Here are some highlights from the 2019 YES! Retreat (To Whom Shall You Go?). The “stats” are significant: over 400 in attendance—240 teens and 170 staff. The main thing, of course, is “how were teens impacted?”
So, here are a few comments from some of our teen participants:
“Before I came to the YES retreat, I was super nervous, and I did not feel confident at all. After the women’s talk about confidence in the Lord, I felt so extremely confident; it has impacted me in many ways; I continue to feel that same confidence in the Lord a week after the retreat.”
“The Lord helped me to become a more faithful person. After going to YES, I became much closer to Him and more open to others.”
“During the small-group prayer time, when I was being prayed over, I heard the Lord through my small group saying that I needed to put Jesus at the center of my life and put Him first in front of everything else. Then He will give me courage and strength.”
“This was my second YES retreat. All throughout my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I have been working hard and praying a lot to overcome insecurities. Time and time again I have given this over to Jesus. So, I was very discouraged when the old fears and doubts kept coming back. On Saturday night, my small group prayed over me. I really felt like God spoke to me in the exact words I needed to hear through this verse my small-group leader read while they were praying: “HE rescued us from such great danger of death, and HE will continue to rescue us; in HIM we have put our hope that HE will rescue us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). So, I have hope and I know that no matter how many times I’m faced with the same doubts about my worth, I can always turn to Jesus and He will be there for me and never let me down.”
For some of the teens, it is straightforward: “I was able to pray at the YES Retreat without worrying what everyone thought.”
Other times our teens are dealing with some major issues in their lives: “The past two years have been very difficult for me because my family moved and then this past December, my parents got a divorce. Because of my family situation, I have been struggling with anxiety, depression, trusting God, and feeling as though I am not lovable by God or by anyone else. At the YES Retreat, during the Saturday night small group, I asked for prayers that I would be able to trust God again and stop feeling that I was unlovable. God answered my prayers; as my small group started to pray over me, I felt God’s love through them. For the first time in a long time, I was able to trust that I am loved and that Jesus is going to make sure everything is okay.”
Finally, from a New Jersey high school senior: “I got involved this year in a high school youth group. When the time for the YES Retreat came along, I was very excited to get away from New Jersey for a bit. I had just recently had a very bad falling out with one of my best friends. I felt betrayed, disrespected, and very angry. The 12-hour bus ride to Michigan was fun and the first couple hours of the retreat were amazing. But suddenly, while we were playing an icebreaker game, I saw my former friend out of the corner of my eye. Why was she there? How did she even get there? So many questions ran through my mind, but I knew this was part of God’s plan.
“The next day, we had a women’s session and part of it involved smashing boxes with a baseball bat (symbolizing smashing our insecurities). Smashing the boxes was freeing because it felt as though I was breaking through all the pain she had put me through. The next thing that really touched me was being prayed over by my small group. I asked prayers for forgiveness, and in that moment, I heard God say ‘It’s me; you need to let me forgive her for you because you can’t do it on your own strength.’ After that small group, I felt a lot better and I felt myself abandon all that anger at the foot of the cross.
“In the last talk, given by Miriam Holmes, she said that ‘Christ suffered and died on the cross for our enemies too.’ That struck me because I didn’t want to accept the fact that God loves us equally. But day by day since the retreat, I’ve been able to let go of the situation and the burden feels lifted off my shoulders. I know for a fact that this is God’s work because I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
The YES! Retreat is a huge undertaking, both for our staff and for the families of our high school participants. Many of the teens flew to Michigan from Canada, California, Florida, and other far-away places in order to attend. We are grateful for the parents willing to sacrifice to get their kids to this life-giving retreat. We are also very grateful for all our donors who support us with prayer and financial help so that we can sponsor high-impact events like the YES! Retreat. You are an important partner in this mission to youth; thanks so much.