Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Youth Leader's Retreat in Port Sydney

Friday: Some time ago our Youth Leaders found out about a Youth Leader’s retreat that was being held in Port Sydney, Ontario at “Ontario Pioneer Camp.” I’d heard about it already, but thought to myself that I’d be too busy to go and that my leaders would not want to take the time out for a weekend away. Well, hey, I can be wrong at times, and this was one of them.

They all wanted to go, so I felt I should go too. It would give me a chance to spend some quality time with them, which doesn’t always happen, even though we do youth ministry together. So, on Friday, January 15th at 12:30 pm, I headed out with Jeannine and Erin (from Williamsburg CRC) and began my pick up route. I got Kevin, then picked up Janine, then got Ken, and finally arriving at Sarah’s place (from Kanata CRC) at 1:20 ish.

What follows is a narrative of the weekend, with some pictures at the end with a couple of comments from yours truly.

It was a beautiful 5 hour drive on HWY 60 to get there. The snowscapes (is that a word?) were amazing. Frozen water falls jutting out of the blasted rock dotted both sides of the road. We settled in for the long drive. Janine got stuck with me in the front, but we had some great conversations. The others in the back talked a bit here and there, but for the most part slept, read, or stared out the window. I must confess that the YP we minister to are much livelier on trips, and I like that : ) . You can tell these folk are not of that “younger” age any longer. (tee, hee).

I used my GPS to get to the camp, but was reminded again that GPS alone is not to be trusted. It lead me to within 4 KM’s of the camp. I knew something was up when I stopped at a snowmobile track that the GPS was telling me was a road. I had a map, so we got to the camp eventually. We registered, and found our sleeping quarters. The boys were all in different rooms, and I’m not sure about the girls. The rooms were rustic but clean. I don’t like the top bunk bed, and was able to snag a bed very close to the ground.

About 70 people registered for this weekend. Some are paid staff like myself; others volunteers. I met some old friends and am making some new ones too. I was very surprised to meet someone from my Sarnia days. He was a young person then, and he’s now a Youth Director in Clinton. WOW, that is the kind of work reward that keeps me in Youth Ministry.

This weekend was advertised as “care of the Soul.” As such, we will be partaking of 5 different sessions offered by Tracey from Peterborough. A theologian of sorts. Very smart, but not pretentious. A woman of God who longs after God. Our first session Friday night was more of an introduction to what we would be doing for the remainder of the weekend. We were lead in music by a great music band called “Encounter.”

After our session it was time to simply hang out and socialize. In true youth worker style, there were LOTS of goodies, drinks, chocolate, and yes, even two baskets of personal hygiene items. I spent the evening talking and eventually playing euchre with Ken, Sarah and Jeannine. Janine and Erin were our “early to bed” people. I think I hit the pillow at about 1:30 am. Not the greatest night sleep, but hey, that’s part of retreats too.

Saturday morning came quick. 8:30 am for breakfast. Pancakes, bacon, porridge, OJ and coffee. A good solid breakfast that sticks to the ribs. Then it was time for session #2. We spent time talking about Experiencing God as we get to know ourselves. I’m noticing this is going to be a weekend that is going to challenge my ways of thinking, and that’s ok.

After more great music, and time to think about what Tracey had to say, we were sent out on an assignment to spend time with God. Several of us decided to do that by going snow shoeing. I had never done that before, so it was nice to go. Thankfully it was warm today because I was not dressed for - 10 C. I didn’t bring my boots either. We set out onto the deep snow (they’ve gotten a lot of it around here) and it was amazing how easy it was to walk. We observed mouse, deer, chipmunk, and wolf tracks as we trekked through the woods and out onto a frozen lake. Jeannine, Janine and Erin were part of our group. We had fun talking, throwing snowballs, and enjoying the wonder of God’s creation. The silence on the lake was wonderful. It reminded me of my time at the Weston Priory, but this was shorter in duration: ).

We returned and most went off to lunch. I wasn’t in the mood for Kraft Dinner so I relaxed in our common room and began to blog. Soon it was time to assemble again for our next session. I went a bit early to drink in the practicing of the praise band.

This session focused on Experiencing God as Love. We took some time to draw how we felt about God. That was a stretch for me who is artistically challenged : ). We then spent some time alone, meditating on Psalm 121. We are now sitting down in our common room after the session and relaxing together as leaders and talking about all kinds of different things. Nice to have happen.

