Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SoulCare Retreat - Feb 2011

Youth Work can be rewarding, and stressful. I usually find it rewarding, but I'm paid to do this work.  My youth leaders are not. They do this because they like it and find it rewarding.  

I like to honor the commitment that they have to our youth in different ways.  One way is to offer them a weekend away in a retreat setting so they can relax, learn, bond, and rejuvenate.  

It just so happens that Youth Unlimited, in cooperation with the Ontario Youth Ministry Team, has continued with its SoulCare retreat again this year.  We went to the one hosted last year at a Circle Square Ranch (you can read about it in a previous post in 2009) and the group liked it so much, they wanted to go again.  I was more than happy to make that happen for them, and me.  : )

We were supposed to go to a Circle Square Ranch, but things happened that made this impossible, so we ended up being hosted at FairHavens Conference Grounds.  It just so happens that my parents have had a trailer at this Conference grounds for 25 ish years, so I was very familiar with the place.  A nice place to host a retreat.  Thankfully they could accommodate us. 

This year Kevin, Jeannine, Janine, Melanie and I went. Ken stayed home.    The ladies went with Andrea from Kanata earlier on Friday.  I had to stay later in order to coach a Volleyball game.  Kevin and I left Ottawa at about 6 pm.  The weather was supposed to be ugly, but I've come to distrust the weather people as of late.  Too many false storms warnings this winter.  It happened again on Friday. 

I drove for part of the time, but I also let Kevin drive so I could blog the volleyball match I'd just completed.  

We arrived at FairHaven's at about 10:15 pm, just as the first session was completing.  We checked in, and then met the three ladies. Were they ever talkative.  Babbling on about their drive to Fair Haven's.   I still don't understand it all, except to say that they shopped in a short store and got food poisoning or something like that.  

Jeannine took some pictures, so I'll let her comment on them, and then I'll take over to talk about the rest of the weekend.  

Janine is very sad that the female leader's dinner plans didn't work out because "The Little Brown Jug" in Beaverton was closed.

The ladies decided to explore Beaverton a little bit since it took them WAY less than 6 hrs (I don't know why you thought it would take that long, Ron!) and they had some time to kill. To their delight they stumbled across a little shop that was aptly named and you will see why....

THIS is why we think it was named the SMALLMart....even Melanie could touch the ceiling :  )

The SmallMart carried everything we could think of. It was probably a common place to go for cottagers in the area. It had all the essentials - kitchen utensils, toiletries, and glasses with funny cartoon eyes.

After the exciting discovery of the SmallMart, the ladies decided that it was time to find some food. Seeing as the only place in Beaverton that seemed to be open was "The King's Bishop Pub" we went in.  

The menu looked promising, but we were decieved. Jeannine's spaghetti was overcooked and tasted like tomato paste.  Mel's chili tasted like the spaghetti sauce that Jeannine WAS expecting, and both Andrea's and Janine's kebabs seemed to be chicken nuggets on a stick alongside cold veggies and depressed-looking salad. Needless to say, we didn't tip.

Jeannine spaghetti
(which was actually fettaccini noodles),
and pre-cooked meatballs.

Luckily Youth Unlimited provides a basket of essentials that may have been forgotten by the attendees. We found some pepto-bismol for Mel since her spaghetti sauce chili made her lose her appetite.

Here Mel is demonstrating how to make a bed. It was nice that bedding was provided for us.

So, Ron back again with the narrative.  After we were told to come back to hear all about the stories of the ladies, Kevin and I checked into our room, or should I say walk in closet!  : )  What you see is about what you get.  Two beds (I'm afraid of heights so Kevin graciously took the top bunk) and a sink and dresser.  NO room for your stuff, really.  Cozy to say the least.  At least it was warm and dry.  

We were now all settled in and made our way to the basement room where everyone was gathering.  That's where Kevin and I heard the above story from all the the same time.  : ) Can't you tell they are excited. 

This is the basement room we used for socializing.  Lots of games, and behind me was a working fireplace.  When in use, the room filled with smoke....cough, cough.....

