by Caitlin Dyck
CAMP CEDARWOOD, Man.—I’ve had multiple opportunities to attend retreats in the past; they’ve always been something to look forward to. Retreats have always given me chances to unplug, relax, and focus on my relationship with Jesus that don’t always occur otherwise. I’m happy to report that I, as well as many others that I spoke with, were able to do the same during TRU 2018.
TRU is the biennial youth leaders’ retreat for our conference, and this year included groups from as far away as Alberta and B.C. I personally had not been involved in youth ministry since 2010/2011 and had never attended TRU before. Together we met at Camp Cedarwood to share meals, times of worship and knowledge with one another in the form of Saturday morning workshops, as well as informal times spent in conversation.
Lloyd and Carol Letkeman (MB Mission), whom many might know from their work with SOAR Heartland, a youth missions program in Winnipeg, were kind enough to spend the weekend with us, sharing on the theme Are You Thirsty? Both Carol and Lloyd taught during our daily sessions, inviting us to revisit passages in John when Jesus spoke about living water.
In John 7:37-38, Jesus invited people: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Carol challenged us on Friday night, asking, “What do we need to lay down, in order to receive, so that we may then give to others?” It was a question for the weekend ahead, but also for the coming year of youth.
On Saturday morning we had the opportunity to learn from local leaders and speakers in our conference on topics such as Surviving Life with Annoying People and Blind Spots in Ministry, to name a few. I chose to attend the workshop on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as well as Experiencing God. In our work with youth, there are occasions when we need to support students through mental health issues that could result in them self-injuring. Heidi Dirks was able to walk us through some of the underlying issues and give us advice on how to best support our youth in those difficult times.
Through my conversations with my own church team as well as others, I found that many of us had similar goals for the weekend. We had all looked forward to the time to bond with one another; on youth nights we are often so busy leading and talking to the youth that we don’t have much time to get to know one another. The time to rest, relax, talk, and play games with others was very valued.
The time was also useful for sharing between other groups, to find the similarities and differences of how they run their youth nights, and even to compare how different our demographics are depending on location. That time spent in community was certainly a highlight for me, as well as the opportunity to refocus our goals for the youth this coming year.
Caitlin Dyck is a volunteer youth leader at Steinbach EMC.