Grade 12 students at Smithville Christian High led chapel this week, encouraging their fellow students to "love on everyone," to "talk to God" and to "let God shine through you."
The senior students led worship and then took turns describing various aspects of their recent three-day retreat at Silver Lake Camp.
One of the activities of the trip was a small group discussion, in which the students were asked to answer a series of questions about their previous life experiences. Each group then picked their favourite topics and shared them with the rest of the class.
"Our table answered whether we had ever been in a life-saving situation," said Wes. Scott once had to direct an ambulance to an emergency, and Wes said he and Aydan once befriended a troubled young man named Ryan at a youth convention. At the end of the weekend, they exchanged phone numbers in order to keep in contact with him, he said, and shortly after that Ryan texted to say he was grateful for their friendship.
"He said 'thank you so much for being my friend this weekend,' " Wes related. " 'You don't know this, but I had planned to kill myself this weekend. You and Aydan showed such love to me that I felt God's presence.'"
"You don't know people's situation," Wes told students and guests at chapel. "So just love on everyone and be a friend to everyone. You don't know but just a simple smile or 'hello' could save someone's life."
Megan said her group shared their answer to the question of whether they had ever initiated a time of prayer with someone. She said when students from this class were in Grade 9, Smithville Christian alumna Chelsea Feddema was killed in a tragic accident, which made many of the students wonder "why God would do something like that?"
"Some of us who knew her and her family were feeling so down, we skipped class and we were crying in the Grade 9 bathroom," Megan said.
"Then Hope said 'why don't we pray about this?' and so there we were, sitting on the bathroom floor where you don't think you could see God, but God was there," Megan said.
"You could be in class, you could be having a bad day, but when you talk to God, he listens," she said. "Talk to God, pray with your friends, because it changes your relationship with your friends and it changes your relationship to God."
Julianna talked about her experience of being the only Christian in her group of roommates during a summer French immersion trip, and hearing at the end that she had changed her roomie's impression of "what I think a Christian is like — because you are not judgmental."
Mitchell told about his summer trip to Africa to visit his brother, and the encounter the pair had with a woman who had AIDS and who asked them why they were Christians. "I don't remember what we said but before we left, she asked us to pray for her, and she said it changed her life," Mitchell said.
Tyler said he also had the chance to share the gospel during a summer job as a house painter, working with an older man who asked him many questions about his faith and his walk with God. His co-worker concluded that he wasn't interested in going to church "because it's a waste of time" but Tyler said he still felt God had used him to share an important message.
"We think we're young and we can't touch the world in any way, but be open and let God shine through you," Tyler said. "If you let the Holy Spirit work through you, you can do awesome things."
Shannon said the retreat focused on this year's spiritual life theme, which is "going deeper with God."
She described an activity the students did during one of the evening chapel times, led by spiritual life director Gord Park. They divided into pairs and did a drawing exercise three times, once based only on answers to questions, the second time based on an oral description and the third time through a two-way conversation. Not surprisingly, it was the third drawing that turned out best, and Shannon said the three types of drawings represent three different ways of connecting with God.
Sometimes we just present God with a list of requests or questions, sometimes we expect God to lead us, and sometimes we engage God in full conversation — both talking and listening.
"In a full conversation you pray and you leave space for God to talk to you," she said. "Then we were challenged to tell our discussion partner where we were in our relationship with God.
"A lot of growth can happen when you are willing to let people in," she said. She said Mr. Park encouraged students to let God in — into the sports, activities and details of their daily lives, instead of just keeping God "at the surface."
Ben described the recreational activities, the food and the sleep (or lack thereof) at the camp. He said the students also did a series of trust-building activities, in addition to playing board games and cards, inventing a game they called "sting-pong," archery, geo-caching, and waterfront activities, including sailboats, canoes and kayaks. The students were also proud to say they beat the teachers at the annual game of Mission Impossible, he said. "Ha-ha."
During the retreat, the students took turns leading devotions, and Jessica and Megan described a devotion they led one morning.
"Today I just encourage you guys to love, love, love," Megan said. "You never know what someone could be going through."
The students then closed the chapel with a prayer led by John, and the singing of Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).
Here's a video of the students leading in worship with "My Redeemer Lives" featuring a drum duet by Tyler and Wes!
See the Smithville Christian High School Facebook page for more pictures from the retreat.