6:45pm: I board the bus after throwing in an awful lot of stuff that I don’t think I will need like a sleeping bag and extra clothes. I find that my seat in this large church bus is in the very back. And I am sitting alone. No worries. I am still plenty excited. Commence 45 straight minutes of playing Scramble on the iPhone. Wow.
8:45pm: Scrambling like mad to get the snacks ready for the night. Particularly those cookies that look so good that you just spoon out of the mix and onto the pan. Yet, in my “competition” with Chelsea and Molly, I see that after 20 minutes of cooking that my cookies are burnt on the bottom for some reason and the others cookies are perfect and fabulous. Yikes, not a very good start. But there are lots of M&M’s and pretzels and all sorts of wonderful snacks too that I munch on a little too much.
9:50pm: Chels and Molly and I are finished (we were the cooking support all weekend) and the kids have done their first session, learning about the schedule and the “wailing wall.” Now, it is a chance to hang with the kids and laugh and sleep. I talk with one of the kids about his schooling, his work at a pizza place, and his desire to work hard and earn money to attend Texas Tech. I can tell he’s gonna be great all weekend because he has a good humor. Gotta love it.
7:00am: Way before the kids are up I am the first one to be mulling around the house. I go outside where I see the wonderful beauty of Galveston and the beach. I walk down to the beach and sit at the top of the house on the balcony taking in the smells and sights and sunrise and nature began to waken. Absolutely beautiful- nature reflecting the touch of the extraordinary creation of God.
8:00am: Breakfast for 30. A pig on the griddle for bacon. Light, fluffy biscuits throughout the oven. Enough scrambled eggs to make me wish I had never seen a chicken. But we are having fun in the kitchen, laughing and telling jokes. I got a chance to catch up on Chels’ life and also connect and learn about Molly’s life in Abilene. Good folks. Breakfast is great. No sooner than breakfast is done we are working on lunch and dinner. 60 potatoes to prep for baking. Yikes! All rolled in olive oil and then foiled. Good stuff. By the way, I was snacking the whole time.
11:00am: While I am prepping in the kitchen I get to listen to the kids as they learn from the Steve the youth minister about listening to what their lives are saying. They look through their past stories and their present- the future stuff comes later. Seeing these kids reflect about their lives as teenagers and claim some of the pains and blessings in their childhoods is a blessing to me. I am impressed by their openness, and by their willingness to engage their parents as well at this retreat. It is a time of growth for all.
12:30pm: As I am doing a trailer full of dishes, the kids come over during lunch time and we have “fun” with the dishes. Meaning, we had a sarcastic humor battle for 30 minutes about how I was not washing the dishes efficiently and how I could do better, while I then humorously answered about their inexperience and “youthful” naivete. Hilarious 30 minutes! The back and forth…the sarcasm…the smiles…wonderful!
2:26pm: The beach had beckoned, and I surrendered myself to its gentle waves. I got in and body boarded for almost 2 and half hours. The whole time I got to hang with one of our youth, Nick, who I love being around because he is funny and has had some difficult times. It is an honor to be a part of his life and show that Christian men can be normal, fun loving human beings too. But really, it is just good to be able to body board with him and give him the courage to try something new and have fun too! A side note: 2 and half hours at the beach including 20 minutes of sweet frisbee playing means a little burn on my back- but not bad!
9:35pm: I watch as each family and youth pray for another youth and their parents as they end their sessions. They pray for each other and leave blessings, or notes, on their wailing wall. A great opportunity to watch kids grow and speak some of their own voices, some in simple prayers, some in longer and more complex prayers, but it was incredible to watch the kids reflect some of the closeness with their families as well.
8:15am: Another early wake-up for breakfast. Instead, we are having a John 21 experience: some loaves and fish (communion too) on the beach off a grill, similar to that passage of Scripture. A beautiful experience. For 45 minutes as me and Michael Tucker get the grill ready, I get to grill on the beach in solitude with the wind and beach at my back. (It so happens that the wind blows the grill over with the fish on it…or close to it because I save it with the back of my hand…and get a nice burn on some of my fingers!) The beauty of the experience in communion with the water behind us, reminding us of the simplicity of fellowship and the meal we share with Christ, but also the complexity of discipleship and forgiveness offered to Peter in that passage.
11:30am: Sleep. Weird sleep. Deep sleep. On the way back to Houston I am beat, and so beat that I fall asleep and my jaw is hanging down the entire time, for the humor of my fellow youth on the bus!
12::00pm: I say goodbye to the youth and find myself blessed with the hugs and thank yous of parents and kids whom I deeply appreciate and treasured getting to know. What a blessing they were to me through their humor, their commitment to growing in their discipleship, and their courage in engaging a wailing wail for how their life- its past hurts and pains and blessings, its present struggles and striving, and its future possibilities and hopes- how their lives speak to them, and thus, how God may be speaking through the intricacies of their lives. And it was a pleasure to do it all as a support!
Thanks Steve Sargent, Chelsea Sargent, Molly, the Watsons, the Tuckers, the Montoyas, the Suarez’s, the Cunninghams, Ashley, Sherrita, and the Gibbs! (Btw, I can’t go this entire time without a shout out to one of my favorite people: Gregory Gibbs- I love how that guy knows how to love and have fun and how he makes you feel welcome- I loved his presence all weekend long!)