Nebuchadnezzar demanded… who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
For this update I wanted to talk primarily about the youth retreat we just had last week over Presidents Day weekend.
First, I want to say thank you to the youth leaders and their sacrifices: Erin Daugherty, Jamin Lattimer, Mandy Caicco, Kristy Ritchey, Jason Caicco, Mark Ritchey, Matthew Wunderle, and Emma Donkin. Each of these friends dedicated their entire long weekend to pouring into the lives of teenagers instead of resting at home.
Jamin, Jason, Mandy, Matt, Kristy, and Mark each took on a huge responsibility by leading, in pairs, workshops Saturday that tackled three core areas to being able to live out our faith more: studying the Word, creating prayer space, and living by serving. They put in so much time studying and praying over these sessions, and it was evident. I am so thankful for their dedication to making this weekend great and impactful. Thank you.
Emma has spent the past six months working with youth in worship. She has come back to church on Sundays before youth group to practice with them and forge bonds of friendship. I have no musical talent and one thing that has been difficult since I became youth pastor seven years ago is the lack of worship mentoring. She came out in the evenings to hang out with us and got the worship team ready to go. They played for the first time Friday and Saturday night, and it was awesome. Their band name is: Echoes of Mercy. It was so cool to see these teens take on the challenge of leading worship for their peers. Emma has stepped in so seamlessly and dedicated herself to being a worthy role model to the youth. Thank you.
My amazing wife, Erin, cooked for us all weekend long on top of everything else. It can be difficult juggling family life and church responsibilities and I couldn’t have asked God for a better partner to do this with. Thank you.
Second, man thank you to the youth for their behavior and engagement. They were amazing and such a blast to be around. After doing many retreats, nothing derails time together like bad attitudes. This weekend there were no bad attitudes, and it makes our time so much more enjoyable. I had so much fun being around them and just being off from the world for two days. Thank you.
Finally, I want to thank Camp Carl for allowing us to come back out. It has been five years since we’ve done a retreat at camp. We have found some pretty cool places over that span but having a place where we feel welcome and loved, has many things for us to do together, and is close to home is such an incredible blessing and I am so glad to be able to partner with this ministry. Thank you.
I spoke on the theme last month which was: Kingdom Building. The studies were primarily over the first half of Daniel, chapters 1-6. The big idea was that we all have a choice to make here in this life. Daniel had a choice to make when he was taken into captivity. He could have chose to give up Yahweh and build up the mighty kingdom of Babylon or he could have continued to give Yahweh glory and build up God’s Kingdom. We as Christians have that same choice today. We can choose to spend our time building up the kingdoms that will not last, that have no eternal purpose, and give glory to idols. Or we can choose to be like Daniel and build up the everlasting Kingdom, which is eternal, and gives glory to Yahweh, worthy of all praise and glory.
Daniel was a man of purpose, principle, purity, and prayer. Just as he was building God’s Kingdom in Babylon he was also building up, in himself, a temple devoted to God. We have this same choice. Will we be purposeful? Worship God and be a light to the world. Principled? Obedient to truth and persevere through trial. Pure? A testimony that stands up to scrutiny and pulls unbelievers to Christ. Prayer? Dependent on God for all of our needs, concerns, and directions.
We can never justify actions that glorify the world and forsake the ways of God. We always have a choice. We always have a way of escape. That way is through God. Please pray with me as we, our youth, and our church pursue unity through the ways of God.
On the fun side of things, we rock climbed, performed initiatives (everybody did the trust fall and I’m so proud of our team both for the fall and for taking catching seriously!), went sledding (ask if you want to know the craziness!), played basketball and pickleball, had some amazing food and snacks, but what probably took the cake was the one-wheel activity. Look them up online, they are so much fun and were a blast to zoom around on.
This retreat was a breath of fresh air for our group. So many are going through tribulation right now. My prayer is that they know we are all in this together. Even as we go through different journeys and struggles, we can all learn to better empathize and listen. We need to now utilize what we experienced and learned and go out and do it, in the name of Christ.
Christ is our mission. Christ is a gift. Christ should be our joy.
If you would like copies of the retreat photo slideshow, I have three thumb drives that can be borrowed to copy the pictures. Just let me know and I will get you one when they become available!