Greetings in our Risen Christ! This month we have the pleasure of reporting on the March 25- 27, Youth Equipped to Stand (YES!) Retreat. Last year we had an in-person but smaller retreat; the year before that, it was only on-line. It was a joy to be back to a full YES! this year. We had 225 youth, and 128 staff – 353 total. The teens were from Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas, Philadelphia, Toronto, and more. Stephen Giles, our YES! Retreat Director, gave us some highlights of this year’s retreat.
“Our theme this year was Double Portion, building the retreat around the story of Elijah and Elisha (II Kings 2:9-10). Many of our teens have been given very good things. We focused on choices our teens are and will be making: choosing for the Lord and choosing the good for themselves, and not just because their parents might be Christians. They need their own relationship with the Lord and they must choose for Him. The ‘double portion’ was unique to Elisha—it was not just ‘Elijah 2.0.’
“There was a cost to following the Lord for Elisha – there were no contingencies. Elisha killedhis yoke of oxen for a sacrifice to the Lord (I Kings 19: 19-21). We asked the teens what ‘oxen’ they might need to kill in their lives; the Lord calls us to a radical response (also a joy – Elisha and the people ate the oxen with celebration). Elisha had a lot of resources to use for the Kingdom and was a blessing to others. We reminded the teens that they also have been given a lot.
“Last year, the kids who were able to come to YES were ‘hungry’ because of not having a live retreat in 2020. They were open to whatever the Lord had for them. We noticed this year that the kids had lost some trust, were a bit more cynical; they had experienced some disappointments and needed to regain their confidence that the Lord had something for them. We could not do that for them; the Lord had to work in them.
“For their personal prayer, we encouraged them to boldly ask like Elisha did – ask big things of the Lord. There will be a greater cost from that but also great joy. We recognized that more talks could not accomplish this, prayer and ministry in the small groups moved things forward for many. Our small-group leaders were fantastic.
“The Lord also encouraged me in my own faith: I saw that God has greater things in mind for our youth than I can imagine. In our small groups, we saw obstacles being torn down and saw the youth give themselves to Him. We saw them grow in choosing for the Lord, even if that meant choosing some things that might be uncomfortable back home.
“For our breakout/workshop times, we had several topics relevant to youth from various situations: discernment and decision-making; friendship—guy-girl, guy-guy, and girl-girl; baptism in the Holy Spirit; using our gifts; personal prayer; ecumenism and what that looks like; embracing the struggle to live for Christ. We had two breakout times, so each teen could hit two different topics they were interested in.
“Our youth are on the threshold of adulthood. They are about to make choices that will affect the rest of their lives and even their children’s lives. We wanted to make them aware of the opportunity and responsibility present there. Our hope was to give them an appreciation (even a wonder) of what they are choosing at this point in their lives.
“A new feature to our YES! Retreats is an international dimension. There also will be YES retreats in Northern Ireland, the Philippines, and Mexico. Internationally, we are doing retreats with the same theme—Double Portion—and taking advantage of the main conference sessions put together for us by our Kairos International team. The breakout sessions will be geared to the location and the needs of the teens there (i.e., teens in Mexico may be dealing with some different stresses and challenges than the teens in Northern Ireland). We are very excited by this international work. The Lord is using YES! Retreats.”
Thank you for your support of outreach to the next generation! We are working in as many ways as we can to help the next generation truly be “equipped to stand.” As the world tips into greater darkness, we know our young people were created for “such a time as this.” It is a privilege to be part of reaching teens for Christ, calling them deeper, and equipping them to be the disciples of the Lord He has created them to be. May the Lord bless you and your service to Him; thanks again for standing with us by your prayers and financial support.