JoMC 711 – Writing for Digital Media

November 5, 2006

Module 11 Assignment

Filed under: Uncategorized — by cinranker @ 5:07 pm

 FreeRide 2006

Friday Afternoon

After months of planning, I’m heading to FreeRide, a retreat for middle school-aged youth.  The Delaware-Maryland Synod (District) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) sponsors it every year.  This year I was on the planning team.  It was a lot of hard work and I’m just hoping that the kids have a great time and it goes fairly smoothly.  It’s being held at the YMCA Camp Letts, near Annapolis, Maryland so it takes me about an hour to get there.

Friday Evening

I got to Camp Letts just in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the West River.  Sunset at Camp LettsThe water is framed by woods – and the trees are striking because of the brightly colored leaves.  It is a great setting, but it is cold!  After the sunset I realize there is an almost-full moon.

The youth start arriving at about 6:30pm.  I am helping with registration.  There are about 13 different churches here with a total of 70 youth, 15 adult chaperones and 20 adult volunteers.  Seventy highly excited middle schoolers converged in one room!  Chaos reigns for a little while, but then they had to get settled in their cabins and meet in the main hall.

There’s always high energy at the beginning of the retreat and that proved true tonight.  The youth were reasonably behaved, though.  The Chaplain for the event is also the musician (I love low budgets!), but the kids seem to connect with him.   It might help that he looks like he’s about 20 years old.

The Chaplain introduces the theme for the week end, “Walk the Talk, Following in the Footsteps of Jesus.”  Sounds catchy, but what they are really going to learn about is service and compassion.  There are speakers and a couple of service projects scheduled during the week end. 

Saturday Morning

There is still high energy in the main room this morning.  I’m surprised everyone made it to breakfast by 8am, but I hear from the chaperones that not much sleeping went on in their cabins last night.  Usually I’m the one who is bringing a group of youth from my church to these events, but not so this time.  Instead, I got a fairly good night’s sleep.

A full day is planned between small groups, large gatherings, games, a ropes course, and service projects.

Large gatherings:  There are speakers who tell their stories – stories of disabilities, poverty, illness – and how the love of God (coming by way of family and friends) has gotten them through it.

All of them were good, but Mandy especially held everyone’s attention.  She talked about being born with spina bifida and about the 79 surgeries she has had to endure in 30 years.  She is upbeat most of the time, but gets a little teary when she talks about the last time she walked, when she was 14 years old (she is now 30).  She said, “I remember the very last time I walked.  I came off the plane from the Dallas National Youth Gathering.”  The kids are mesmerized.

At the end of her talk, she asks for volunteers.  Two youth had to sit in chairs and try to put pants on without getting out of the chair – not an easy task.  Mandy then sent one youngster to the bathroom in a wheelchair to see if it was handicapped accessible.  Guess what?  It wasn’t. 

Saturday afternoon

The adults were definitely dragging by mid afternoon, but the kids were ready to go.  All of the youth participated in a ropes course, a service project, and an outside game.

The service project was one sponsored by the Lutheran Mission Society in Baltimore.  I never saw a group of 11 to 13 year-olds sit so quietly while they learned how to sort clothes: summer, winter, recycle and fold.  And sort they did, bags and bags of donated clothing.

My job at this point is to go to each of the activities, to make sure everything is going all right and to take a few pictures.  I do, but I am cold and tired, so I don’t spend much time outside.  I go inside to talk with some of the adult chaperones, but end up falling asleep at one of the dining room tables!  Having had my power nap, I’m ready for the evening activities.

The only incident of the afternoon involved a sprained ankle, thanks to a game of dodge ball.  The ankle was badly bruised and swollen, so we had to call the mother to come and get her daughter.  Neither of them were happy about that.

Saturday night

More singing and more speakers and the youth seem to be enjoying it, still

Small groups continued, but I wasn’t allowed in the sessions.  Each group consisted of about 8-10 youth with one group leader.  Each group had the same curriculum to follow, which reinforced the theme of the week end.  Until tonight the small groups were going well.  When we gathered for worship at 9pm I heard many complaints from leaders that several children were rowdy during group time.

Despite that, there were no behavior problems during worship.  It might be because it was only 30 minutes long and there was no sermon, just quiet time.  The youth were actually quiet at the appropriate times.

Saturday night ended with a movie – “Over the Hedge.”  The children were allowed to change into their pajamas.  Popcorn and candy added to the “movie theater” atmosphere.  Not many fell asleep during the movie, but they were ready for bed when it ended at about 11:30pm.

 Waiting to bat

Sunday morning

I can’t believe it’s the last day of the retreat and it has gone so smoothly.  I heard many conversations between the youth that indicated even they knew it was coming to an end. “Take my picture with Valerie before we leave.”  Thankfully, I knew some of them had formed friendships with others their age who they had never known before.  With email and instant messaging these friendships might last a while.

Final Worship and good-byes

The final worship also went well with each small group giving a short presentation about what they learned during the week end.  The high energy at the beginning of the retreat had definitely dissipated.  We were ready to head home and to our own beds.

The surprise of the week end came at the very end when one of the small group leaders jumped into the river.  I can’t imagine how cold that was!

The extensive planning had paid off.  I think the youth had a good time and actually learned something.  I feel good about the event, and also relieved!

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