That Was Amazing & Overwhelming
This past year in 2017 I was tasked to lead the effort of coordinating our youth retreat in collaboration with a ministry branch of Back2Back called One21.
This retreat is meant for our Hope Program students (young men & women Back2Back puts through high school & college), staff children, and kids 12+ who live in the Children’s Homes we partner with.
We go up into the mountains, spend the weekend in cabins, have a theme that directs the conversations and games, and experience life and fun things together. Well, we needed to save money this year in a big way so we changed locations. This location change made for a way more rustic living situation, but it also provided us one extra night in the cabins and it was closer to our campus.
The lead up to the retreat was packed with days and days of preparation. But, after it all we felt prepared and ready for the retreat to start. This years theme was The Elephant In the Room. Basically, we focused on those things that we know are all there and that we all struggle with, but no one wants to bring them up or go deal with them. We wanted to talk about all those hard things this year. We knew we would be going into the enemy’s territory in a big way and we experienced some pretty heavy things before the retreat that showed us the enemy did not want us to put on this retreat.
We made it though to the retreat and everyone started pouring in. This year we wanted to focus on our leaders having tribes and them being vulnerable with the kids in their tribe. Each leader was over 18 and had been in our Hope Program or are currently still with us. They led a tribe of 4-6 kids, 12+, with an adult accompanying, through games, creating a tribal name, flag, war cry, and ultimately through 3-4 debriefing sessions. The debriefs we thought would be a great opportunity for our leaders to show vulnerability, but yet give each of these children hope for a future as the leaders had been in their shoes for a time in their lives.
This retreat would ultimately bring help each kid realize that we all have an elephant in our lives and God wants to get this elephant out so that He can fill our rooms with more of Himself. The most impactful moments of the weekend were when kids interacted with the giant elephant our staff member, Dustin, made. They wrote their own “elephants” on it, “Porn, shame, hating oneself, pride, not being good enough, etc…” Seeing these kids calling out these elephants was so powerful. We worshiped hard that night, jumping around, crying, and praying with one another.
The next morning we brought them up on top of the mountain and got to shoot the elephant with a paintball gun. The final product of every person shooting this elephant with all the lies that the enemy entangles them in was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A black elephant now covered with what would seem to Jesus’ blood. We just felt the sense of relief, reckless abandon, and ultimately weights being lifted off of already weighed down shoulders.
We then ended this great time with 3 extraordinary baptisms next to this paint covered elephant. To say I was happy was not doing it justice. I was thankful for how God used all of us to pour some sweet love into the hearts of all of these children and leaders. God reminded me that no matter what things I forgot, missed, lacked delegation skills, and how tired I was would never get in the way of what He wanted to do.
During this same weekend we had a couple fights, caught kids with drugs, broke up arguments, and sustained minor injuries. But no matter what the enemy wanted to do, God broke through in a big way.