Retreats have always been my favorite aspect of youth ministry. There’s something about sharing a unique experience together away from the normal pace of life without our phones, all with the intention of growing closer together and to the Lord. Formative memories are made that are never forgotten. Many of us can think back to any camp or retreat experience of middle/high school and are met with vivid emotions and moments. I love being a part of that; it’s such a privilege. Walls come down, cliques become less distinct, and unexpected friendships are formed. On top of this, there’s something amazing about coming together with peers from all different places in worship, knowing the same songs, worshipping the same God in love.
All of this happened at the Midwinter Retreat. There’s a wide variety of backgrounds that came on the trip with us this year. And I love having students hear from one another about their lives and their walk with Christ – whatever that looks like. Hearing stories about their lives and relationships is always a blessing – and so important for us to do with one another. I think learning to slow down, listen, and enter into life-on-life relationships is the most valuable thing we can do, particularly in middle school, when they are at such a formative stage of life.
But honestly, my favorite aspect of this retreat is just the free time where we can go off and play games and just be together. I think Orangewood’s favorite camp pastime is gaga ball (or octoball). Orangewood, I’m proud to say, was one of the best churches at gaga ball – not just skill-wise, but in honesty, kindness, and all-around sportsmanship. They looked out for one another, teamed up with one another, and encouraged one another consistently. Even when I was playing with them in one of the games, they would cheer for me!
In the church, the significance of relationships and spending quality time with one another can be sorely taken for granted. But over the weekend, seeing how the girls treated each other was the most uplifting aspect of the trip. God is at work in the lives of students at Orangewood. He is using them as vessels of love for one another, others, and for me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity we had to get away for a quick weekend together at Midwinter. While no one is perfect, I believe the Lord works powerfully in and through these times, where we specifically set out to be formed by His Word and fellow believers. I can’t wait for the next retreat!
— Emmie Thompson, Assistant Student Ministry Coordinator
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