Great Lakes Adventist Academy students sang during Friday's communion service. | Photo credit: Dave Sherwin
Against a backdrop of fiery autumn colors, almost 50 academy students attending leadership camp pledged to dedicate a year of their life to mission.
The students were part of a group of 75 from seven Lake Union academies who gathered Oct. 3-6 at Camp Au Sable in preparation for leadership roles in their schools. Training took the form of general sessions discussing leadership principles, sectional meetings for different student leadership roles, fellowship with leaders from different schools, and time for reflection and planning with their sponsors.
For over twenty years, the Lake Union Education Department has organized a leadership camp for junior and senior student leaders; this year featured some unique aspects.
Some students from Indiana Academy gained practical experience as the worship team. “The Lord led in that regard,” said Ruth Horton, Lake Union associate director of Education who oversaw planning for the event. “I had planned to ask one of the music teachers to lead the music, but he recommended a student, Ben Kwon, who leads praise and worship at his school and church. He pulled together a group of students to help him, and I met and prayed with them. I was very impressed with their intentionality in preparing for this.”
Asking students at the conference to facilitate worship at each meeting was not the only change made this year. “We added a sectional meeting for dormitory resident assistants,” Horton explained. “There was interest in having a sectional for this last year, and I asked Matt Hill, vice principal at Great Lakes Adventist Academy, to lead it because he has a lot of experience and loves serving as dean.”
The weekend speaker, Center for Youth Evangelism director, Ron Whitehead, challenged the group to ponder the questions: “What is your definition of greatness? More importantly, what is God’s definition of greatness?” He shared about his own high school leadership experiences and the importance of treating everyone as someone important, which students were immediately able to put into practice as they washed each other’s feet.
Students took a break from their sessions on Friday afternoon to enjoy a variety of pursuits, including basketball, hiking, canoeing and driving go-carts. A new recreation activity for Friday afternoon, horseback riding, was added this year. “I really enjoyed horseback riding,” said Elizabeth Bateman, a senior at Battle Creek Academy. “I liked being able to bond with an animal that I love. I don’t get to do that very often.”
As they enjoyed the beautiful fall colors and time with friends both old and new, students looked forward to the spiritual highlights of the weekend, beginning with vespers.
The focus shifted from their relationships with others to their relationship with God as they shared communion, contemplating Camp Au Sable director Ken Micheff’s message about the disciples’ relationships with Jesus and the stark difference between Judas and the others. He issued a call for students to dedicate a year of their lives to service before they turn 25, and more than 40 responded.
Nathan Fernandez, Andrews Academy senior, was one of the students who stood up. For him, it was a decision which came naturally. “In my sectional breakout, we talked about being part of something bigger than yourself. That inspired me to not so much focus on me and just getting my education done as soon as possible, but being part of something bigger than myself and bringing other people to Christ.”
On Sabbath, Andrews University students led in worship and asked yet another important set of questions: “Do young people need the church?” and “Does the church need young people?” The resounding response was yes!
Beyond the retreat
As they return to their schools, students take the theme of “greatness” with them. After this weekend, some leaders were thinking of simply going back to basics. Jalend Hardy, junior, Battle Creek Academy said, “I think one thing I’d like to try is doing a prayer with the school every morning over the speaker system at our school so everyone can worship together.”
Senior Hinsdale Adventist Academy student Isaac Webb had a similar plan. “One idea we talked about was a prayer committee of all the pastors in our school. People can come to get prayer if they get the urge, and we can pray with them.”
Jacob Pierce, junior at Great Lakes Adventist Academy, is a class pastor and wants to figure out a time for morning dorm worships and devotional thoughts. “Our Bible teacher runs in the morning, and I thought we could invite more people to that in order to pray with us and have a devotional thought.” Another opportunity is visiting people in the community with his church pastor. “I’d like to have good conversations with them — what they want to see me doing, help them, see where they are.”
Cade Bolin, senior at Indiana Academy, was one of the worship leaders for the weekend and said he learned the importance of prayer. “I’m hoping to mentor other students at my school,” he said, “and prepare them to be leaders by sharing the characteristics of Christ with them.”
Many students expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet other students which allowed for cross-pollination of ideas. For instance, Andrews Academy junior Giancarlo Leonor said one idea he has is to do a vespers rake day where we rake leaves for people in the community and then have a vesper at the end of the day where everyone can come together. “We’re not a boarding school, so we want to draw people in and build our community.”
Adrian Pichardo, senior at Grand Rapids Adventist Academy, said he was moved to return to his school and try to involve the newer classes. “We heard a story about an eighth-grader invited to participate in gymnastics. One older kid devoted his time to helping him, and he lost time with his friends to be there. I want to be the person, like him, who helps others feel comfortable.”
Abigail Lopez, senior, Wisconsin Academy, is also looking forward to placing a greater priority on her classmates’ well-being. “I plan to reach out more because sometimes I only reach out to specific people,” she said. “I pray that God will give me Jesus’ eyes and see the people that need me. Everyone has a purpose and some people don’t know theirs — that is what we are here for. I also plan to be more confident about my leadership skills. God is preparing me. You’re never ready for leadership, but God prepares you through your mistakes and through people.”
Janelle Sundin, Battle Creek Academy English teacher