Well that was an experience! Last weekend we had our annual middle school winter retreat. Sometimes we plan events or retreats and they go off exactly as planned; perfect weather, follow the schedule, no injuries or sickness, zero traffic, you get the idea. This was not that kind of trip!
Traffic delayed our arrival at the retreat destination by more than an hour, which made for some last minute scrambling on the schedule. Not a big deal, but annoying. Then Saturday morning, when we loaded up the vans to head to Mt. Shawnee for some tubing, that’s when things got interesting. It was only about 16 miles away, a short drive normally. However, it started to rain as we left, and by the time we were only a mile and a half from the tubing runs, the roads had iced up so bad we couldn’t progress any farther up the hills. I made the call to turn back – not a popular one with the kids, but the adults seemed relieved (who knew how bad the roads were going to get as the day went on). For the next three hours, we drove approximately four miles. The vans did get stuck a couple times, and that also included about an hour of breaks between two stops (a general store and a Dunkin Donuts where we bought about a hundred bucks worth of donuts and hot chocolate), so I guess you could say we were going about two miles an hour. Awesome. What blew my mind is that we were in a tourism based area that depends on people wanting to ski, and that whole time we didn’t see any salt/sand trucks!
And then to top it off, by Saturday night people started getting sick. By Sunday, it was more than a handful complaining of symptoms. Once we all got home, almost all the leaders (myself included) and a number of the kids all came down with the flu. Argh! Chaos indeed!
On the other hand, the trip had a lot of great moments as well. I loved our theme for the weekend, ‘How not to be a fool,’ a series on wisdom, making choices, being intentional with life, using Proverbs as a launching point. Taking over the Dunkin Donuts was actually a lot of fun. And the kids all agreed, sledding back at Twin Pines was far better than the tubing runs at Shawnee, anyway. Middle school kids helped with worship all weekend, which was awesome. It was far and away the best behaved group of middle schoolers on a retreat I’ve ever been with, which was awesome. Over the course of the weekend we had three talks; I led the first one, Matt O taught the third one, and Melissa M had talk #2. One of my favorite moments was after Melissa’s talk, one in which she spent some time talking about the importance of being intentional with our decisions and the direction of our lives. She even spoke about being an eight grader on the same retreat eight years ago. After she finished I made a comment about excites me to think about how in a handful of years Melissa has gone from a middle school student to a leader, small group leader, teacher and more – and I wondered who in the room was going to be leaders in our church eight years from now. It was awesome to see a bunch of the kids get a really great look in their eyes, that it was something they wanted. I love seeing them catch a dream for the future that involves God! In spite of all the chaos, it was still an amazing trip!