Written by Allie Ford, Interim Director of Youth Ministries
Last weekend, 11 youth and 4 chaperones piled into cars and made the 3-hour trek to CBF’s Fall Retreat in Dahlonega, Georgia. With its theme of Illuminate, the retreat challenged our group to embrace God’s light in new and profound ways. After all, we live in a world full of darkness. Poverty, homelessness, anxiety, depression, and seemingly unbearable burdens fill the spaces of Macon, Georgia, and the rest of our world.
I’ll be honest, the night before the retreat, I felt completely overwhelmed. I’d received painful news, and my heart was heavy. I longed to dwell in my darkness and seek comfort through ice cream and movie nights, but, thank God, God had other plans.
On night one, we talked about darkness—the invisible, emotional baggage we all carry. I believe that young people are often overlooked, their problems—their wisdom—tossed aside. But in our group devotion time, I was amazed at the transparency, thoughtfulness, and openness of our youth group. When one voiced their struggle, they were met with nods of empathy and “what they said!” We were not alone in our invisible baggage, and each testimony, somehow, made our burdens feel lighter… because, as much as there is darkness, we also live in a world full of light.
The next morning, our group, fittingly, talked about the symbolism of the dawn and how God breaks through our darkness, revealing hope and light. Later, we talked about the morning, asking ourselves, “What comes after hope?” Through sharing meals, giggling over board games, singing Taylor Swift before bedtime, and witnessing loving, holy interactions between different youth… hope did break through. God’s light was everywhere.
On the last day, while our congregation observed All Saints Day back in Macon, the speaker encouraged 130 teenagers to bear the light and follow the examples of the incredible light bearers before them. As we slowly packed up, tiredly climbing into cars, I couldn’t help but smile. The retreat was a small moment. It did not solve every problem, and some wise words will ultimately be forgotten, but it was a reminder…
Church, I am thankful for all of you. I am thankful for a community that pours into the youth ministry of this church. This work matters! And above all else, I am thankful for the ways God’s light breaks through our darkness and encourages us to seek the light, serve the light, and be the light. Thanks be to God!