 As with every youth leaders retreat, is seems tradition that the youth leaders have to do some sort of game that we supposedly make our youth do.  I'm sure I've never had our youth do this game, though I think I'll try it with them sometime.  It involved an egg, straws, tape, and a bag.  The idea was to make something to cushion the egg so it wouldn't break if dropped from about 8 feet.  Here are Kevin, Melanie and Sarah thinking of what to do.  

 I was with Jeannine and Janine. I didn't have to worry about thinking....they did it for me.  : ) Below are two clips of our two teams and how we did in the egg drop....

This was the result of Kevin's Team

This was our team's result  : )  

Scrambled eggs anyone? : ) 

After our "games" time it was time to relax and socialize.  Always a fun time for the leaders.  This year we had a fire outside.  It was advertised as a bonfire, but it was more like a small fire.  Here we are standing around the fire with one side quite warm, and the other side, well, let's say, not so warm.  If you kept rotating, you stayed warm, but I got dizzy after a while so I left.  

In the middle of this picture is Pastor Marc.  Crazy man.  Even crazier is the guy to his left (my right).  Jordan.  THAT crazy big and tall dude used to be one of my youth in Sarnia.  Now he's a youth leader.  CRAZY, but cool.  

Pretty much everyone came in out of the fire after a bit, and several settled down to play cards.  Here Jeannine and Sarah are getting beat pretty bad by Jordan and Mark.  

Fair Havens is a familiar place to me.  I spent many a summer at my parent's trailer relaxing, watching the boats in the locks nearby, or swimming.  Once in a while (after church on Sunday) we would have a meal in the dining hall, which is where we ate all our meals.  This is the building and on the right is the dining hall.  Above is where the women ended up spending their weekend.   They didn't even have to put on their coats or anything....what's with THAT!  : )  

Sorry Kevin.  I couldn't resist.  Mornin'.  : ) 

Jeannine is a perky person in the morning.  I resent that.  : )  Melanie is perky because she has her coffee.  I'm more like that. 

As a Youth Pastor, there are times when you wonder if what you do actually makes a difference in the lives of those youth you pour yourself into.  I wasn't expecting this, but I was privileged to meet two of my former youth at this retreat.  Jordon on the left, and Mark on the right.  

They are both youth leaders now with Pastor Mark in Sarnia. That is just so cool.  They both have different life stories as to how they ended up as youth leaders and, no, it wasn't easy for one of them, but they are now making a positive impact in the lives of young people.  It truly was a gift from God to see these two.  Guys especially are not known to be as active in ministry as women are (you can argue with me on this one if you'd like), so this was even more special.

The icing on the cake was hearing from one of them that both Marc's and my influence on them had made an impact in their lives.  I've also heard that others from my tenure in Sarnia have become ordained Pastor's, Youth Pastors/Workers, or are actively involved in church somewhere.  I've always said I was not in the ministry for the immediate reward.  However, if you stay in it long enough, you do see some rewards, and they are to be savored because they are sweet.  : )  

Speaking of sweet, the food at FairHaven's was amazing.  The cooking staff were great.  
No complaints at all on that front.  

After breakfast it was time for another session together with Syd.  This was Kevin's and my first session, as we missed last night's.  The group gathered together, with the usual socializing before hand.  I always thought youth could be loud, but get a bunch of youth leaders together and..... : )  

We were led in worship by a worship band I'd never heard of before, but they were good.  

Here's our speaker, Syd.  He shared with us how we could find peace within our souls in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us.  It's not easy to find peace at times, but Syd had some great nuggets of truth for us to take home.  

Back to the food again.  Just look at that plate...I think it was Jeannine's.  The meatballs were amazing, the fries too. The quiche, well, that would have been my only complaint.  

I'm lactose intollerant, but took my pills with me.  Janine has a gluten allergy, but Fair Havens took real good care of her.  One of the few places that I've seen that has done this with such care.  Nice to see.  Janine was very appreciative.  

