On the morning of Wednesday, October 17, 2018, fifty-four seventh graders and seven chaperones (Dan Lazor, Cindy Flim, Betsy Tyvoll, Jamie Van Buiten, Pastor Will Reinmuth, EC parent Joe Turk, and myself) climbed aboard EC buses and left for three fun-filled days of adventure and reflection at Spruce Lake Retreat in beautiful Canadensis, PA, located in the Poconos. The outdoor education program at Spruce Lake is outstanding, and the instructors’ love of Christ and working with youth is evident. This annual seventh grade trip is an important time of strengthening old friendships, making new friends, and growing spiritually. It’s also a fantastic way for students to begin our school year and bond as an entire grade. As teachers, we have the opportunity to step outside of and away from the routines of the classroom, have times of laughter and great conversations with our students at mealtimes or while walking the trails on activities, and get to know more about the students entrusted to us for the school year.
The trip kicked off with a time of worship and singing led by Betsy Tyvoll, along with a skit by other teachers and chaperones to introduce the “My Heart, Christ’s Home” skit challenge. This booklet explains the different rooms in our hearts–the study (what we feed our minds), the rec room (how we entertain ourselves), the dining room (our wants and desires), the workroom (what we do with our time), and the hall closet–and how we need Christ to do a makeover in those rooms of our hearts to clear out anything that isn’t honoring to Him. In between the other activities, students prepared their own skits with their groups to illustrate the before and after scenarios for all rooms–except the hall closet. The adults acted out that final room since the hall closet addresses the hidden behaviors, thoughts, or secrets we try to keep hidden from others and Christ. While the other skits were fun and entertaining for the students to watch, it was evident to all that message of the hall closet was particularly memorable and meaningful.
Days began and ended with devotional times led by Pastor Will Reinmuth, father to one of the seventh grade boys. Pastor Reinmuth’s messages centered on topics such as popularity, the burdens we carry and try to hide, making Christ the Lord of your life, and being loved by Jesus with a love that transforms our hearts and lives. These impactful times seamlessly tied into, and were an extension of, both the theme of “My Heart, Christ’s Home” as well as the Biblical integration and times of prayer following the activities and lessons taught by the Spruce Lake instructors.
The rest of the time was carefully scheduled. During the mornings and afternoons, students’ groups participated in activities that included: a zip line, climbing wall, challenge course, survival ecology game, a hike up Spruce Mountain, and a visit to the gift shop. Each one of the outdoor activities provided students with an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature, step out of their comfort zones, learn to work together, and make connections to how God is at work in every detail and moment of their lives. At night, House Team groups competed in a Clue-style scavenger hunt to solve a mystery. There was also a campfire, complete with singing and s’mores, along with time to simply hang out at the game room, in the gym, or at the snack shop.
I have been on many overnight trips to Spruce Lake, and each has been a wonderful time of worship, fun, and learning. This year was no exception. The Spruce Lake trip is truly one that makes memories that will remain with students far beyond seventh grade and their middle school years.