What would life be like if your only possessions were a pencil, glow stick, pie pan, and a spork?
Twenty teenagers and 10 volunteers from across the Little Kanawha District got to find out during the annual Winter Retreat at Crossroads Camp Jan. 17-19. This year’s theme was built around The Boxcar Children, the 1924 novel by Gertrude Chandler Warner that explores the fictional lives of four orphaned children who make a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the woods.
And while the event followed a similar pattern as previous youth retreats at Crossroads — games, activities, worship, and food — this time, there was a twist. Participants were instructed to leave their belongings in the main lodge, taking only a pillow and blanket to their sleeping cabins. No books. No cellphones. No toothbrushes. And no pajamas. “There were some concerns of, ‘I have to wear these clothes all night?’” said Retreat Coordinator Lisa Withee.
At this year’s retreat, students saw a glimpse of what life might be like for people who don’t have families, homes, or any of life’s luxuries. But they also learned about God as a defender of orphans, widows, and foreigners. Withee, a self-described 42-year Crossroads camper and president of the Crossroads Board, designed the weekend around scriptures including Psalms 68:5 and 10:14, as well as Deuteronomy 10:18-19, which touch on God’s care for people in need.
Cold temperatures and rainy skies were the weekend’s backdrop as the youth explored these themes and “how God gives us hope and purpose despite difficulties, and how to bring humanity to those our society tends to misjudge or pass by,” said Rev. Brian Daugherty.
Activities included worship, a challenge to construct a shelter using decks of cards, Biblical discussion groups, and a viewing of The Boxcar Children cartoon. The district’s newly formed Performing Arts Ministry presented an adaptation of Montana Jones and the Gymnasium of Doom by Wade Bradford, adapted by Rev. Robin McQuain and led by McQuain, Rev. Rod Blanchard, and Associate Pastor Cassie Kile.
Retreat participants included teens from United Methodist Churches across the Little Kanawha District, as well as students from other denominations and non-denominations. Many of them have attended numerous youth retreats at Crossroads.
“The people here are really friendly. It’s like a little family,” said Abby Broadwater, a participant from Fellowship Baptist Church in Vienna. “And it’s so much fun, it makes me want to come back again.”
Crossroads Camp has recently undergone some changes, including the rebuilding of cabins, new beds, and outdoor LED lighting. A new multipurpose building is currently underway, as is a new chapel which was far enough along in the construction phase to host youth retreat participants for a communion service led by Rev. Jamie Sprague.
Those wishing to donate to the camp’s Greater Things campaign may do so on the Little Kanawha District’s website.
(First two photos by Rev. Brian Daugherty; third photo by Jennifer Greene)