Summer Retreat Teaches Hope & A Future

“My favorite memory of the trip was the bonding time we had from our evening message Saturday night. I learned that no matter what mistakes or hard times we go through, God is always there. He is always here to forgive, help, and Love us!” -Grace, age 14

2015 has been all about breaking new ground at 18 South Youth Center. The growing pains have been significant, but the impact has been greater still. One of the hallmarks of our nonprofit is offering spiritually enriching overnight trips twice a year to our regular attendees. In 2013 and 2014, our summer trip consisted of tagging along with a local church to attend Creation Festival. This year, we felt led to organize 18 South’s first ever independent retreat where our volunteers would provide the teachings and organize the activities and meals on their own.

During the weeks leading up to our trip, we faced numerous examples of opposition that led us to a point of considering canceling the trip because perhaps we weren’t ready or equipped to do this kind of thing on our own. However, we felt strongly that the opposition we were experiencing was a sure sign that Jesus had huge, important plans in store for our weekend. And so we persisted. And we were not disappointed.

“I learned that even through our struggles, God loves us.” –Greg, age 14

God gave us a theme from Jeremiah 29:11. We felt strongly led to speak to the broken hearts of our youth and then to infuse hope and the promise of a future into their brokenness.

On Friday evening, we arrived at French Creek State Park in Elverson, Pa., with 11 teens and 7 mentors. After setting up camp we gathered around the fire for a time of reenacting the story of King David’s life. The kids had a blast with this as they were able to act quite silly while learning about one of the Bible’s greatest heroes.

Saturday morning we woke up and enjoyed eggs and bacon before splitting into two groups separated by gender. The volunteers spent the next couple of hours sharing their testimonies and life stories with the youth in an attempt at building deeper relationships and using transparency to show how powerfully God had moved in their lives.

“What I learned was that God can move at any time and make you change the way you feel about everything.” –Jessica, age 14

We experienced an extreme downpour for the rest of the day into the evening, but were blessed by having access to a sizeable cabin with a kitchen, picnic tables, and electricity. After moving indoors and stuffing ourselves with cheeseburgers and mac n’ cheese, PTC Youth’s Executive Director Jess Cauller shared her testimony with the teens and expressed Jesus’ unrelenting love for them and desire to meet them in the midst of their struggles. 18 South’s future director Max Halterman then led some acoustic worship songs while the Holy Spirit showed up and allowed each teen to experience God’s presence in a mighty way. It was a very emotional night without a dry eye in the cabin. Volunteers were able to listen to teens as they poured their hearts out and then pray for them to encounter the love and forgiveness of Jesus. It was a beautiful experience that none of us will soon forget.

“I learned that everybody loves me, even God, no matter what I did.” –Jason, age 15

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18 South Youth Ministries
P.O. Box 472
Red Lion, PA 17356

18 South Youth Ministries

18 South Youth Ministries strives to create opportunities for caring, responsible adults with Christian values to build authentic relationships with youth. The nonprofit operates 18 South Youth Center in Red Lion, Pa., which has reached more than 1,000 teens since it opened in November 2007.