Junior High Retreat combines fun and faith

COLUMBIA — As the school year winds down and students prepare to begin statewide testing, the Diocese of Charleston Youth Ministry has already given its own pretest. Participants at the annual Junior High Retreat held April 29-May 2 were asked questions that certainly pertained to skeptical youth, “What — You Don’t Think God Talks?”

During the weekend that combined fun and faith lessons, the answer was revealed in testimonies by fellow youth and by the faith that shone from organizers and chaperones.

Some of the talks addressed love, forgiveness, goals, self-worth, consequences of sin, and how to keep one’s faith alive. Small groups kept the theme going with meaningful discussions and special projects. Groups had to present skits that illustrated Christian values. Most of the presentations dealt with temptations and situations the youth are confronted with at school, especially the problems with peer pressure.

The retreat team, composed primarily of older teens, accomplished its goal of giving the middle school students “an opportunity to encounter the living Christ, and to invite the young people to live for Christ,” according to leader Jerry White, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese.

Corie Biran, a chaperone from Our Lady of Lourdes in Greenwood, accompanied her daughter, Casey, who was part of the retreat team. She expressed how important the team has been for her daughter and how her faith has helped her through junior high and now high school.

“It has been an incredible experience,” Biran said. “The youth have shown how simple yet powerful our faith can be.”

Music was provided all weekend by Wannabe Stephen, a group from South Carolina. The songs helped break the ice and reinforce the theme.   

One of the most moving skits, “Turn Around,” was done with great dramatic effect on Saturday night. It showed how one sin can lead to others and how quickly a person’s life can be harmed by wrong choices. The skit ends happily because the desperate youth calls out to Jesus and is rescued.

Brook Currie, who is on the retreat team, spoke on decisions and what it means to practice the faith.

“Having a relationship with Christ means breaking away from our own desires and saying ‘I am going to live for Christ,’ ” she said.

She explained that it is not a one-time choice, but that a person must wake up in the morning and turn the day over to Jesus.

“It can be tough, but when you let Jesus lead and guide your heart, you will experience amazing peace and love,” she said.

Another talk, “Where Are You Going?” emphasized why the human heart seeks God. Beth Mevissen, another of the teen presenters, said, “Everyone is born with a hole in their heart. People try to fill the hole with things, but God does not want that. Your hole cannot be filled with worldly things, but only with Jesus.”  

 For the skeptics who came doubting that there truly is a God who cares, White challenged them to ask God to reveal himself so they can fully experience his love. White said he is certain God will reply because, “I have a God, a God of hope, and a God who wants to give all of us his goodness.”