Laurelville for the rest of us part one: retreat.

Hello friends!

I must once again apologize for the lack of regular posting on the blog. I had meant to post a bit from the National Youth Workers Convention, but man I was so into everything that was happening I just didn't have time to pull out my laptop and write. A quick recap of that will come later I think. I have lots of notes to look back over.

This weekend, I took a group of 11 students to Laurelville Camp for a weekend retreat. It was an amazing weekend, with great times of building relationships and worship and games and all kinds of fun things. But while this was a trip meant for the kids, as I was wandering around and taking it all in I realized that there were any number of lessons that those of who who hesitantly apply the label "adult" to ourselves could learn. So we're going to work through a series of these things in the next couple of days, so keep tuning in to see where we're headed.

As is the tradition for any Veritas youth retreat, we began the weekend by taking away the devices that our students hold most dear. Cell Phones, iPods, Nintendos, basically anything that plugs into a wall. This ritual is always remarkable to me, because when it's happening, as I'm snatching the precious device from their hands, I always get resistance. Veterans know this is coming, but they still put up a fight. Rookies look at me as though I have three heads. "My cell phone?" they ask me. "How will I keep in touch with the world back home?"

That's the point, isn't it?

A retreat is exactly what it sounds like. Get away, back up, fall back, retreat. For 36 (what I would call) glorious hours, we are cut off from the world. No one will hear from us, and we won't hear from anyone else.

I've been at Westminster for four years now, and I've been doing youth ministry for about 8 at this point. Do you know that in all the times I've taken away the cell phones, nothing earth shattering has ever happened back home that required a student's attention? If it did, I always keep my phone on me so that parents can get in touch. But it's never come to pass that someone back home desperately needed to be in touch with the students. Funny how that works, right?

We got into a great discussion the one night as a group about how the concept of a retreat allows us to leave behind the very things that get in the way of our relationship with Christ. In fact, with the distractions set aside, it became clear for the students what the distractions actually are. It was like spraying bright orange paint on a hunter in camouflage.

And when I handed the phones back...almost no one used them on the way home.

So the question comes to us: What would you like to retreat from? You could argue that there was no way you could retreat from your cell phone (or your job, or school, or worry, or fear...), but I bet you could. I bet you could turn off the computer for a couple of hours and put your focus entirely on Christ and his work in your life. I won't deny that it will require an obscene amount of courage, but I believe it can be done.




Brian Paff said...

Jason, we're glad you and your group found the space and time here to slow down, listen and grow. PKF weekends are known for noise, mud and chaos, but it's those twenty minutes and other moments when youth can hear God's still, silent whisper that make the weekends so special.

Come back anytime you need to get away.

Brian Paff
Laurelville Mennonite Church Center