It was about 7:00 when the youth group left the church parking lot and headed toward Camp Stella Maris. This would be one of the last times all weekend that we would know the actual time. There is a rule on retreat to just let everything fall into place, have no stress, and not to worry about the schedule or time. That job was for the adults. The weekend would be filled with laughs. I would get to know people I hadn’t really known before and I would stray away from those whom I had called my best friends.
I walked up the stairs and found a room with all girls who I had never really had the chance to get to know. I was on a bottom of a bunk and my best friend Jess was on the top of this bunk. And we explored the area because the girls had never been in this part of the camp before. Then we walked down to the mess hall in the cold rain with mud everywhere. Everyone was told to make affirmation bags and prayer journals. This takes time. The journal and affirmation bags have to represent you. Whether it be with stickers, markers, or just your name in pen, something was to be said about yourself.
After this, all 45ish of us were split into small groups. I happened to be the only teen staff in one group. Nora, our youth group minister, thought I had enough heart, determination, and leadership qualities to be in a group, with no adults, and keep things in order. My group was the best. I had people I had never really known before. The first meeting was what got us to become such good friends. I am truly grateful. In this first meeting we were laughing and having meaningful discussions. I rarely am a part o f this. The conversation meant so much to me.
The next 24 hours happened so fast. I did not hang out with friends whom I would normally hang out with. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, we had to sit with at least one person we did not know that well. At every meal I sat with all the people I did not know. This was awesome. I learned that I have so much in common with those whom I thought were so different. I learned that most of these people were truly kind and non-judgmental.
I was given so many opportunities that others were not. I am one of the few that would stay up extremely late and was allowed to do so. I was given a leadership role in my room of girls because no adult was in our room. I was considered the adult. And we did get sleep. I had numerous adults and young adult staff that came up to me throughout the weekend and say encouraging words. One adult, who I sat down with and had coffee with, Eileen, told me, “We adults often have conversations about you and that we are proud of how you have molded into an amazing person. We’ve also noticed that your leadership qualities have crafted into greatness and that you are a kind and genteel person who always puts others first. And that one day you will grow up to be an amazing adult and even better person.” These words helped me so much. I began to cry because I felt loved and awake to the idea that there is hope and connection through other people.
I was unconditionally happy. I was awakened to new friends. I was shown many different new and exciting things that I had never experienced before. I grew closer to friends that I had lost touch with. I was real. And here is when I realized that I just needed to believe in myself to believe in God. Awakening helped me realize I am a good person and that I am extremely blessed. I believe that one weekend away can change your entire view on life and the people in the world. I believe an entire weekend can take away all the stress. I believe one weekend with people you are not close to can help you realize who you truly are.
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