More soon.

It’s now midnight on Saturday. After some social time this afternoon, it was time for dinner. Roast Beef, potatoes, broccoli and gravy. Mmmmmm good. Then it was off for session #4. We opened with a joke (that has now become the standard for us) and then a short explanation time to introduce an exercise in contemplative study. We broke into groups of 5 and went through a process of reading a passage several times together and hearing God speak into our lives. We had 45 minutes, and the time went very fast. It was something new for many, but I found it good.

We all walked back to our meeting place (we left to do our group session) and ended with a reading and prayer time. The praise band then closed things out for us. What a night of music and worship. After 35 minutes no one wanted to leave. We actually asked the band to do an encore, which they said they’ve never had done before. We ended with “Days of Elijah.” Inspiring!

I spent most of the rest of the evening networking. First it was with Leah, our Eastern Youth Coordinator for our Classis, and then Carrie from Youth Unlimited. It was hard to hold a conversation. The room was filled with rambunctious adults playing different games. They were louder than most youth groups I’ve attended. It was fun to watch. I ended the night coaching Erin in Euchre.

We have come to the end of a good day. I confess that I really was ambivalent about coming out for this weekend, but have come away with a blessing that I didn’t expect. I’ve connected with our youth leaders in a deeper way, and I’ve come to see God in new and different ways. I’ve been given tools that I can use to improve my relationship with God, as well as teach our youth group the same. I hope our youth leaders can get together a bit more often for prayer and fellowship and use the techniques we’ve learned back in Ottawa.

Tomorrow it’s breakfast at 8:30 am and then our final session. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow morning. It’s time for bed…………………..


After a bit better night’s sleep I awoke for breakfast. Another rib sticker! Then it was time for our final session together. Lots of singing, and preparation for the Lord’s Supper together. A fitting way to end the weekend. We left shortly after this. We could have stayed for lunch and left at 1:00 pm ish, but we had a 5+ hour trip home, so leaving at 11:30 am seemed more attractive.

After saying our good-bye’s we headed for home. My GPS took me on a bit of a 4 wheel drive excursion, but the scenery was beautiful. It also seemed to cut off about ½ hour of driving. I was all for that.

The drive home was a bit quieter, but Janine and I managed to do a lot of talking. Nice to get to know you better Janine. As I was driving back, I reflected on the weekend. As I said earlier, I really was quite ambivalent about going, but I’m glad I did. We bonded together as a group of leaders and we all grew in our understanding of ways to worship God and hear him speak through his Word. It was time well spent, and time that will help our youth as we try to teach them how to listen for God’s voice in the midst of their very noisy and busy worlds.

After the Pictures with comments, take a look at some reflective comments from our youth leaders. Just so you know that their time was well spent : ) .

Pastor Ron sticking out his tongue. I'm trying to NOT get put in to pictures. If I do this enough times, maybe they'll stop taking pictures of me.
Jeannine and Erin (you can guess who is who) in the back of my van. 7 adults packed into my van. You can tell that this is just the beginning of the trip. It was cramped for sure.
Janine got the front seat. Lots of leg room and a great view of the road. Notice the smug picture too, eh! Now if only Janine could figure out what temperature she'd like HER side of the van to be????????????????
Sarah came along with us too. She's awake now, but LOVES to doze off.....alot.... : )
Here is Ken relaxing on our trip. He read, looked out the window, and gave us the occasional grunt and grown knowing he was still alive and with us.
Ah, and last, but certainly not least, Kevin. I think he was reading here, but not sure. Maybe he's asleep?
hmmm, a theme seems to be emerging amongst our group. Can you guess what it is?
Here is a picture of our meeting place for the weekend. Not the most comfortable of seats, but we stood alot for singing, so that evened things out.
The group "Encounter" that played for us. They were AWESOME!
Our dining hall. The food was AMAZING!
Jeannine and Sarah playings some game with cups.....I couldn't quite follow.
Who is THAT!
Here is Jeannine, Janine, and Erin getting ready to snow shoe!
I'm ready too.
Man, they are still taking pictures of me. Keep sticking that tongue out man! : )
Doesn't this picture look thought provoking? I THINK we are drinking in the surrounding beauty of the lake and forest. Notice the stylish hats....we didn't even plan it this way.
As a Youth Pastor I love to serve, but THIS is getting a bit much. Erin and Janine used me as a private leaning post to get the snow off their snow shoes.
Here are my feet slugging along in the snow. Running shoes are not the best footware for this sort of excursion.
If you look very carefully, you will see two deer in the woods. A healthy deer population has allowed for a healthy wolf pack to survive here. The beauty of the area was amazing.


