What do you get when you put 35 third- through eighth-grade girls and 15 women all in the Upper Lodge at Camp Hope in Hope, N.J. for a weekend? How about 20 third- through eighth-grade girls and ten women in the lodge at Camp Zimmerman outside of Gnadenhutten, Ohio for a weekend?
I can tell you from personal experience what we got at two Girls’ Retreats this past January and March: two of the most spiritually uplifting, laughter-inducing, joy-filled weekends you could imagine. God was definitely at work not only in the planning of the weekends, but also in the lives of the campers and staff. And we’re getting ready to do it all again in 2016.
A weekend underway
Both weekends started with the girls arriving at camp and taking “selfies” (self portraits) to be used later in the weekend. After some interesting getting-to-know-you games, we began to focus on who we are in God’s eyes.
Every girl was asked to write down all of the negative things that she had been told about herself on a piece of paper. As the girls worked, the staff joined in the same exercise. Some of us took longer than others, but in no time, we were able to fill a cardboard box, covered in gray dots, with all of the negativity that we had heard about ourselves.
After spending some time talking about how it felt to not only initially hear those things, but also to get rid of them, we heard a reading from Max Lucado’s book You are Special. At the end of the story, the “box of negativity” was placed into the fireplace and all those mean, hurtful things were burned and gone. The relief on the faces of the campers as well as the staff was amazing to witness; the girls in Ohio broke out into a round of applause and cheering.
That’s how the mood of the weekends was set. Get rid of the bad and make room for the good.
Being God’s Masterpieces
We spent Saturday focusing on being God’s Masterpiece using Ephesians 2:10* as our focus scripture for the morning. We came up with many ideas about how we can be God’s masterpieces and what it is that God is calling us to do.
To further the idea of being a masterpiece, each camper and staff member made an “all about me” poster incorporating their “selfie” taken the night before. On our posters, we listed our families and shared many interesting, goofy and fascinating facts about ourselves. Glue, glitter, stickers and feathers helped make the posters even more colorful. Everyone was given a chance to share their poster and talk a bit about themselves. And as we shared our posters, we spent a little more time focusing on a gospel lesson from Matthew 16:13–16, the passage where Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?”
We played several rounds of a popular camp game called “Shuffle Your Butt.” During this game everyone sits in a circle and the person in the middle calls out something like “Shuffle your butt if you are wearing something green” then everyone wearing green has to find a new seat.
We tweaked the game a bit and said things like “Shuffle your butt if you have ever been called short” and after several rounds of hearing some negative reminders again we changed the tone of the game completely. Each staff member shared positive statements with the girls by saying things like, “You are amazing,” “You are unique” and “You are wonderful.” Then we started the game again… this time saying “Shuffle your butt If anyone has ever told you that you are amazing, unique, wonderful, etc.”
Lessons in T-shirts and glow sticks
After some much-needed free time, we gathered for the evening activities which included decorating t-shirts and watching a movie. On the front of the t-shirt was a screen-printed tree. We directed each camper to fill their tree with leaves of positive attributes and if they wished, to draw leaves of negative attributes lying on the ground. Everyone was then given time to sign the back of everyone else’s t-shirts to serve as a reminder that even when we would no longer be together, we still had each other’s backs.
After watching the movie “Tangled,” each girl received some glow sticks. The lesson behind the glow sticks was that in order to truly shine, we all have to be broken and through our brokenness our light can be a beacon to others. Only through our brokenness can we truly shine… a glow stick only works if it’s broken. The scripture focus for the evening’s vespers was Matthew 5:14, which includes “You are the light of the world.”
“Fearfully and wonderfully made”
As we began the process of getting ready to go home on Sunday morning, our focus scripture was Psalm 139:14: “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our hope and prayer was to send each of the girls home with as many positive reminders of the weekend as possible.
To do that, every camper received a small white box that had been filled with all of the positive statements that the counselors shared during Saturday’s game of “Shuffle your Butt” plus positive comments that the campers had written down for each other. After spending some time decorating their boxes, each girl also received a mirror with her name across the top and positive words written all around the edges by the staff to serve as a reminder that regardless of what they see when they look in the mirror, the staff sees all of the positives.
God-inspired, God-filled weekends
These two weekends were definitely God-inspired and God-filled. The staff of both weekends shared how God was at work and the girls all left seemingly happier than when they had arrived.
These Girls’ Retreat weekends are available for girls in grades 3–8 in the Eastern District. The 2016 retreat will take place Friday, January 29th–Sunday, January 31st at Hope Conference and Renewal Center in Hope, New Jersey. Space is limited to 36 girls so please register soon. Registration forms are available through your church office. The Ohio retreat dates will be scheduled soon so be sure to check with your church office for further information. ■
Rev. Jodie L. Harney is pastor of Mountainview Moravian Hellertown, Pa. Camp Hope photos by Cathy Moyzan.