We ended the Sec 3 retreat for the kids in my church on Sunday. 4 days of a stay-in retreat with 100+ highly energetic 15 year olds. Somehow, “retreat” and “energetic teenagers” seem like an oxymoron.
So that was what I did counting down 6606 to 6603 days left to live. And whilst it was a continuously evolving program with changes every few hours and massive sleep deprivation (I slept a total of 7 hours over 3 days, 2 hours of which were in a car), a sore throat (from shouting out instructions over the din of constant chatter) and a lot of herding, it was worth it.
It wasn’t just 4 days though. The journey that I have been on with these kids started more than 2 years ago. It was in January 2015 that I first met the 14 kids, then small and scrawny 12-13 year olds, who I would facilitate and catechize to for the next 3 years. I remember that whilst most of them have been in primary level catechism as classmates, they were awkward around each other.
Fast forward and today, they are almost all of them taller than me, with a few of the boys towering over me. And the seeds of faith that have been lovingly planted and watered every Friday evening have sprouted their tentative shoots. They are a tight-knit group now who would joke and banter with each other and who felt free to affirm and support each other.
I remember 13 year olds who were conscious and awkwardly stiff at praise and worship sessions. At the end of this retreat, the same kids, now 15 year old, were screaming at the top of their lungs and bobbing up and down in human chains around the hall as we sang songs of praise. I was bobbing along with them even if I am probably getting too old to be doing this. To see them loving God and each other makes all the social life I gave up on Friday evenings worthwhile and I was brimming with pride and love for them.
And by the end of this year, my job done, I will no longer be facilitating them on Fridays as their formal catechism program ends and it becomes their own responsibility to keep going on their faith journey together. I can’t believe that I am feeling sad about the impending end of my time with them, they have become so much a part of my life as I have become theirs. And yet, they may still pepper my days ahead with joy and hope as I hope they become inspired to serve in the church and who knows, may one day be my partners-in-faith in growing another batch of young seedlings.