2023 Church of All Nations Retreat
Event Location: Whitewater State Park, Minnesota

Our retreat at Whitewater State Park was very successful. Our original goal was to allow our students space and time away from the busyness of modern life such as social media, competitive athletics and education. Additionally, to get students to reconnect with nature as an essential part of our life. The Earth is a part of us; this retreat would remind them that nature and all life are sacred.

There were 16 of our students and four youth leaders who were present at the retreat. We had some intentional time with nature such as walking along the Whitewater River and hiking along the trails. Additionally, students attended the park programming as an additional option. These included fishing lessons and an educational talk about our local bats. Over the 2 days of our programs, the students had many options to explore nature and be together, but there was also a time when they could do some self-reflection or meditation.

The most memorable moments were the moments we spent intentional time together and discussed our life together. Church of All Nations is dedicated to creating space for students where they are welcome and feel like family. Students such as Gabriel reflected on Jesus’ life to live communally away from the toxins of a fast-paced, cutthroat. Being a new immigrant from Lima, Peru, he told me that he was grateful for this experience to be away from his full-time job. It gave him a new perspective and challenged him to look at life, not from a place of production but from love.

Mordecai, one of our nonbinary students, enjoyed their time learning to fish. They told me their favorite part of the retreat was getting to know their fellow students. Mordecai is an upcoming 6th grader coming into our youth ministry. This event was vital for them to grow in their trust in the adults and their peers around them.

After an exciting yet relaxing trip, the students were much more comfortable being themselves. They were sillier but more trusting of the adults. The benefits of our retreat, such as more students showing up to events, students becoming more compassionate and gracious with each other, and finally, them feeling more like family, was evident in our event following the retreat, which was called the Great Water Games.