On the first weekend of February, thirty middle and high school students joined together with 6 adult leaders from around the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego at Camp Stevens. For the first time in over 2 years, we were able to safely meet together as a community. The theme of this year’s retreat was Shine Our Light.
Our retreat started off with the simple act of sharing a word or phrase that represented where we were in our lives. Something that we thought was important for others to know. Whether it was that we play volleyball or that our mental health was challenging us at the time, sharing allowed us to meet each other exactly as we were. Empathy and respect for one another set the ground for the transformational retreat.
Our directing passage for the weekend was Mathew 5:14-16 taken from The Message translation. The mainline that stood out to my small group was “bringing out the God-colors in the world.” In my life, I remember being taught that we needed to ask for God’s presence in the world around us. This translation uses terminology that implies God is already all around us and our call as Christians is to illuminate their presence and live fully into it. This reflection on scripture was also carried into our music at the Eucharist.
As annual tradition goes, we worked with Camp staff on a project where they currently needed help. This year we helped weed their orchard so that the trees would be able to flourish. Many hands made light work. Ayzsha, the garden manager, gave us a tour of the farming she was overseeing. From tasting lettuce and demoing the tools she uses, we learned the importance of respecting the ecosystems in the dirt and working with nature around oneself instead of against it. I am beyond grateful to be able to serve my community in the way we did and learn from them.
On top of the amazing work previously mentioned, we were able to stretch and reach our goals on partner tasks on the ropes course. I was able to partner up with a new friend, Sam. With communication and optimism, we were able to support and challenge each other. Each one of us met our goals and supported others in their achievements, even though they looked different from each other.
This year it was a special experience to share a space with friends who I only get to see at youth collaborative events. Over the last seven years, these relationships have been strengthened from inside jokes, memories, and support at the more challenging points in my life. Seeing their smiles and witnessing the warmth they radiate makes youth events a safe and special place in my heart. I will forever be grateful for the friends I have made at these events and cherish their companionship in my adult life.
Closing out in a bonfire as we always do our last night, we sang our hearts away. I am proud I was able to witness a collection of over 8 staff, youth, and adult musicians playing along with us. I am grateful for the relationships I formed and strengthened that weekend.
Maya McKone-Sweet (she/her)
Maya attends St. Marks in City Heights and is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego Youth Leadership Council
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