This was written by Emily Hur, an 8th grader in Merge :)
What are retreats? When you look up, “What is a church retreat?” on Google, the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia definition, “a definite time (from a few hours in length to a month) spent away from one's normal life for the purpose of reconnecting, usually in prayer, with God.” In the busyness of life, especially a teenager like me, we tend to forget to put God first. Time spent away from things like school, our phones, social media, and even family to spend time with God instead, move our hearts to be refreshed and reminded that God needs to be at the top of our everyday list. During this retreat at Camp Shiloh, with Metro Merge and X, I was reminded of the grateful heart that I have to carry daily for our Father.
The sermons that Pastor Paul Kim gave were convicting and real. He spoke about how we have to focus on our blessings instead of others’ in order to be thankful for what we have and how we need to let the gospel penetrate our hearts. I remembered that I had so much to be grateful for to God in my life, and how lately I had been taking those things for granted. I was able to have fellowship with my small group and everyone else during meals and games, and I was able to see the ways in which God blessed them.
There was a specific point where I was touched and could really feel God’s love and sacrifice. During the last night of small groups, we had just finished the gratefulness tree activity. I had to use the bathroom butwhen I came back, everyone was holding papers. Teacher Monica handed me an envelope and said, “It’s from your parents.” I took it and sat down. I read the first words, “To our dearest Emily”, and tears begin to form. I had an argument with my mom in the car the day of the retreat, and I had suddenly snapped at her and disrespected her unintentionally. I had gotten out of the car wiping my tears and feeling upset and guilty. She had written the letter before we had fought, and I felt the emotions that arguing with your parents tends to bring. I was clearly in the wrong, but she forgave so quickly and easily because I was her daughter and she loved me. Typically, I never cry but I felt tears threatening to fall as I read on. The words that were typed were the things she’d say everyday to me, like, “I love you”, “you are a talented girl”, “we’re so proud of you”, “you're His beloved”, and “you’re growing up so fast”, but for some reason it was different this time around.
We went around to share about what we felt, I said the first word and I started to cry.
I thought about times I have made mistakes but my mom and dad would love me the same. As I cried, I realized that if my parents loved me this much, how much more must God love me? It’s extraodinary that the God of the universe would love me so, so much, especially since I was not perfect. I have heard it spoken to me a thousand times but this time I surrendered any doubts I may have had and my heart acquiescently complied. Precious, memorable moments like these happen at retreats when all other distractions are cleared away, and we can feel the presence and love of God in silent worship. This is what I experienced on the retreat.