heads is counted and we are more valuable than even the sparrows. When we worry about what our peers think and say about us, we know that Jesus meets us in the mess of our lives and loves us unconditionally. In those places where the anxiety is high, we know that we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, God with us always.
Take a lesson from our amazing kids: when you’re at school or work or in your everyday life, when times get hard, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!”
That’s good news that warms even the coldest, shivery-est night!
God of all creation, we praise your name and thank you for being closer to us than the very breath that comes forth from us. Make your presence known for all who are hurting, weary, or struggling. In Jesus’ name, Amen!