An Experience in Seeing Christ at Work
Life is full of obstacles and distractions. You never know how plans are going to go. You never know when your plans will completely unravel before you. Earlier this month our youth group here at Forest Hills set out to go on a retreat to Caraway for the weekend. Our plans were all in order, the students were excited, and we headed on our way. Upon arrival, we were met with a dark campus and the staff of Caraway waving flashlights around to give us directions. For some reason, the camp had lost power, and they didn’t know when it was going to return.
As you could imagine, to arrive at our lodging only to find that it was without power created a bit of an uneasy feeling. The Kids were anxious, things were chaotic, but our wonderful chaperones were right at the ready, to make sure everything went as smooth as possible. To our advantage, the emergency “safety” lights, (ones very much like our emergency lights at the church), were powered by battery, so we were still able to see well enough to walk around and not trip.
After getting settled in, we gathered everyone together and said we were going to have our first session around 8:30 pm. I was secretly hoping that the power outage would only last for another 20 minutes or so because I had a slideshow and videos prepared for our group discussions. I had put together the weekend’s curriculum based solely off of being able to use technology in our discussions for the weekend and really hadn’t put much thought in not being able to use any of it. I had thought about just calling it a night when we found out about the electricity issue, but I really didn’t want us to miss the whole first session of the retreat. We needed to figure out pretty quickly how to lead the group without any electricity. With the help of some great volunteers, headlamps, a giant flip chart, and some patient teenagers, we were well on our way to a great retreat.
We all found it funny to be in the dark, but it created a unique opportunity for us. Even though we couldn’t see very well, we were able to use the rest of our senses to aid in our experience, and id like to think it made us more attuned to our surroundings. Much like worship at Forest Hills, when we go on retreat, we light the “Christ candle” before we begin our worship time. During our Friday night session, the lack of electricity really made the lighting of the candle impactful. Not only was it symbolizing Christ’s presence with us, it quite literally was the light of our world that made it possible for us to see as we worshiped.
With just one candle lit, the room was still quite dark. We decided that we weren’t going to let these circumstances keep us down. Luckily a lot of the students either had flashlights or used their phones to see their bibles and notes. We banned together in community to make it the best we could. Our title for the weekend was “Radical: a community like no other.” What better way to practice this unique kind of community than to sit in the dark and worship together?
Our first session went just wonderful, and the rest of the evening was uneventful, other than finding one’s bed in the dark. I really think this unique opportunity gave our group a chance to bond in a way that was unlike retreats we’ve been on before. As we participated in our discussions, we gathered around my computer to watch the illustration video I had prepared to show from a projector, and our youth group really got an opportunity to foster a different kind of community together. We all were in this as a group. We had nowhere else to be, and we found humor and solidarity in our situation.
Eventually, our power came on by morning, and the rest of the retreat went on as planned. Even though we had to change the way we did our first session, I would not take back those moments in the dark for anything. Seeing our group work together in the dark, did ironically, give us the “eyes to see” that our group is truly a community like no other!