Life is a mystery. While we as followers of Christ know who we are taking the journey with, we often are not completely sure where God is going to take us! The Youth Mystery Retreat began years ago with this in mind. We schemed as youth leaders how we could surprise and challenge youth with a weekend of adventure.
The most recent Youth Mystery Retreat was April 22-24. The retreat took 30 youth and 10 adults to Saddle Lake First Nation, Lloydminster, and a Bison Farm in Vermilion. At these three stops we worshiped, served and enjoyed each other’s company.
A real highlight was Saddle Lake. At Saddle Lake, we stayed at a large youth center. Philip Lee, a friend of Bethel, and Missionary to First Nations people, was our host. The youth of Bethel interacted with and built relationships with Philip’s Saddle Lake Youth. After an evening of worship, play, and prayer, we set out to go to the Blue Quill residential school on Saturday.
We received a tour of one of the last residential schools left standing in Canada from two survivors. Alsena and her husband Alec shared their heart-wrenching stories of being taken from their homes as young children to live at the school. Children taken from their homes were stripped of their hair and given a number which would serve as their name for the next many years. We heard stories of horrific abuse and the terrible aftermath of a generation of young people traumatized by the events.
Most startling to us was the fact that at many of these residential schools all of this was all done in “Jesus Name.” As a group we wrestled with this difficult history and had an extended time of sharing. The testimonies around the circle were very powerful. Our youth spoke with great compassion to Alsena and her husband Alec. They listened well and sought to understand. I could relate to one volunteer leader who shared how powerful the experience was in breaking long held prejudices and sparking a heart of love for First Nations people. The group agreed that the real Jesus was not represented in these schools and that we should try to show His love to all people regardless of ethnicity or cultural background.
As we drove away to go to our next “Mystery Location” I got a text from Philip. He said that our visit had a profound effect on the people we visited. They said that they would like to come and check out Bethel. What an incredible compliment. I am thankful for such a wonderful group of youth who represented the true Jesus so well.
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