This past weekend, 19 youth and 4 adults enjoyed a wonderful retreat at Smith Mountain Lake. We played, swam, kayaked, paddle-boarded, canoed, flipped off of an inner tube pulled behind the boat at top speed, and ate a lot of delicious food. But most importantly, we took 24 hours out of the back-to-school craze and all the stressors inherent in that transition, to just enjoy life. We spent the weekend talking and playing together, and took time to rest, breathe, and appreciate the wonder of God in our natural surroundings and in each other.
On Saturday our church co-hosted a Touch-A-Truck event for families in the community, partnering with the UVA Hospital and Shenanigans toy store. It was a huge success. There were well over a thousand people who came to the event over the course of the morning. Wow! This event exceeded all of our expectations!
We had eight trucks at the event, three across the street and five in our front parking lot, and everyone had a blast exploring those trucks. Yet, as fun as the trucks were, it was even more exciting to see hundreds of children and their families just walking through our parking lot and interacting with our church members.
We celebrate the success of the event, and we thank all the volunteers who made it possible. Over twenty UBC members helped in a variety of ways: welcoming children and giving them passports for the event, helping kids in and out of trucks, distributing free T-shirts, supplying coffee to the parents, giving away prizes, showing the way to our church restrooms, helping with crafts, and more! Thank you all for your help on Saturday! In addition, we thank the entire UBC congregation for their prayers and financial support, which made this event possible.
Finally, one of the most exciting parts of this event, from my perspective, was that it was truly a partnership with the hospital: a bridge reaching across West Main Street. Last fall, as our church began exploring ways to do more with the UVA Hospital, I began having conversations with Jan Allaire at the Battle Building. We talked about the possibility of doing something together as neighbors, and I mentioned this idea of hosting a Touch-A-Truck. In the months to follow, others at the hospital came on board, and the event began to take shape. My hope is that this event will be the beginning of a stronger and deeper relationship with the Battle Building and all of our neighbors in the UVA Health System.
NBC29 covered the event (see below or click on this link).
Thank you all for your help this weekend! Below are a few pictures from the event… enjoy!
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
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!
The young adult brunch last Saturday was a fun and delicious get-together, with 20 adults present. Thank you UBC for providing childcare for the seven little ones so that their parents could enjoy adult conversation! We were happy to welcome quite a few new faces this month, and we would love to have anyone who’s interested join us next month at our regular date, the second Saturday, Dec. 13. (We don’t all attend worship at UBC, and all are welcome.) Our plan for next month is to enjoy Charlottesville’s Christmas decorations with our annual Holiday Lights Tour. Thanks Peter for driving the church bus! Mark your calendars now and invite a friend!
On Monday, November 3, the youth got together at church to make 6 giant batches of chocolate chip cookies (don’t worry, we cleaned the kitchen)! Then we gave them away to people walking by the church, students on the Corner, and employees and patients leaving the hospital. What a great way to spend the day off from school: spreading a little bit of edible joy and love on a Monday afternoon!
Last Sunday, our youth had the chance to prepare and serve dinner at both the Ronald McDonald House and the Hospitality House. It was a wonderful chance to learn about and serve with some of the ministries in our immediate community, as well as a chance to have fun and challenge the inner chef in all of us!
At the Ronald McDonald House, 2 adults and 6 youth had one hour to make tacos for 40 people. Our two sixth-grade boys bravely took on the task of cooking 9 pounds of taco meat. Despite the fact that it was by far the hottest job in the kitchen, they worked cheerfully and neatly the whole time. And by neatly, I mean that at least 85% of the taco meat actually made it to the serving tray. Not too shabby! The rest of us prepared rice, corn, chopped vegetables without losing anyone’s fingers, used more plastic gloves than anyone thought possible, and generally had a blast working together in the kitchen.
The staff person working that night took some time to explain to us about who the house serves, and we learned that it is not only children undergoing cancer treatments and their families, but also children awaiting heart and other transplants, and families at the hospital for other medical emergencies. As we served dinner that night and talked about the experience later, it hit home for the youth that even though we had a ton of fun cooking together, the meal we prepared was meeting a real need for families going through very difficult times, and several teenagers asked when we can go back and serve again.
At the Hospitality House, some of our older youth prepared spaghetti for the guests. After teaching one high school junior the important life skill of how to boil spaghetti noodles, and after said high school student sent shards of uncooked spaghetti flying all over the kitchen, the meal went pretty smoothly! One of the guests who ate dinner at the Hospitality House that night told our youth that she had just spent all of her money for the rest of the month on supplies for her child who is in the hospital. Before she got to the house, she didn’t know if she would get anything to eat that night, and was thrilled to arrive and find a spaghetti dinner waiting for her. When our group got back together later Sunday night, the youth who served her were excited to share with the others how they had seen God at work in that situation!
Overall, we were thrilled to serve at both the Ronald McDonald House and the Hospitality House this week. We had fun cooking together, and we also learned from the sobering but meaningful encounters with families we served. It hit us that there are so many families in great need, literally right around the corner from our church, and in one evening we were able to minister to them in a simple but significant way. We are grateful for the experience, and hope to serve in this way again soon!
On Sunday after church, the youth headed to Riverview Park for an aptly named Afternoon of Awesomeness. After sharing a picnic lunch outside on the most beautiful day God has graced us with this fall, the fun began.
There were team competitions. Boats were made from aluminum foil and tape, and raced down the Rivanna River. Impressively, one boat even remained intact! Relays were attempted, with the sole purpose of getting each team over the finish line in absurdly hilarious fashion…. How would you attempt to get a team of five people across a field, letting only 4 feet and 2 hands touch the ground?
Then there were challenges for the whole group. Do you think it’s possible to fit 10 teenagers into a circle 1.5 feet across? They didn’t either…. at first! But through lots of varying input and ideas, many failed attempts and re-attempts, the group managed to get everyone on board, and stay balanced there long enough to sing a rousing rendition of The Muffin Man. I’m not sure anyone knows why we chose this song to celebrate.
We had the chance to discuss the importance of trusting each other and trusting God, and explored some of what the Bible has to say about this (not always what you would expect)! And finally, each of us had the chance to live out that trust, falling backward off a picnic table into the waiting arms of the rest of the group. Though initially some of us were hesitant, everyone had the chance to experience the thrill of falling, and the reassurance and support of being caught by 20 or so outstretched arms.
It was fun! It was a chance to get to know each other in a different environment, and celebrate strengths and abilities in each other that we didn’t necessarily know were there. It was a chance to laugh, and then fall over, and then laugh some more. It was an opportunity for some of the younger members to let their voices be heard, and lead the group toward success. It allowed the group to affirm each member, quite literally catching her as she plummeted to the ground from atop a picnic table. It was a chance to eat two entire packages of Oreos over the course of the afternoon. It was a chance to fellowship in God’s creation on an absolutely beautiful day.
Did I mention that it was awesome?