Spring Thaw is over. The event that took months of dreaming, planning and building successfully transformed one weekend into 44 hours full of unforgettable games, teaching, laughter, worship, Disney characters and donuts (check out the Spring Thaw photo album!).
Out of the 825 high school students and youth leaders at the event, seven took time to share their Spring Thaw experiences.
'It was an encouragement'
Emma Barnett and Amanda Foreman, freshman from Redemptive Church in Duval, Washington, were Spring Thaw first-timers. "I think the event is a great idea," said Barnett "Everyone did a great job organizing everything. And I loved the shows and activities."
Barnett and Foreman agreed that their favorite activity was Library Laser Tag, where they tip-toed, slunk and ran through the darkened MU library with laser guns rented from a local party store. But a theology seminar led by seminary professor Dr. Val Clemen left a deeper impression. Both girls were struck by Clemen's life story, which heavily emphasized the importance of forgiveness. "It was an encouragement," said Foreman.
Barnett agreed. "Her story made me want to love people more," she said. "Especially my enemies — because they have it worse."
'A lot of growth and bonding'
Millie Dugger, another Spring Thaw first-timer, has been a youth leader at Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon, for six years. As a married woman who works full-time, Dugger has limited time with her youth group each week. Spring Thaw was a refreshing break from normal routine.
"What meant the most to me was having 44 hours of uninterrupted time with my girls," she said. "MU provided and planned everything, so we didn't have to cook and clean up! I saw God reveal opportunities to pray with the girls and be more present since I didn't have an agenda. A lot of growth and bonding happened because of it."
'God's love is always there'
One of the girls in Dugger's youth group, Ashley Smith, also valued the freedom the retreat gave her to build relationships with others. Smith said she expected to meet new people and play lots of fun games during the weekend. But what she didn't expect were the teachings about love and peace that speaker Chap Clark shared with students. "Chap was very motivational and inspirational," she said. "He talked about love in a way we could understand."
The message of hope was just what the senior needed."Society is so caught up with fitting in, but I learned that God's love is always there and that you can find peace," she said. "I've been going through some stressful times, and it was good to be reminded of that."
Smith encourages all high school students to attend the event if they can. "When you have the chance to go, just go for it, and don't be nervous" she said. "I didn't see anyone being left out. Spring Thaw will give you the opportunity to be stronger and make more friends in the Christian community."
'It was intense'
Tim Blank, a senior from Abundant Life Church in Sandy, Oregon, also appreciated the sense of community he felt during the weekend. "It was intense," he said. "I learned about how important it is to respect people and to actually act like we're brothers and sisters in Christ."
And although Blank loved the activities and teaching, he was quick to credit the volunteers that made the retreat happen. "I think it's great that MU can open up and do this for us," he said. "It says a lot about the school. I'm glad I got to be here."
Jason Chess, Blank's youth leader, felt the same way. "This is such a great event that our high schoolers can get excited for," he said. "And it's a safe place for them."
'God has a place for me'
Eric Irvin, from Mid Valley Community Church in Woodburn, Oregon, thought the weekend was transformative.
"I definitely have different feelings toward other people now," he said. "I'm more accepting because I know God made them in his image."
Irvin especially liked the worship sessions. "Singing songs is one of my favorite ways to connect with God," he said. "This is a place to get away from the worldly things and praise him. MU is not only open and welcoming — God's presence is here too."
As the sophomore prepared for the drive home with his youth group, he felt encouraged. "I've had a lot of struggles lately," he said. "But I learned that God has a place for me in this world."
Spring Thaw is an annual event put on my MU's youth ministry program.