A week ago today, I was on my way to Lenk, Switzerland with our entire high school. Don’t worry, that statement sounds as crazy to me as it does to you! It’s a bit surreal to be a part of a community that has its retreat in the Alps. When I worked at East Lake, we took youth trips to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. That car trip was longer and more costly, I’m sure.
I had high expectations for the weekend, since it was the last big trip that I would have with my senior small group. This retreat, last year, was the first experience that started to draw me closer to my group of girls. What good youth trip doesn’t do that?
This year, I have had the wonderful privilege of having most of these lovely girls in my yearbook class. (I’m still not sure if they joined my class because they thought I would be a good teacher or because they thought my class would be easy.) Luckily the girls in my group are brilliant and I don’t have any issues with them in class really. They just experience me as a teacher most days. So, I was incredibly excited to get away from that role for a weekend. I just wanted to be with my group, to get to know them better, and to show them love in whatever way that I could. I report, joyfully, that God far exceeded my expectations in a variety ways.
Oddly enough, the speaker and the worship band wasn’t really what had the biggest impact on my group this weekend. One awkward (but honest) session, in which the girls and the guys split, provided enough material to keep us talking for the rest of the year. A young mom that most of the girls know and respect spoke very openly about her struggles to be sexualized as a woman. Then, a panel of women answered any questions the girls had about sex, addictions, self-esteem, and dating.
Using Genesis chapter 3, the person who shared in our “woman time” and the speaker challenged us to remove our masks. Without consulting each other, each person spoke on how we are tempted to hide our sin because of human nature- which was born out of the story of Adam and Eve. The Holy Spirit really used both messages to convict our community about the masks that we wear and to uncover the fact that we have a problem trusting one another with our “crap.”
That night, I joined my 7 small group girls for a very open discussion in our room. The 8 of us curled up in 2 beds and shared more with each other, as a group, than we had ever done before. By the end of our extended reflection, we made a pact not to go back to a time of shallowness in our group.
I can’t say that we are all perfectly open and honest with each other now, but we are closer to a mask-less life than we were last Thursday. God has blessed me with the 7 beautiful girls that I love dearly. I am so thankful for how He used this retreat as a catalyst for growth in Him and with each other.
In 2008, I began to pray about moving to Germany to work at The Black Forest Academy. It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to make this big step. I was perfectly willing to move in 2008, but a lot had to be wrapped up before I left. I needed to pay off some debt and to finish some seminary classes. Yet, in the process of waiting, I felt strongly that God was preparing me to be in the lives of a specific group of students. I may have had that conversation with some of you. I thought about this a lot.
I am happy to say that the group of girls you see before you is the very group of girls that God had laid on my heart before I arrived. I could not have gathered this specific group of girls together for a small group if I had come any earlier or any later. God brought me to BFA at just the right time. If you ever want to see my face light up, ask me to tell you about how special these girls are. Be prepared for a long conversation though.