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It was a long drive from Pendleton, Ore., to Camp MiVoden overlooking Hayden Lake outside of Hayden, Idaho. Leaders and teens with the Pendleton Pathfinder Club piled into two cars to head up for Pathfinder Teen retreat January 26-28, 2019. As it turned out, the 508 mile round trip proved to be more than worth it.

Friday evening Pathfinders from all over the Upper Columbia Conference (and even two from Montana) arrived ready for a Spirit-filled weekend. Kids found their assigned cabins, got settled in, and headed down for an amazing dinner. The cafeteria buzzed with conversations, Pathfinders catching up with fellow Pathfinders they only get to see at such events. 

After dinner we all headed for our first worship service of the weekend. The speaker for this retreat was Pastor Jared Spano from the Pasco Riverview Adventist Church. Over the course of the weekend, Pastor Jared spoke about righteousness by faith. He managed, however, to present it in a way that shed new light on this topic to most, if not all, in attendance. Every time he spoke the teens were so engrossed that you could hear a pin drop. After giving it some thought, I realized it was because when he spoke, you didn’t hear or see him, you heard Jesus. He was real with the kids. He was honest and shared heart-breaking circumstances he and his wife have endured. His relationship with Christ was evident and those listening were drawn to Christ through him. At the end of Friday night’s worship he asked, “Do you want to be closer to God?” I looked around the room in amazement as I heard kids whispering, “yes,” and they meant it.

The Sabbath afternoon activity was a Pathfinder version of the Amazing Race. Kids were given the chance to get to know and engage with Pathfinders from other clubs as teams were randomly put together from all the clubs. Several stations were set up, each with a different activity and spiritual lesson. For instance, one was moving gum balls from one bowl to another with chop sticks. The verse that went with it was Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much…” At the completion of each activity the team received a stamp in their “passport.” When it was over, no team had completed every task and won all the points. The Pastor pointed out, “None of us are capable of getting any stamps in our passport. God is the winner for us. God covers everything we do with His perfection and Glory.”

“I enjoyed the fun experiences, meeting new people, and the speaker was really good,” said Gianna Bella of the South Hill Southern Lights Pathfinder club.

Laura Luke from the Spokane Valley Trailblazers said “I’ve been to a lot of Teen Retreats and this is the best one. I loved roasting marshmallows on the beach. It was really relaxing.” 

All the Clearwater Pathfinders were first time attendees and agreed they wanted to come back again. The general consensus from every teen I spoke to was, “The speaker was really good!”

In speaking with Pastor Jared after the event, he shared that he had had many come to him, both teen and adult alike, sharing their own painful stories and how his stories had touched them. Pastor Jared’s goal was to connect with the kids over the weekend. He strove to accomplish this not by coming across as “cool” to the kids, but by being real with them. Everyone left with a better picture of Christ than they had come with.

Teen Retreat was, indeed, about relationships, both with Christ and each other. New friendships were made, old ones grew deeper, and the character of Christ became clearer. 

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