Over this past weekend, Amanda, Pastor Jim, and I had the opportunity to take five kids from the Family of God to a weekend long confirmation retreat at Camp Arcadia. During these weekends middle school aged kids from churches all over the state of Michigan and beyond come together for a weekend of fellowship, games, and most importantly Bible study and spiritual growth. Amanda presented this idea as a follow up to our summer field trip program where we attempt to mentor our young people in their walk of faith in such a dark neighborhood. With some high anxiety from all three of us, we headed north from Family of God on Friday night.
When we got up there on Friday night, got checked in and settled in the rooms (Pastor enjoyed that the boys’ room was named “Army”), there was an opening worship time that was led by Pastor Brian from Trinity Clinton Township. Pastor Ryan Peterson led the devotion that night, as he did the sessions on Saturday. Our kids seemed to respond well to this opening time of worship. Most of them were very engaged and listening to what was going on. Praise God for that!
Saturday morning, we had breakfast, and this was a wonderful bonding experience for everyone at my expense. As we are approaching the dining hall, each one of the kids proceeds to remove their coat revealing the ugly green and white that I am convinced was only brought into the world at The Fall. Not only that, but Amanda and Pastor Jim both were representing the MSU Spartans. Amanda had taken all the kids to the store and bought them MSU shirts so that they would get a good laugh. Well played, Amanda.
Over the course of the day, there were three sessions where the kids sat and listened to Pastor Ryan lead them through a Bible Study about the Holy Spirit. Two of our kids in particular were very locked in and listening. In between these sessions, there were silly games that all the kids got to play, some free time to explore the camp and bond with other kids from other youth groups, and even time to spend with each other. Perhaps the most impactful time was during Sunday morning worship when Amanda and Pastor Jim had the privilege of reminding each of our kids of the promise of Baptism, and who they belong to.
Now, this all sounds great right? It was, but it came with its fair share of struggles. One of the things that stuck out to me was the dramatic differences in the culture that each kid at the camp grew up in. We know that growing up in Southwest Detroit is much different that growing up in Lutheran Schools in the suburbs. But to see that actually play out was something else. It made my heart break all over again for our children that we get to minister too each and every day at Family of God. It reminded me of why Family of God exists. It reminded me of why I want to be a pastor and how grateful I am for the love and support of Pastor Jim, Amanda, and all of our volunteers. Thank you for not giving up on our children, even when the culture and societal norms tell us that they have no hope. That is simply not true. In Christ, there is always hope.
Amanda shared with me a story of one of our children, who she saw reading her Bible and journaling, completely unprompted. Dear brothers and sisters, God is not done in this city and in this neighborhood. We may not always see the fruits of the seeds that we sow at Family of God, but when we do, especially on a weekend like this, it is a reason for giving thanks. We can’t wait to attend again next year. 😊
May God richly bless each of you,