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Youth Retreat. A yearly event in which youth from across BC gather at Camp Hope to meet new and old friends, and in the process, get closer to God. This past November, I was given the opportunity to go to Youth Retreat. Before hearing about this chance to head back for a second time, I honestly didn’t feel a need to attend. As its my senior year, I have a lot on my plate; scheduling to volunteer around my community, fundraising for a mission trip in the spring, leading and planning as the class president, and many more. I felt as though I had enough of God in my life and I was doing fine on my own. But the moment I was invited to go, I almost felt like God was telling me, “Aaron, just go for the sake of it. Please go.” That’s when I made my decision. Within the next day, plans were made and I was ready to head off to Camp Hope.

With a couple of friends, we arrived Friday night to see many familiar faces. Being more of an introvert, naturally, I didn’t make much conversation. Luckily, others made it known that they were glad I was there through smiles and greetings. After a handful of meetings, we were sent off to our warm cabins for a great sleep ahead. The next morning consisted of a small devotional with Pastor Wahl and then an amazing waffle breakfast. Throughout the day we met our “family groups” (determined by people who had the same colour name tags) and performed many team-building exercises. In the afternoon, we watched the new series of episodes interpreting the Great Controversy in the modern era; The Record Keeper. The way that the plot easily shifted between episodes made it easy for those who understood the Great Controversy to know what was going on. That night, I had a chance to talk to old friends as well as meet new ones while playing several rounds of cards.

2014 Youth Retreat

The next day flew by within a blink of an eye as we completed more team- building exercises and were blessed by the many meetings that were held by Pastor Moses Ruiz. The stories he told were always entertaining, relatable, yet thought-provoking. He once told a story about a woman who was extremely independent and never needed anyone else in her life. Besides her own dog, she loved nothing else but being an athlete. While on a jog one day, she tripped and fell into a canyon. Four days later, she was finally found as a result of her neighbor that was concerned about where she had gone. On the brink of death, she finally realized a need for something greater in her life. She needed someone else to depend on. That was the moment when I found myself realizing that I couldn’t continue living a life of extreme independence because eventually, there wouldn’t be a need for God in my life. Ultimately, I found myself once again committing my life to God. As the weekend wound down on Monday morning, memories of what had happened throughout Youth Retreat re-entered my thoughts. Memories of laughing with friends, meeting new ones, and getting closer to God brought a smile to my face.

Looking back on that moment in time, I am extremely thankful that I was a part of it. I realized something valuable that weekend. In life, we tend to forget that God is right there next to us, making sure that He will be there to help us up when we fall. During that weekend, I experienced God picking me up after I had fallen spiritually. I couldn’t be more thankful for what God has done for me and what God will do for you if you allow Him into your life. Remember this: You are never too far from God to come back into His arms.

By Aaron Guillen, Oakridge Adventist Church