It was awesome, it went really well, everyone really got something out of it, and the students responded better than I ever could have imagined.
If you have the time, I will describe in more detail some of my thoughts from the weekend. I know some of you have asked and I was a little brief in what I might have said, but that was because I barely got any sleep and could hardly collect a thought on Sunday. I will tell you a little of what we talked about then some things that I concluded from these events looking back.
Friday night: We talked about what we love. We are all lost in our search for this perfect love, but the opposite of being lost isn't being found, the opposite of being lost is knowing where you are and how to get back on the right track. So all we wanted to do was figure out what it is that we love and if it is really worth loving?
Saturday morning: In the morning the kids were playing some random games that were fun to play but didn't really have a point. We told them before the game started that if any of the leaders came up and wanted to do something with them or for them that they (the students) had to do whatever the leader said. During this time we had students pulled aside and loved as Jesus loved us. Some students were able to take communion and remember His sacrifice that way, others were able to experience it in a little more realistic way by actually laying on a cross while someone hammered it. Others were just pulled aside to be prayed for. Some were asked to read a verse that they probably have never heard before and talk about what they thought it meant, one kid discussed a verse for 20 minutes with a leader. Others were asked to step out of the game for a minute so a leader could wash their feet. The response from the students from these events was incredible.
If you couldn't tell already, Saturday morning's message was about how GOD loved us through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice that He made.
Saturday evening: The students were able to love each other in ways they had been loved in the morning. They were able to wash each other's feet and pray for each other and taught how and why to do these things. Again the response was amazing. It was so amazing that when it came time for main session I didn't feel like it was necessary to teach anything, instead we had about and hour of worship to close out our weekend before we went home!
Some cool things that happened:
Worship: First and foremost, the organization of the band was incredible. We originally planned the retreat to happen the weekend after it did, and we had an awesome guy who was going to lead worship for it. But, the weekend needed to change and this kid could no longer do it. I was given two weeks to find a new band. The day I had to meet with Randy who gave me the deadline only about 3 or 4 hours before the meeting I call this person who couldn't do it but said that his younger sister, Shelby, might be able to. So I call her and she said that she would love to. Then she was having trouble finding a guitarist and her drummer could only be there Friday night. I told Randy about our problem, he gave me a deadline when we needed to know for sure about our musicians. I decided not to tell Shelby about the deadline, but I told her that I would help look. The day of the deadline she calls me and says, "Great news, I have a band completed."
There was still another concern about the band that I never really shared with anyone though. Shelby is a sophomore in high school and looks rather close to their age. So I wasn't sure how the students would respond to her leading. So the first night she gets up there and and starts talking to them and just connects wonderfully and instantly gains everyone's respect! It was so incredible. The whole weekend the worship was awesome and the kids loved it, they couldn't stop talking about the awesome band.
The game Saturday morning: Some of the coolest things happened during this experience. I wish I could tell you some things that the students were saying in response to these, but this post would be twice as long, so if you are interested you can email me or call and I will tell you because it was truly amazing.
The talk following the morning activities: We talked about Christ's sacrifice. There was such an enormous response from that and worship was supposed to go 3 songs afterwards, but ended up being about 45 minutes after we were done talking. At one time all 6 leaders had a kid that they were either talking to or praying with. I looked up at one point and noticed a girl holding tight to one of the leaders but at the same time noticed that the 6 leaders were all talking to someone, then I looked over at the band and one of the singers put down her microphone because she noticed a girl who simply needed a hug. I have no idea how long that hug lasted, but my heart melted when I saw that. There were 3 girls that went off with one of our female leaders who ran the Jr. High program with me over the summer and I heard afterward that they concluded that she was a lot nicer than they ever thought! That one made me smile.
Everything that happened Saturday night was just so awesome. They prayed for unsaved friends, wrote letters to people who couldn't be at the weekend letting them know of GOD's love for them, they learned how to discuss verses with one another and really understand what it was talking about, they talked about why they should pray for one another and how they should do it, and they were able to wash one another's feet and talk about different ways to serve others. The response was so good that we just got back together for one last amazing worship time and it was so wonderful.
On Sunday we were back at the church and the students had some time to talk about what they learned and tell the other people who weren't able to go. I heard some people say some stuff that was way deeper than anything that was talked about throughout the weekend and it was evident that they really got to know a little more about GOD, to them it felt like a lot, but as they continue on their journey they will find that there is so much more to learn. One kid, I found out, when he got home, before his parents could ask, he sat down opened up his bible and started telling them what he learned over the weekend!
One thing that kept resonating through my head was the question of how can this be? How can 24 Jr. High students who can't focus on one thing for more than 10 minutes worship for more than an hour at a time? How can a group of students whom it normally takes the pulling of teeth to get to discuss anything, talk about one verse of scripture for 20 minutes or go up to a leader after a message and talk with them for 45 minutes? What makes a group of kids who normally won't say a word or make eye contact when you ask for a volunteer to pray literally argue about who gets to pray? I know the answer, it's simply that they really did see a bit of GOD's face and realized that He is a loving GOD who sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price that we didn't deserve, they realized that the things they once loved seemed ridiculous compared to loving the One who created them. It was so refreshing and so rewarding to see first hand the promises of GOD delivered this weekend. Change that is about to happen in Beavercreek, Ohio and it is going to be led by a group of Jr. High students! This is when I ask the question, "How awesome is the One we call Savior?"