This weekend the 9th grade confirmation students and four adults (including me) spent time in a cabin by a lake northwest of here, preparing for their confirmation day. Friday evening was a cold, rainy, muddy, dismal mess: a tough beginning for us, as we holed up in the lodge, writing and reading furiously. It was a pretty serious evening, until after evening devotions. At bedtime, the giggling and loud whispering always begins, at least for girls.
We shared the lodge with a group of developmentally disabled adults from a Catholic church in our city. At one point Friday evening, there was a knock on our door, and two men called out, "We're lost! We're trying to find the lodge!" I tried to explain that they were not far off. They just needed to go around to the upstairs door. But they kept saying, "We're lost! We're lost!" until I decided to lead them through the chaotic disarray of students upstairs to where their group was gathering.
I don't know much about their retreat time, except that sometime on Saturday they were going to make pretzels. And every once in awhile, while we were having our one on one conversations, we would hear them singing:
I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night, I will be your light
Come and rest in Me.
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine.
Saturday was beautiful, clear and cold. The "challenge course", with 3 and 1/2 hours of low ropes and team-building exercises, turned out to be exhausting and meaningful. One by one students spoke of their deepening trust in one another. The course is not so physically challenging, although some parts are easier for those who are more coordinated and athletic by nature. But the challenge is to work together, to share leadership, and to not leave anyone behind.
Saturday night the final activity was a campfire. Out in the dark, one of the students said, "We look good in the fire. We're glowing." It was true: we were glowing, and our hair smelled like wood and fire, and our faces were red with campfire burn. Everyone shared the most meaningful parts of the retreat, and prayed for each other. They were sad now, that their three years of study were coming to an end.
I had three girls in the car with me, driving home on Sunday. They were tired, but they couldn't sleep, they said. I put in a CD, one of my favorites. "I like that song," one of them said. "What is it?"
Somehow it seemed so right -- for all weekend, I heard the sounds of young people, finding their one voice, claiming their identities as children of God, trying, in faith, to sing and to live together in harmony.
But don't stop praying for them, okay?