“psych! i’m actually mafia and i just gatling-gunned all of you.”

just got back from new life’s middle school retreat, and it was the best ever.

matt and i lead the guys’ middle school study on wednesdays, so most of the boys who came were ones that i’ve been getting to know over the course of the year, but there were a couple that i only get to see once in a while, so it was really great to catch up with them. plus there was a new guy who decided to join after only visiting new life last sunday! it was so cool; he was the perfect addition to our group and all the guys really liked him. we had a total blast together.

we did a ton of stuff. lots of games and times of hanging out. we played a lot of body body, which is a live-action version of mafia. have you ever been sneaking around in a pitch-black, slightly unfamiliar house, hoping that no one slips silently behind you and whispers “you’re dead”? it’s creepy. and lots of fun. it was a blast.

saturday we went outside to play in the snow.

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it was rather cold. we were actually out on a frozen lake (it was safe… there had been a hockey team practicing on it the other day) and some of the guys found some cattails that were on the edge of the frozen shore. naturally, they soon figured out how to make them the most obnoxious weapon ever invented.

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we also spent a ton of time playing polish pool, a classic from last year’s retreat. we had a tournament and sydney, a newcomer to the game, swept it (to the chagrin of all the boys, who grudgingly presented her with the championship trophy). Whenever there was a free minute, it was a guarantee that you’d hear the guys downstairs, hooting and hollering around the pool table.

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adam’s parents, the fantastic jaque and steve, hosted us. jaque’s reputation as a fabulous cook may or may not have convinced some of the kids to come. meals were my favorite because everyone eats together and laughs and tells stories and just gets to know each other. it was also the place where we heard the most “thank you!”s. but no surprises there. one of the boys snagged my camera to take an instagram of sorts.

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a stuff-your-face-for-the-camera picture is standard for pretty much all youth events, i’ve learned. no shame.

stark, the youth group baby, made a couple of appearances as well. he’s everyone’s favorite. this guy is, no joke, probably the cutest baby i’ve ever met. he is always smiling and laughing, he’s adorable, and he recoils after kissing my beard as if he just licked a lemon.

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like the high school retreat, our theme verse for this weekend was ephesians 4:1, in which paul encourages the people of ephesus to “live in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. we talked about how our first calling is to believe the gospel, and how when we are rooted in the love of God, it should affect how we interact with other believers and non-believers. we had some great discussion and it was, as usual, really encouraging.

this group of kids is just awesome. it’s been such a privilege to be able to work with them the entire year.

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it’s hard to describe just how cool it is to see how the guys i help lead are growing in their faith. i’ve seen the changes in their lives, the way they take their faith seriously, the way some of them are recognizing sin in their lives and seeking to pursue God more closely. it’s encouraging and convicting and inspiring and fills me with awe for how God interacts so intimately with each and every one of His children.

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the more time the Lord allows me to spend walking with kids as they pursue Him and grow in understanding of what that means and what it looks like, the more He affirms that this is something it seems i will be doing long-term. i don’t presume to know what God’s will is, but i hope i will always have the chance to lead and learn with kids about God’s grace and how His gospel will never not be essential to every moment of every day.

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