The feedback is phenomenal. The conclusion is clear. God richly blessed the second annual Trinity Time Youth Retreat for those exploring church work vocations. On July 29-30 this summer, 12 high school students (6 boys and 6 girls) gathered with faculty and students at Concordia for an adventure which, for some, was clearly life changing.
On that Sunday afternoon the event began with an ice-breaker led by Professor Joshua Kittleman of the CUAA Family Life Program. During that time, Seminarian James Neuendorf and his wife, Deaconess Christel, dropped by to discuss their path into ministry and their work sharing the Gospel through developing relationships in the Dominican Republic. They described the way Christian care leads to conversations and opportunities to share the Gospel.
Mission and prayer become themes
The students weren’t perhaps aware that they would soon have the opportunity to do the same things themselves. We boarded our van and headed for POBLO, People of the Book Lutheran Outreach. There we met with Pastor Gary Rohwer and Missionary Joy. They told how Christians communicate the Good News of Christ in Dearborn, the home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S.
The students had been asked to bring supplies for new immigrants, so next we visited a family, who welcomed us into their home. After offering our gifts of basic home and kitchen supplies, we took our seats. Refugees from Syria, the husband and wife mainly spoke through Joy’s translation, but they also offered each of their guests tea. Even those who weren’t tea drinkers among us found it delicious! In a large circle filling their small living room, we listened to their story of their new life in the United States and saw photos of the home they left, now bombed to ruins.
After a dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant, we returned to Concordia for evening worship, the office of Vespers with Rev. Dr. Phil Penhallegon preaching. The message highlighted how the Gospel crosses barriers and reaches out through us to people who are different than we are. We have been reconciled to the Father through the work of Christ and we share that reconciliation through the Gospel. Dr. John Boonenberg led the hymn singing and liturgy from the organ and the worship arts team contributed a couple of songs as well. The excellence of the music program at Concordia was certainly on display.
The evening presentation followed. I introduced Luther’s practice of prayer as detailed in his small booklet, A Simple Way to Pray. Each retreatant received a copy to take home to read. This devotional structure asks of questions of any text of Scripture: “What does this teach me? What am I to be thankful for? What should I repent of? What does this prompt me to ask from God?” It is similar to the oft-cited ACTS structure (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication). Luther, however, also urges those praying to do so in a meditative and receptive state, free to depart from the form and open to listen to the Spirit’s preaching through the Scriptural text.
The night closed with time around a bonfire at the riverfront. Here, a couple of the Lutheran Teaching Diploma students shared a devotion. Reflecting on Psalm 1 and her “walk” with the Lord, MacKenzie Drinan described how she found confidence in God working through her even through the longer days of her student teaching experience. Next, Kreighton Rahn told of his life at Concordia and how the Lord led him to connect new friendships in college.
Mission and prayer…in practice
The morning brought us to breakfast and, after that, some time in quiet devotion practicing Luther’s “simple way to pray.” Students found places in the chapel, on benches or by the river to meditate on the Word.
Afterward, we were off again, this time to visit MOST—Mission Opportunities Short Term. There we learned about their ministry and assisted them with their work. We pulled weeds, cleaned and organized glasses, and more. MOST specializes in sending volunteer teams to developing countries where, in partnership with the local church, they provide a basic service and a context for proclaiming Christ. Besides eye-glass clinics, they also run VBS programs and provide water filtration devices and training.
The students weren’t perhaps aware that they would soon have the opportunity to do the same things themselves.
Lunch took place at “The Original Cottage Inn” where the buffet gave us the opportunity to sample some classic Ann Arbor fare. We rounded off the afternoon with the option of either a canoe trip or a nature hike. The hikers explored Parker Mill Park, a locale which even the local students hadn’t visited before. The canoe riders braved the rapids of the Huron, getting soaked with the splashing waves but all staying upright nonetheless.
As we closed our time together with a dinner in front of the chapel, it was clear that we had had a fantastic time growing together and learning more about the mission and ministry of Christ. Some students noted that they had not realized how Concordia plays such an instrumental role in raising up church workers. One student even remarked, “I have decided that I want to be a teacher. It’s final. I feel that this is what God wants me to be and I learned a lot about trusting God and His will. I also think that God wants me to attend this school because I have really enjoyed hearing from the students and alumni.” Thanks be to God for such a blessed impact.
2017 saw the first Trinity Time, which had a more urban mission theme, with servant events at Family of God and Project Restore in Detroit. The next retreat is tentatively scheduled for July 21-22, 2019. It is open to high school students (entering freshman through newly graduated seniors) who are interested in exploring church work careers. The event is always centered around the integration of God’s work of creation, redemption, and sanctification with the mission of the Church.
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