Annual retreat encourages students to get ‘Up, In and Out’ in their faith

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

Justice Callaway of Eagle River sleds down to the North Star Bible Camp boathouse to obtain a hint during a camp-wide game of Clue Nov. 14. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

Justice Callaway of Eagle River sleds down to the North Star Bible Camp boathouse to obtain a hint during a camp-wide game of Clue Nov. 14. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

About 55 high schoolers, staff members and adult volunteers got “Up, In and Out” in their walk with God Nov. 13-15 at the Covenant Youth of Alaska Road System Retreat at North Star Bible Camp in Willow.

Covenant churches from Soldotna, Eagle River and Anchorage participated in the event, which featured Youth Ministries Associate Pastor Nate Severson from Hillcrest Covenant Church of Prairie Village, Kan., as the keynote speaker.

Nate challenged the students throughout the weekend to consider what they wanted their relationship with Christ to look like in 100 years, encouraging them to look “up” to God for direction, to discuss their faith “in” small groups and to consider how they could get “out” into the world as disciples of Christ.

“There’s like 7 billion people in the world, and I think it’s easy to wonder if God even notices me—like we’re a speck,” Nate told the students, stressing that God sees each of them and is equally present in all of their lives.

Nate also encouraged the students to consider what areas of their lives they could focus on to become closer to God following the retreat.

“Hopefully there will be things…that will be a launching pad for them when they get home,” Nate said. “We can all do one thing.”

Retreat participants participated in several worship and personal devotion sessions throughout the retreat, which were offset by activities such as a camp-wide game of Clue that required teams of students to do everything from the Chicken Dance to building human pyramids prior to getting hints to solve the mystery, sledding, a variety show and a campfire.

Students, staff members and adult volunteers pose for the obligatory silly group photo Nov. 15 prior to heading home from the 2015 Covenant Youth of Alaska Road System Retreat at North Star Bible Camp in Willow. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

Students, staff members and adult volunteers pose for the obligatory silly group photo Nov. 15 prior to heading home from the 2015 Covenant Youth of Alaska Road System Retreat at North Star Bible Camp in Willow. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

The moments of worship, devotions and recreational activities all combine to create memories for the students, which First Covenant Church Associate Pastor of

Youth and Family Phil Canon said can contribute to helping the students develop into spiritually mature adults.

“We try to create memorable experiences for them to tie special moments to,” Phil said. “Each one of these things adds onto the next.”

Although time will tell if the event will make a lifelong difference for the students, 17-year-old Anastasia Erickson of Anchorage’s First Covenant Church said she was definitely impacted by the retreat.

“This is my third time coming, and the reason I return every year is because I crave the sense of community I get when we’re worshiping God and talking about scripture,” Anastasia said. “There’s nothing that is more exhilarating than sharing such intimate moments [and] praising Jesus with other teens my age who love Jesus just as much as I do.”

Justice Callaway, 15, attended the retreat with Community Covenant Church of Eagle River, and agreed the retreat was an ideal place for teens to spend time together in worship.

“It’s a great place to encounter the Lord and learn more about our Father,” Justice said. “I felt a better connection with the Lord, because all of the complications were left back at home. The CYAK fall retreat allows you to worship the Lord freely and safely.”

Howard Asbury of Palmer performs during a variety show skit Nov. 14. Several students showcased their talents by doing everything from telling a multitude of elephant jokes, to singing, to playing the piano to performing spoken word poetry. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

Howard Asbury of Palmer performs during a variety show skit Nov. 14. Several students showcased their talents by doing everything from telling a multitude of elephant jokes, to singing, to playing the piano to performing spoken word poetry. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

Fourteen-year-old Shaela Asbury of Palmer said this was the second retreat she’s attended, and that the event also presents opportunities to spend time in fellowship with other students.

“I love retreats, and I feel like it is a great place for growth and fun. I have made so many new friends already and have become better friends with my previous ones,” Shaela said, who attended the event with Community Covenant. “I love how much trust is in our community. I hope to be able to come again next year and experience the same trust, fun and joy.”

Nate said his prayer for the students is that life won’t overwhelm them following the retreat and that they’ll dig down deep into the Bible to build upon what God began at the event.

“Sometimes, we can go through the pace of life so fast that we forget to build a firm foundation,” Nate said. “No matter what, we can handle it. Not because of what we’ve done, but because of what He’s done.”

Additional photos of the event are available on the Community Covenant Student Ministries Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CommunityCovenantYouthMinistries.