Youth Winter Retreat celebrates overflowing cups


Psalm 23 is often heard at memorial services, at hospital bed sides, when people are going through dark valleys, and apparently at Youth Winter Retreats. For youth across the Oregon-Idaho conference, Psalm 23’s popular words were the focus for the Winter Retreat over Presidents Day weekend at Suttle Lake Camp in Sisters, Oregon. Between snowball fights, catching air on the tubing hill, looking for eagles and owls on nature walks, and building snow forts, this group of twenty youth explored Psalm 23 and the reminder of God’s comfort and faithful presence throughout life.

Most of the youth and adults that attended the retreat were first-time attenders, while a few were grateful to finally be back for the first time since their last winter retreat in 2020. For one senior in high school who grew up coming to this retreat, this was a particularly special time as it was her last winter retreat. On the first night after opening worship, she helped set the tone of the retreat with sharing part of her faith journey and some of the struggles of where her faith and her support system helped her make it through the pandemic; something that many of the youth resonated with.

During the retreat, the co-director, Jane Petke, led students through Psalm 23. She guided students as they engaged in different styles of prayer, reflection, and activities. One activity was the snow sculpture competition inspired by the words of Psalm 23 (pictured) in which students made a gravity defying overflowing cup, a shepherd with a staff and rod, and multiple snow sheep.

To the dismay of some youth, the vote is still out as to which group won. During the retreat, youth and youth leaders, helped with music with some camp classics and other songs that echoed the Spirit’s presence, God’s love, and enduring through difficult seasons. Camp culminated with communion and an anointing with oil before students made their journeys back home; remembering God’s 'goodness and mercy would be following them wherever they go' (Psalm 23:6).

After the long season of youth not being able to gather, cups were overflowing with joy and new friendships across the connection and ecumenically. While many of these students look forward to next year’s President’s Day Weekend retreat, it is evident that students and leaders are excited to gather and be together for more youth events throughout the year: playing together, serving together, and growing closer to God with one another.