Pastor Dave waved his hands and whistled. He tapped his foot as he waited for the crowd to quiet. ďWelcome to Genesis Retreat. The next few days will focus on helping each of you develop an intimate relationship . . . ď
The boys in the front row snickered. Pastor Dave put his hands on his hips and cleared his throat. The boys blushed and wiggled in their chairs.
After pausing briefly, Pastor Dave plastered a smile on his face and continued his monologue. ďAs I was saying, our focus is to help you develop a relationship with our Lord by writing your thoughts in prayer journals.Ē The chaperons passed passed out notebooks. ďFor your first entry, write a letter to Jesus and tell him why you are here. This is just between you and God, so donít worry about anyone else. Weíll meet in the dining hall at noon.Ē
He dismissed the crowd with a nod of his head and the kids scurried to a private spot. A girl in outdated clothes plopped into a beanbag. Her hands trembled as she began to write.
Deer God, Iím Shay and Iím 14 years old. I came here cuz my school told me to. I didnít wanna come at first. There are some Jesus freeks in school and they scare me alot. But I came cuz they said food was included. I donít get to eat every day and as long as the freeks are given out free food I thot I should come so I did. I donít know what else to say except Iím really hungray.
In the opposite corner, Tiffany nibbled on the end of her pen before writing in big loopy letters.
Dear Jesus, I came here because I canít get confirmed unless I attend one of these retreats. Plus I needed a break, so when this opportunity came up I jumped at it. Itís hard to be the prettiest and smartest girl in school. I have to get up early to make sure my outfit, hair, and make-up is perfect. Plus I am so tired from cheerleading practice. Being the captain is hard work. I have a high standard to maintain. I also have to keep up on the latest fashions and make sure I donít wear the same outfit twice in one month. Itís time for lunch. Amen.
The next few days zoomed past. When they weren't writing in their journals, the kids had small group meetings. Pastor Dave led Shay and Tiffanyís cluster. Shay hardly ever lifted her head or shared, while Tiffany monopolized each conversation.
As the retreat came to an end, Pastor Dave gathered everyone together. He looked at the kids and smiled from ear to ear. ďFor our last journal entry, Iíd like you to write about what you have learned this week and your plans once you return home."
Tiffany skipped over to her corner. She whipped out her purple pen and began scribbling in her notebook.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for showing me how lucky I am to be me. Iíd just die if I looked like Shay. I mean really, did she think no one would notice that she wore the same jeans every day? Also thank you for my many talents. When I get home, Iím going to hang out with my friends and have a huge party.
Shay shuffled over to her corner. The tears began to fill her eyes as she flipped open her journal.
Dear God, This week has been good. Not only did I get food but I also learned about you and your love. I didnít think anyone could ever love me. Iíve always had an empty spot in my gut and I thought it was cuz I was hungary, but this week I stuffed myself and that feeling was still there. It wasn't til I got to know you that it went away. Jesus Iím scared to go home. What if I canít find you to fill that hole?
Shay brushed away a tear and glanced around the room. Pastor Dave was watching her. He crossed the room and stood next to her. ďItís been an honor to get to know you, Shay. Iíd be delighted if you came to Sunday School. Keep your chin up and your eyes on the Lord.Ē
Nodding, Shay held her head high as a glimmer of hope crept across her face.
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