Actively Practicing Sabbath: Youth Beach Retreat
Hey everyone! My name is Caroline Garcia. I am currently a Senior in High School and a Youth Intern for White Memorial. I attended the White Memorial Beach retreat for the final time this past September, and I would love to reflect on my experience and share the importance of actively putting the Sabbath into practice.
The Beach retreat is an annual event, taking place every September at Emerald Isle, North Carolina for High School youth. We stay for one night but pack two days’ worth of fun activities in addition to relaxing sabbath practices. When we arrived at the Trinity Center, we quickly ate lunch and headed straight to the beach. We stayed on the beach for around four hours, playing cornhole, swimming, reading, or just tanning. Being able to relax after a stressful school week and have fun with your friends is so special. As I reflect on my past retreats, I am so grateful for this time that I have been able to repeat three times over, just being able to be kids and drop any worries that we had back in Raleigh. The thing that is so special about our group of youth specifically, is the inclusivity we share. There are no cliques, no exclusive groups. My close friend Patrick Miller, a sophomore, said, “I loved the retreat. I didn’t feel like I was in an underclassmen “clique” because I know everyone well and it feels like one big group of friends and had an even higher connection than the middle school retreats.” Everyone makes an effort to include everyone, and we only get closer with every trip we spend together.
We proceeded to eat dinner at the Trinity Center and then head straight to Dairy Queen. The food is always good, but most importantly, sharing meals with your friends in faith makes each meal even more special. You get to catch up on each other’s busy lives at school, but it also feels like you start right where you left off with them. To end the night, we had a campfire and devotional. The stars illuminate the sky, and the quietness of dusk makes the conversations more intimate and special. During our campfire, we discussed what Sabbath meant to us. We focused on Matthew 11:28-30. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Before the retreat, I was asked how teens resonate with the Sabbath, and what teens need to hear right now. Teens are busier than ever, and more stressed than ever before, reporting to have the worst mental health of any generation. What teens need right now is support. We need to be heard, and we need rest, Sabbath. What these verses successfully achieve is the latter. Jesus personally addresses us, making us feel heard and seen. If we trust in him and give ourselves to him, He will give us rest and we can take refuge in him. My favorite part of this verse says, “my burden is light.” Jesus effectively communicates to us that he is accessible and approachable. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that we don’t need to be perfect for God to accept us; he will unconditionally love us and take the burden off our shoulders. We heard from other teens on the retreat during our devotional time sharing their thoughts. They all came to one consensus, we need rest, and God can provide that for us.
On Sunday, we began the day bright and early with a sunrise worship on the water. The views are gorgeous, and God’s presence surrounds us. We had silent time, taking things slow to reflect on our fast-paced lives. Everyone had a role in worship and was able to connect with one another and their faith. Lastly, we ate lunch and headed to Beaufort for our catamaran ride. We spent half of the day relaxing on the boat, stopping at Cape lookout, swimming, tanning, and getting splashed by water on the nets of the boat. Once the speaker starts blasting music, the party starts, and everyone has a blast from start to finish. Having these times to enjoy life with people we cherish and share our faith with is soul healing, and mind replenishing. We give Sabbath our own meaning, by being intentional with our time and cherishing every moment we have before we go back to Raleigh. Although we still have responsibilities we have to uphold at home, we take a piece of the beach retreat with us and take refuge in God’s arms.