What do Indiana Jones, theology seminars, a real camel, MU’s campus and 650 high schools students have in common? That's right: Spring Thaw. The weekend retreat, open to high school youth groups and their leaders, kicks off Friday, March 27 and concludes Sunday, March 29. Every year brings a unique theme, and 2015 is a mixture of ancient Egypt and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Youth Ministries Department Chair Dr. Rob Hildebrand has been running the event since its debut six years ago. "I do this because I really believe it's important to the kingdom," he says. "Spring Thaw has helped build community in youth groups, strengthened churches and brought kids to Christ. It helps kids experience solid teaching and grapple with deep thoughts in a world that is often shallow."
Six years ago, Andrew Alfeche was one of those kids. He remembers his first time at the retreat like it was yesterday. "I fell in love with Spring Thaw," he says. "It was an incredible experience."
During that weekend Alfeche stayed in an MU student's dorm room, where he overheard theological discussions that sparked a nagging interest in the Scriptures. "Hearing how passionate that student was about explaining the Gospel made me excited," Alfeche says, "I thought, 'If students here know the Bible that well, I want that too.'"
Two years later, Alfeche enrolled at MU. He's been volunteering at Spring Thaw ever since. "I always enjoy it so much," he says. "It's a lot more than a youth retreat. It's giving students a passion to follow Christ."
Volunteers like Alfeche have always made Spring Thaw possible. Several MU students and staff members plan, build and facilitate the retreat each year. A small group of students majoring in Youth Ministry take on larger leadership roles and serve as interns.
"This event gives them a chance to participate in some advanced youth ministry training," says Hildebrand. "They'll finish their weekend knowing they had a significant part in leading one of the larger youth ministry events in this region. It's very good experience for them in terms of skill development and résumé building."
The retreat is hosting a main speaker, Sid Koop, who will speak several times during the weekend. High school students will also attend theology seminars led by MU faculty. Hildebrand believes students learn best when they're in a balanced environment, so he developed plenty of activities, including comedy skits, a bacon bonfire, real-life Mario Kart, bubble soccer, hockey and a color war.
"Spring Thaw is a lot of work," he says. "But I believe it's important to the work God is doing in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m glad to be a part of that."
Registration is full, but visit the Spring Thaw Facebook page for more info about this retreat.