Our youth had a great time last weekend completing the ropes course at Poplar Ridge!! Here are a few pictures:
The youth and I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who woke up early this Sunday to join us for breakfast! We know it was a sacrifice to rise early the same day you also lost an hour of sleep, and we appreciate your support, both this Sunday and always. Many of our youth ministries and activities happen solely because of your help and encouragement, and we are grateful for such an amazingly supportive congregation! It was wonderful to see a packed fellowship hall full of smiling faces, and to benefit from the generosity of so many church members as we prepare for our mission trip this summer!
Though the youth did their best to match the smiles and enthusiasm of those who joined us for breakfast, after our Saturday night lock-in full of fun and festivities that lasted into the wee hours, some of us rocked the ‘glazed over’ look more readily than the ‘I’m-so-happy-to-greet-the-new-day’ expressions we were desperately hoping to achieve.
Saturday night, however, was a different story. That evening, 21 youth eagerly helped assemble breakfast casseroles or prepared in other ways for Sunday’s breakfast. After these tasks were complete, we were free to enjoy racing scooters in the fellowship hall, playing multiple rounds of the hide-and-seek game “sardines”, devouring more junk food than you may think is humanly possible (and certainly more than is humanly advisable), and playing a game of Human Hungry Hippos, an adaptation of the childhood board game where brightly-colored hippos shoot out from corners of the board to “eat” as many marbles as possible. If you’re curious about what this looks like with teenagers instead of plastic hippos, take a look:
Saturday night we also spent some quality time with God and with each other in prayer. We discussed the difficult question of if/how God answers some prayers and not others, and the different ways we can pray that may or may not resemble the traditional spoken prayers we use in church. Then we took time to commune openly and honestly with God, in written and spoken prayer.
Sunday morning we continued our exploration of prayer, worshipping individually or in groups at different prayer stations. Everyone was free to pray in as many different ways as they wished… some explored a number of different stations while others remained in one particular type of prayer for the duration. The youth were invited to pray while doodling, similar to the idea of “praying in color” that Lynn Martin introduced to us a few years ago. We prayed directionally, lifting up people facing different cardinal directions (to the south: patients in the hospital, to the north: family in New York, to the east: Christians in Syria, etc.). We prayed through music, we prayed in different postures, we prayed molding play-dough into a representation of our prayers, we prayed writing letters to those on our minds and hearts, and we prayed for those people and needs recommended in our Lenten prayer guide, “Seek God for the City”.
While watching a slideshow of pictures displaying God’s amazing creation, several youth commented that because they often find active, spoken prayer difficult, it was meaningful and freeing to be able to sit back and experience, admire, and praise God without saying a word. Others especially liked praying with stones. Writing a particular need on a stone and holding onto it while praying provided a simple yet very concrete (no pun intended) expression of our prayer requests and praises. Another teenager appreciated the station where he could write a prayer in the form of a haiku. He explained that he often gets distracted while praying, but writing a haiku required all of his attention, and through writing, he was able to fully concentrate on God. I will close with his words of prayer, as well as another gem of a haiku written by one of our amazing youth:
I pray for the poor
For people who aren’t happy
For people I love
God is the bestest
He is all-knowing and cool
Jesus loves all peeps
Last Thursday, the film “I’m Not Racist, Am I?” was shown at the Paramount Theater downtown. The documentary follows a diverse group of 12 New York City teenagers as they engage in a yearlong process examining racism in their lives and communities. Six of our youth attended the showing (along with hundreds of other local teenagers and adults) and were so moved that they asked if they could share what they had learned at our next Real Life meeting.
This past Sunday evening, after we engaged in some general antics of merriment (devouring pizza, popping balloons, imitating both Taylor Swift and the author of Genesis, etc.), the youth who attended the film shared some of the stories and questions of the teenagers in the documentary, as well as their own reactions to the ideas presented in the film. For the rest of Real Life, the group then embarked on an hour-long discussion of racism: examples of racial prejudice in their own lives or the lives of friends, the prevalence of racial slurs and why that is problematic, whether racism is an individual reaction or systemic throughout society, and what our role is as Christians, as followers of Jesus, in addressing racism in our community. The youth asked great questions, answered honestly and thoughtfully, shared openly and poignantly, and throughout our conversation addressed an incredibly complex idea with amazing insight and maturity.
Long story short, UBC has an amazing group of youth. And when I say amazing, that’s an understatement.
Sunday, February 15, the Youth will be meeting at 5:00 pm
to cook and serve dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and the Hospitality House.
5:30 – End of Game – At Carter Groff’s House
Pizza dinner provided. Please bring a snack/appetizer or dessert.
This Sunday, the youth celebrated the start to the New Year by baking and decorating some resolution-busting cakes for the staff at the Battle Building. To continue UBC’s ministry engaging with and supporting the hospital staff, our youth made and decorated four cakes that were delivered Monday to the staff lounges on each floor of the children’s hospital. In between mixing batter (and forgetting the eggs, and re-mixing the batter), spreading icing (and eating icing), and showering the cakes (and the floor) with sprinkles, the youth found time to pray for health and endurance for those working in the Battle Building. (To be completely honest, we also found time to eat homemade pizza, and play a game of life-size battleship). Included with the cake delivery were about 80 cards written by the youth, thanking the staff for their hard work, letting them know our church is praying for them, and wishing them the best in the New Year!
OIAM (Operation Inasmuch) has become a signature ministry of UBC over the past several years. Each spring, members and friends of our congregation come together to serve our neighbors through painting, building, gardening, cleaning, and more.
Another annual tradition that occurs each spring is Mission Madness, a program of the CBF of Virginia that organizes local mission sites around the state, providing the opportunity for youth groups to engage in service projects similar to OIAM. Youth from UBC have attended the past two years, and this year UBC has been approached about hosting one of these events, which usually bring 200-250 youth from across the state.
With the blessing of the UBC leadership, the Missions/Ministry Committee, and the leaders of OIAM, we are excited to be hosting Mission Madness this year at our church on April 17-19, 2015. This is a major undertaking, but it will enable us to make a dramatic impact in our community.
We will be combining this Mission Madness event with our regular OIAM, so please note that OIAM will be taking place a few weeks earlier this year! Many of the work projects will be similar, but there will also be new opportunities that are unique to the larger scale of this joint endeavor, such as preparing food for our many volunteers.
Expect to hear more about this in the coming months, but we encourage you now to begin thinking about how you might participate. In addition to the logistics of feeding everyone, we will need experienced UBC folks to lead project sites, overseeing the work of the youth, who can do the “heavy lifting.”
Finally, with so many volunteers this year, we will need to find quite a few worksites, so if you have ideas for projects, please share those with Erin Brown or Phil Woodson, who are helping to coordinate this event.
What an exciting weekend this will be, combining our well-established OIAM day with the energy and enthusiasm of Mission Madness! Imagine what we will be able to do for our community together!