Danielle Merseles, Pastoral Resident
High School Ministries annual Fall Retreat might just be my favorite weekend of the year. There are the staples – s’mores, mountaintops covered in snow, lots of hot cocoa, and spending Saturday afternoon playing games together. This year was no exception. Rev. Daniel Triller spoke on friendship. Who were Jesus’ closest friends? How do we create strong, life-giving friendships? I got to witness our students grow in relationship with each other, with leaders and with Jesus. I saw God show up through a volunteer leader offering students a morning devotional time and the abundant laughter during a game that turned into a dance party. I experienced the presence and power of the Spirit through the all-student worship team that led us in song and prayed over us. My Fall Retreat experience is just one of the 66 leaders and students that came together in Leavenworth.
Here are some stories from a few students…
Lindsay Metz, Sammamish High School, Class of 2019
Never have I felt God’s presence stronger than I did at Fall Retreat. I got to better my relationships with friends and get to know new people as well. Fall Retreat for me was a little break from chaos and a breath of fresh air. I had prayed that Fall Retreat would be a chance for me to reconnect with God and feel His presence in a new way. So I walked into the worship room, and it was full of people I love and music I like to sing. We then ‘opened ourselves up to God’ in any way we chose. I bowed my head and tried my best to listen. All of a sudden I burst into tears. Now I am not one to share my feelings in a public manner, as a matter a fact, I dread bonding on a deep emotional level with really anyone. But there I sat, unable to stop crying in a place full of people. As the prayer time went on, I kept experiencing God in deeper ways. I heard these crystal clear phrases in my head that I proceeded to write down and then read them over and over again. After I had a few things down, one of my leaders handed me a slip of paper. It read what came to her mind when she was praying for me, and sure enough it was exactly what I was praying for. By this point, I was practically sitting in a puddle of tears. I had never felt anything that powerful in my life. Afterwards a leader came up to me. She told me that if I ever wanted to talk about my faith with anyone, or if I had any questions, she would be there for me. I didn’t know her very well, but she gave me a big hug, and I burst into tears again in her arms. She squeezed me tight and held me as I continued to sob. I couldn’t help but think just how amazing our God is, to take an introvert like myself, and give me the chance to cry on other’s shoulders. That weekend changed my faith and my outlook on God. I am so thankful for a time like Fall Retreat, where I can let go of my insecurities and experience God and his awesome presence with those around me.
Ryan Loudenback, The Bear Creek School, Class of 2016
I’m what you might call a BelPres Fall Retreat veteran: I am proud to say that this most recent Fall Retreat was the sixth that I have attended. Each and every retreat has distinct moments and memories attached to it, all of these helping to sculpt and mold me into the person I am now.
My seventh grade year, a young and naïve twelve-year-old Ryan got on the bus self-conscious and nervous about new people and new experiences. At the retreat, I was shy and avoided conversation at all costs. I found comfort in sitting alone, playing my guitar, and looking up at the snow-capped mountain outside the vaulted windows. I found comfort in my usual isolation. God had something bigger in mind for me, though. A kind leader came to me as I sat on the couch quietly. Being the worship leader for the retreat, he asked, “How long have you been playing guitar?” This simple question initiated a conversation that culminated in him asking, “Hey, do you wanna lead in the band tonight for worship?” I felt nudged to respond “Yes,” and accepted his offer. I remember being completely overwhelmed by the love of Christ that night as I gave my heart in worship through music.
Ever since that Fall Retreat, I have constantly been growing in my musical ability and worship leadership as I have gone from leading in youth group to playing guitar and singing in the Modern Worship services regularly. Because of a single conversation and a night of worship on a retreat six years ago, I have grown in my love for people, music and Jesus.
Kasey Greene, Bellevue Christian, Class of 2019
When I signed up for the 2015 Fall Retreat, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I would have fun with my friends and I would get to worship God, but I didn’t know how much of an impact it would really have in my life. On the second day, we got to choose one of three breakout sessions to attend. I choose to go to one that was about prayer and talking to God. I decided on this one because I had never really felt a huge connection to God when I pray. For me, it’s usually through music. They played worship music while another leader talked and asked questions for God. I had never been in a situation where I knew that the Holy Spirit was in the room, and I could actually hear Him speaking to me, but that was what happened. I had heard stories of people who heard the Holy Spirit talk to them, but I was never really sure what that meant or if it was even true. I experienced hearing our Lord talking to me. Then, we did a prayer tunnel. I had never heard of a prayer tunnel before. Basically, everyone makes a human tunnel and as someone walks through it, you touch that person and say a quick prayer for the first thing that comes to mind. I should say that recently, my dad passed away unexpectedly. The whole prayer time, I was thinking about him. When it was my turn to go through the tunnel, everyone who touched me prayed for strength, courage, or comfort. There were many people in the tunnel that hadn’t known what happened, so it amazed me that out of all the things to pray for, those words were chosen. That changed my life. I will never forget the retreat, because that weekend made my relationship with God real.