This was my plate.  The chicken pizza was amazing.  : ) 

If you look real close, you'll see that I have all the dessert and dinner plates stacked near me.  You are supposed to believe that I ate all that food.....yeah.....right!  Oh, I wish these youth leaders of mine would get better at their jokes.  

Andrea had the right idea.  She decided to baptize me with water at the lunch table.  Now THAT's thinking outside the box.  Funny how she left so quickly after that.  No problem though...I never get mad, I just wait for a time to get even. : )

After lunch was free time.  YES!!!!  You can tell that Jeannine was VERY excited about free time.  : ) 

There were several options available.  Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, skating, mini golf and indoor soccer.  You could simply take a nap or go to the basement to play some games and socialize too.  Maybe even take a long walk.  The weather was great.  

Last year my fellow youth leaders and I went snowshoeing.  I went because there was snow.  This year, my youth leaders and Andrea wanted to go snowshoeing again.   My question to them was,  "WHY?"  There was NO SNOW to speak of.  

Again, Jeannine seems excited about free time.  Maybe she works too hard....hmmmm.....maybe she doesn't get out enough.....

Andrea looks a bit like a smurf here, don't you think?
Or would that be smurfette?   

Here we are walking towards FairGlen, the youth camp, to get our snowshoes on.  You can't tell, but I'm complaining about going snowshoeing at the moment.  I did it for the fellowship, NOT the snow.  : )   

Oh, and yes, I did get Andrea back for throwing water at me.  I threw water at her too.  Mine was just in solid form.  Nice face wash if you ask me.  (tee, hee).  

So, last year we did snowshoeing with a guide.  He taught us how to put them on, walked with us through the deep snow and hilly terrain, and it was fun.   THIS year we had no guide, there was no snow, and the terrain was flat.   Oh, but I'm not comparing......  : )  

Melanie and Jeannine ready to go......

Everyone had no problem putting on their snowshoes, except me.  Take a look at this video clip. 

Once we got walking, what did we run into....a road....what's with that!  I decided to rant for a bit, just to have some fun.  Jeannine just happened to catch that rant on video.  Take a look.......

I really didn't mind going snowshoeing.  It's nice to be outside, and it's who you are snowshoeing with that counts, not the amount of snow......right?  : ) 

It seems that snowshoeing wasn't enough for Melanie.  She decided to make sport of the whole thing.  Here she is attempting a new world's record for snowshoeing standing long jump.  

I figured if I WAS going to do some sort of serious snowshoeing, staying on the snowmobile track wasn't going to cut it.  Time to blaze my own trail, and find our family trailer that had just been giving to my uncle and aunte.  So, I took a bit of time off the beaten path to do that.  I found the trailer right where we had left it.  : )  It sure looked different in the snow.  It will be strange knowing I can't just come here any more to visit my parents (my in-law's have a cottage about 20 minutes away from here).    

It was nice and peaceful on the roadway where all the seasonal trailers were.  Time to drink in the silence and get a bit of that peace that Syd was talking about earlier in the day.  

After a bit of walking I decided it was time to find the others back again.  I blazed my own trail through the woods.  It was fun.  : )  

After snowshoeing I took a walk to the locks that are located at the back of FairHaven's.  As a kid we'd always come to watch the boats go through, and even help with opening and closing the gates.  I see they are installing new gates this winter.  Ah, the memories.  

The others went inside and began playing a card game.  I eventually came inside to a smoke filled room and spent the rest of the afternoon playing euchre with Marc, Mark and Jordan.  Marc and I were partners.  It was a hoot.  Time for true confessions though Mark and Jordan.  Marc cheated several times with the score.  It was the only way he felt we could win!   Sorry Marc, but the guilt was getting the better of me.  : )   

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. 
 The dining hall looked nice.  

Breaded pork chops, rice, corn and beans.  Yummy! 

After supper it was time for another good session with Syd.  We broke off into small groups and I just happened to be paired with Mark and Jordan again.  Nice to hear from them about their lives and pray with and for them.  