I don’t think there was anything that I didn’t enjoy about this past weekend. I had been expecting a lot more sessions and group discussion than what we actually had so the balance between sermon and solitude was very refreshing. I’ll admit that those moments of solitude when we were to try ridding ourselves of distractions and just focus on God and his Word were very challenging. It is something that I don’t do on a regular basis and I think I needed this weekend to realize that. An event like this, I believe, is necessary so that youth workers can have a better network of support and to be able to share with each other how God has been working through their ministries. Being a volunteer, it was nice to share a part of that larger network. Also, the food was great, the location was beautiful, and I can now say I’ve tried snowshoeing! :)


I have been struggling to discern God's will for my life and to be content with His will as it unfolds in my life. Parts of my life are not how I thought they would be and it has often left me asking God why. My head tells me that these things are done for the glory of God but my heart often does not feel the glory in any of it. On the first night of the retreat, we were asked to write down on a cue card what we hoped to get out of the weekend. I wrote down what I hoped for; that God's will for my life would become clear. On the second night, we broke into small groups and spent an hour in Lectio Divina with our group. This time consisted of prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to help us hear the Word and for the Lord to speak to each one of us personally. It also included times of silence alternating with the reading and re-reading of a Bible text (ours was Luke 8:22-25). While the verse is being read, you take note of a word or phrase that catches your attention and then repeat that word/phrase to yourself. "All was calm" and "obey" both stuck out at me. As the Bible verse was repeated, the meaning of these words became clear. I do not consistently pray to God and read His Word. How am I to discern His will for my life and be obedient to His call and be content with His plans for my life if I am not spending time with the Lord? I hope and pray that my experience this weekend will stay fresh in my heart so that I will diligently set aside time in my day, everyday, for personal prayer and devotion.


All in all it was a good weekend. The use of silence in prayer was highly stressed and I found this surprisingly easy to slide into despite my lack of practice. I never knew that silence could get so loud that it will make your ears ring. Apart from the talks that were given to us and the exercises in prayer there was also snowshoeing, skiing and tubing offered. I took part in both the snowshoeing and skiing and found it wonderful to get out into nature and reconnect with God through a stark winter landscape. If ever anyone gets the chance to do something like this I would highly suggest it.


This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Soul Care Retreat for youth workers at Pioneer Camp in Port Sydney. I really wasn’t sure what to expect this weekend and, I must admit, I was a little nervous about it. We started with a meet and greet at 7pm on Friday and then had a time of worship together. That’s when we found out what would be happening over the course of the weekend. It was all good until I saw that there would be a small group exercise on Saturday night that involved a time of reflection on a Bible passage, sharing what the passage meant to each person and then ending with praying for one other person in the group. This freaked me out because it was so far outside my comfort zone. It is hard enough doing something like this with people I know, but this would be happening with strangers. I had contemplated skipping out on it and probably would have but I had a very personal “Encounter” (name of the Praise band this weekend) with God Saturday afternoon. I was supposed to go snow shoeing but decided to find a quite place down by the lake to read scripture, meditate and pray instead. They say that you should be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. I prayed for a personal, tangible meeting with God and that is exactly what I got sitting beside that lake. It was the most amazing experience and I have no doubt what so ever that, even though I couldn’t see him, he was sitting right beside me. I could feel His presence. He spoke right to my heart in a way that I have never experienced before. I laughed; I cried tears of joy and felt such peace and contentment. I am so glad I skipped going snow shoeing. I took part in the group exercise Saturday night. I still had some reservations but I let go of myself and let God take me, trusting that He would help me overcome. He came through in spades. The exercise when great, it was an awesome time of sharing and prayer. I made some new friends and will be keeping Lia, her husband & family in prayer for the rest of my days. Looking back at it, I, for the life of me, can’t understand what had me so freaked out. By the end of the weekend, I was singing my heart out, hands in the air and doing actions to some of the songs. Definitely so not me (as those that know me will attest to) but absolutely who I want to be and will be with God’s help!

An incredible experience; something I would definitely do again!