Our youth group from Petitcodiac Mennonite Church in New Brunswick had the opportunity to travel to Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, Hepworth, Ont., on the May long weekend for the 2013 Walk, Witness, Worship (WWW) Youth Retreat.
As you might imagine, we faced the idea of seven teenagers and one adult in an eight-seat minivan for 3,600 kilometres with some trepidation, and there was some question as to the sanity of our trip. But the time we spent at Silver Lake made all of those cramp-inducing hours entirely worthwhile.
Despite the fact that we looked horrible and probably smelled worse when we arrived exhausted in the evening of May 17, we were welcomed immediately with open arms. We spent a relaxing first evening getting to know the other youth who had come to the retreat and sang songs around the campfire. Our youth group experienced the added novelty of meeting other Mennonites, who are few and far between in New Brunswick.
The retreat was centred around the passage from Micah 6:8—“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord requires of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”—and each of the days was given a specific theme. Saturday focused on loving tenderly, Sunday focused on acting justly and Monday sent us off with the message to walk humbly.
The weekend was a perfect balance of thought-provoking activities, discussions and regular camp activities. We enjoyed activities such as the “Love Tenderly Olympics,” presentations about Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and aboriginal justice, and evening worship, as well as canoeing, swimming, ping pong and campfire songs.
The indisputable highlights of the weekend were the presentations led by James Loney, a CPT member. On Saturday he shared of his moving experience of being held hostage in Iraq, where he chose to love tenderly, and to act with compassion and peace. He described his hostages to us, emphasizing both their negative and positive qualities. His talk that night, delivered from a plastic lawn chair to a circle of teenagers, was one of the most meaningful and genuine speeches I have ever heard and it left the room speechless.
On Sunday, following the theme of justice, he led us in a “blanket exercise” designed to put into perspective the mistreatment of first nation people in Canada. We stood on blankets that were spread out on the floor representing the land. Slowly, people who represented the European settlers folded our space into smaller and smaller areas. We were then asked to step off the blanket, representing the people who died due to disease and mistreatment. It was a disturbing and creative visual demonstration of the injustices in our country.
Although our group had to leave before the “walk humbly” session on Monday morning, I can say with certainty that we left the retreat with a new and more humble sense of the world and ourselves. The weekend helped each of us to grow in different and unique ways, and not only brought us closer to other youth groups, but to each other as well.
I believe I speak for the entire Petitcodiac Mennonite youth group when I say that we would have driven twice as far to experience a few more days at the retreat. (The driver paled a little at this final statement.)
The WWW Youth Retreat is an initiative of Silver Lake Mennonite Camp in partnership with Conrad Grebel University College, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union.
‘Act justly,’ from Micah 6:8, was one of the three theme days at this year’s Walk, Witness, Worship Youth Retreat, held at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp on the May long weekend.