When Syd was done there was a spur of the moment late night option people were invited to.  A Q  &  A for veteran youth workers and newer ones.  A chance to ask any question of anyone and learn from each other.  I decided to go.  It was worth it.  I was amazed at the energy of those just entering into youth work  (and some were just beginning).   I was also amazed that not too many of us had been in it for the long haul.  A few had, but not many.  

I really enjoyed this time. It was the highlight of the weekend for me.  Something that I think should be done at all these retreats.   I learned some new things, and I know the newbees were soaking up everything.  Great stuff all the way around.  

My youth leaders decided to use this time for some bonding together.  I was sorry I missed that, but glad they were able to share their lives together.  It's ironic that we haven't done more of that as youth leaders.  My fault I guess.  Note to self:  We need more youth leader fellowship times. 

It was 12:30 a.m.  and time for some sleep.  Supposedly I snore, says Kevin.  Hmmmm, really.   No....I don't think so...... 

Before you know it, it's morning.  
Back to the dining hall for breakfast.  

I was having a sleepy moment, and Kevin was kind enough to lend me his shoulder.....well, from the look of his face, maybe not.  : ) 

Melanie was still in great spirits.  
LOTS of coffee can do that to you.  

Today we were served waffles and pancakes.  Tonnes of fruit was offered as well. I personally prefer syrup on mine, but not Kevin.  No.......  

I must say that I now find myself comparing everything to John's famous pancakes.  He's wrecked my taste buds (in a good way).  

Janine was served gluten free waffles.  Don't they look 100 years old or more  (tee, hee).  That must be what happens to stuff without gluten.  It ages so much faster.  

Jordan slept in.  He sure must have had a good sleep. It made him hungry.  Look at all that fruit!   

After Breakfast it was time for church.  The Sarnia group was ready, but I bet there talking about something funny, and Jordan is the one instigating it.  

Melanie seems to like wearing sandals in the winter, outside.  I just don't get it. 

Now, I didn't take this picture.  It was taken with Jeannine's camera, but Jeannine is in this picture.  Maybe that's why Jeannine is tapping Melanie's arm and has that puzzled smile on her face.......hmmmmmm

We gathered once again for church.  We would be having Communion as well.  

Hey, we even had gluten free bread for those needing it.  They thought of everything this time.  Neat.  

Not that we needed it, but after church we stuck around for lunch.  Roasted potatoes, roast beef, chicken nuggest, carrots and beans.  MMMMMM good!  

As I was going up to get my food, I heard my name being called.  This was why.  Sigh....  : ) 

The desserts were amazing.  
Pumpkin pie, raspberry and blueberry pies.  

I couldn't decide which pie to have, so, rather than make a choice, I took two.  

I didn't want to get my Peru sweater dirty so I decided to get cultured.  I don't think it suits me.  : )  

Before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Everyone got comfortable for the 4+ hour drive home.  

So, was this weekend worthwhile you might be asking?  I'd have to say so, but maybe not for obvious reasons.  Most people would comment on how the speaker impacted them, and though Syd was good, I'd have to say for our group that wasn't what will be remembered. For some it would be the free time, and though that was great too, I don't think that would be something our group would comment on either.  

I think what we came away with was the importance of our relationship with each other as leaders.  We are often busy in youth ministry, but we haven't taken much time to get to know each other well, and in that be better leaders to our youth.  This weekend allowed for that to happen (though I missed that part unfortunately), and it needs to happen more for us. 

I also think weekends like this give us a chance to remember why we do what we do, and the legacy we leave with the kids we minister too.  I was certainly reminded of that through Jordan and Mark, and God blessed me this weekend with the knowledge that what I am doing has not been (is not) in vain.   That's a gift I won't soon forget.  : ) 

Below are some reflections of the youth leaders that went with me.  I thought it would be nice for you to hear their reflections  ............

From Melanie:

I guess I can start with defining how I usually think of retreats. Uncomfortable.

Before we left on this retreat, I worried about what types of "sharing" or hand holding or digging that this weekend would entail. Now I understand the benefits of being uncomfortable, but it is hard to admit that being uncomfortable is fun or something I often enjoy.

