As we drove along the winding, country roads in the pitch dark of night wondering if the GPS was actually getting us lost instead of giving us directions to the 4H Club in Wakefield, the youth started voicing their concerns. “This road is creepy. It’s like the road for the Wizard of Oz. Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Just as I was about to express my own concerns, I saw a group of lights in the far distance. They were the only source of light on this starless night except for the lights of our van, and they gave me great hope and encouragement that we were, indeed going the right way. “Look at those lights up ahead. That’s were we’re going,” I said. Everyone seemed to take a deep breath at the same time and instead of anxiety, excitement filled the air. We had arrived safely to the 2020 District Youth Retreat.
Our weekend was filled with many amazing memories: hanging with friends, playing basketball and hiking during free time, nice rooms, good food, nice leaders, small groups, worship and a bear for a mascot. We cheered for our favorite lip syncing group, and we listened and were moved by the student testimonials. Even though the worship music on Saturday night seemed extra long to our tired bodies, we still had moments of connection with God, our Redeemer, as our voices blended together to praise Him.
We were challenged to explore many questions throughout the weekend. What does unity mean? How do we better know ourselves to know how we work together in unity? How can unity spark love? And finally, what if we are called to share our experiences from the weekend with others? It is my hope that our youth have shared their experiences with their families and friends.
Our speaker, Lindsay Baynham, shared some great insights on what it means to be called to unity in Christ. But two statements really caught my attention. “When the body of Christ works as it should it strengthens and brings unity.” During our small groups, the youth shared stories where they experienced this, and I saw many examples of this within our Haygood youth group over the weekend. One example that really stood out was watching a high school student go out of their way to serve a middle school student during breakfast. At first glance it may have seemed like a small thing for the high school student to get up from their meal to get the forgotten milk for the cereal for the middle school student. But in reality, it was huge! It was a bridge connecting a new, inexperienced student with one who has been attending youth group for years. It was unifying moment for our group – one of many that I witnessed throughout the weekend.
The second statement that stood out to me was when Lindsay said, “The place where God calls you is the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets. ” I want to explore this with our youth in the next few months by identifying their strengths and helping find an opportunity for them to use them in our church or community.
Finally, our youth were reminded this weekend that Jesus called them to be salty and a light to the world – a city of the hill. Just as the lights from the 4H Club guided us to the retreat Friday night, we are called to shine our light in our homes, schools, work and community so others and follow the light to Jesus.