A report from the middle school winter retreat February 9-11…

We loaded up the vans, girls in one and guys in the other; we headed up north to where many lives would be changed. Whenever you go on middle school retreats you always wonder as a leader, “I wonder if these students will get anything from this trip?” You plan, plan and plan some more praying that something will happen that will impact their lives. Well, to put it simply, God moved in a powerful way.

It happened the first night after we had worship and listened to a speaker during the large session. We discussed how many of us need to escape the chains of identity that weighed us down. We all have “third words” that we associate with ourselves. I am strong. I am weak. I am old. I am young. I am funny. Our identity is directly tied to these “I am,” phrases. The men walked back to our cabin and we all sat on the hard plywood floor. Pieces of paper were passed out that had, “I am __________,” on them. Our job as a group was to put the word that we identify with our name in the blank.

As the students wrote their word quietness filled the air. Quietness is not a regular occurrence when you are working with middle school students. That was the first moment God started working. After a short time, we put all the papers on the ground. Everyone’s word was out in front of everyone. No hiding it. No escaping. Then we wrote. We took a piece of paper and wrote all the words we saw in that individual. Kind. Smart. Wise. Encourager. Inspirational. Eleven pieces of paper went into every hand that was there. After we finished we saw other words that people associate with us. Our words didn’t really mean that much anymore. We saw something that many of us never saw in ourselves. We saw that our words we identify ourselves with are nothing compared to the words people identify us with.

Encouragement, hope, and joy spread through our group last weekend. We gained insight into the chains that hold us away from God’s grace and love. We realized that our identity is so different than what we view it as. Our identity is placed in Christ and the encouragement we can share with each other. Our students took this to heart and learned how important words are in our lives.

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