Yet for this retreat I can be honest and say it was pleasently uncomfortable. I felt able to open my mind and think deeper about the subjects that were brought to us during our times of worship. Syd  was a great choice for a speaker.

I was a student in his first year of being a chaplain and he began to make chapel something that we looked forward to attending, instead of something that we dragged ourselves too (we were teenagers, what can I say).. Syd chose to speak with the metaphor of radio stations, the old self and the new self. For me the biggest challenge was to learn to discern between my two channels.

Growing up in a Christian home, and being surrounded by a faith life, as well as living totally different then previous choices of lifestyles, it can be challenging to hear the difference, especially when they are playing at the same volume. I found myself thinking on that a lot throughout our worship times.

Through the weekend our leadership team also began to grow closer. I have never seen Ron so frustrated as he was with those snowshoes :) I was smart and went with the simple modern ones. Driving up to Beaverton, and sharing a room with Janine and Jeannine was even a great experience.

I think Jeannine covered our "adventure". Even getting to go to Smallmart and feel tall was an important part of the weekend. We also got to the see rough sides of the leaders as the other leaders got to see what happens when I may not have a ton of sleep....

We saw each other for a longer period of time, rather then a few hours once a week. I know many of the other leaders from other churches used this weekend for networking, but we chose to use this weekend to get to know each other better, outside of youth group. I hope that we didn't come across as a clique to the other groups, since we did open up and join other groups at times, but I think we all benefited from the times that we did spend together. Even meal times with there water fights and arguments :)

I truly enjoyed the experience of the SoulCare retreat and look forward to the chance to be able to do it again.


It was wonderful to escape for a weekend and enjoy a time of relaxation and reflection with youth leaders from across Ontario. Redeemer University College Chaplain Syd spoke about what it means to have peace in every situation. He led the topic with an analogy about how we are like radios that pull in different stations, our Old Self station and our New Self station.

Sometimes the volume is raised on our Old Self station which can effect our ministry, especially when it is telling us to be people pleasers, to run from overwhelming situations, to disbelieve that God could ever use us for his work, or to listen to expectations that deafen us from the calling that God is laying out for us.

In order to have peace in ministry we need to turn down the volume of the Old Self and one way to do this is through silence and prayer. Then we can hear the New Self station which is God's Word and calling for our lives. I liked this analogy once I could wrap my mind around it. I often get overwhelmed by the noise of everything going on around me and distinguishing between the Old and New self can be challenging. There are many times when I can feel the weight of anxiety and weekends such as this one provide a welcomed opportunity to focus on being silent and trusting my anxieties to God.

There were a few that I was able to give to him this weekend which is refreshing and I feel a bit lighter because of it :)

As for the rest of the weekend, the food was fantastic, the snow-shoeing was fun, and the company delightful! It was nice to reconnect with other members of God's Church and to enjoy some time playing cards, chatting and laughing together. I have learned more about God, more about myself, and also that I should never again buy spaghetti in a pub.  : ) 


I thought that this weekend was great.  For me, it is refreshing to get away from everyday life routines and distractions and to worship God continually over the weekend through listening to the speaker, singing, praying, fellowshipping and enjoying God's creation.  
There were two highlights for me this weekend.  The first was getting the chance to fellowship and learn more about the youth leaders from Calvin.  We were able to open up to each other and share more about ourselves than we normally get the chance to by seeing each other for a couple of hours each week.  I hope that the trust we established will continue to grow and that we can be accountable to one another both personally and as leaders of our youth group. 
The second highlight was the speaker re-iterating the metaphor of our Old Self and New Self and how I need to discern the places where God is working in my life in order to turn down the volume of my Old Self and turn up the volume on my New Self. I know when my Old Self is rearing its ugly head but I want quick answers and I think that I know what is best for me.  The speaker reminded me that God does his best work S L O W L Y; being content is a journey; I am not alone; and that God will walk with me in my brokenness.
Kevin's comments will be coming later, I hope  : )