On Tuesday, we headed up to St. Cloud, MN for our annual middle school retreat. This is something both Dan and I were looking so incredibly forward to because we feel when you get out of the “normal” setting of life, you can really build relationships. That is exactly what happened. We absolutely LOVED this past week and we were so thankful to be a part of a ministry with such wonderful kids. They made us laugh so hard and we just love the way they love life.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud (which I would recommend). It had volleyball and basketball courts, multiple pools and hot tubs, and just a great set up – perfect place for a retreat with active kids. On Wednesday after our devo/solo time, we went to the mall – it is QUITE a bit larger than the mall we have in Willmar, so it was a good change. They may look a little bored here…though we spent about 4 hours there, which is a long time!
One of the couples who are leaders with us, just had a baby and we had the joy on loving on their lil’ one the whole week. Here one of our kids is keeping that little bundle of joy content as can be! It was so cute to see the girls love on him!
At night we went to St. John’s Abbey. I had personally been to monastery before when I was in college, but that was over 10 years ago (man I am old!) so it was a good reminder of what the monks are all about. The campus was absolutely GORGEOUS. Across the one of 11,000 lakes in Minnesota on the campus of the monastery, sat a beautiful church.
Forget planking – especially when you have a recreation of a familiar scene from the movie Titanic!
The baptistry right inside the monastery
On the north side of the monastery, is a wall that is comprised of 430 concrete hexagons, which also when completed, was the largest stained glass window in the entire United States. (I am assuming it is not anymore).
A picture cannot capture the beauty of these windows – absolutely stunning.
Sitting in the pew, one can’t help but just gaze at the sights of the worship space.
The outside of St. John’s University/Abbey can be seen from quite a distance – the cross that stands in the middle of large concrete wall, which stands 112 feet high and the largest bell in the middle weights 8,030 pounds. What looks like a beehive on the outside is actually the stained glass window.
We sat in on their 7:00 service, which was a great experience. They prayed/sang from the Psalms (which is part of their daily rituals), while reading from scripture as well. Though their belief system is different than ours in various ways, we were all challenged to be STILL and know that God is God. The kids gained much from the experience and the debriefing time we had, was just as valuable.
On the drive home, we came across these vine man-made “houses.” Below is a description of what “Lean on Me” really is. Looks beautiful from the outside, but a few of our kids found ticks on themselves (not embedded thankfully), so one must beware!
Some of the girls…
The women leaders and the girls photobombing our pic :).
On Thursday we went to Quarry Park. We had never swam in a quarry before so we were quite intrigued and pumped (the kids were too).
It was the PERFECT DAY for it! We were supposed to go on Wednesday, but it was raining and cold so we were thankfully we switched up the schedule! Being a quarry, the water was quite cold – so cold it took your breath away.
One of the best parts of the quarry? CLIFF JUMPING! Now if you know K-ristin, you know that I do NOT like heights. AT ALL. This cliff was 30 some feet high and when you get to the top and peer over the edge, it is a different story. My heart was absolutely racing and I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I saw 2 people jump and knew I just had to go. So I did! Dan had jumped down (that is actually Dan below, jumping, with an inflatable mattress) and apparently when I jumped and screamed the scream of death, I had a look of absolute terror. Yes, I was so scared, but it was the biggest adrenaline rush I had had in a long time. Below is a pic of the boys daring each other to jump. I know it doesn’t look very high in the picture, but you land so hard that when Dan hit the water, he got these weird marks on his arms as they hit the water (one other kid did too). Why the mattress? It was a long swim back (and COLD) so we wanted to make sure that if someone wasn’t able to keep afloat, that we had a way to get them back. I know, it sounds so unsafe, but honestly we made sure it was safe. Quarries are VERY deep (as in over 100 feet) so you have to tread water the whole time. Dan being a former raft guide, knows how to find rocks, so we made sure there were no rocks when jumping. Everyone stayed safe and hope to go again sometime!
So proud of the kids!
Even though it was an absolutely perfect day weather-wise, the bugs sure had some good eatin’!
On Friday, we went to Mensinger Gardens (think that is the name) for a picnic lunch and then headed to Coldstone Creamery. The gardens were so beautiful and again, such a gorgeous day to be out and about outside!
We had such a wonderful time with the kids! It was SO much fun playing volleyball with them, laughing, braiding hair, telling jokes, eating, and just doing life together. Dan did a series on “The Word” and though it was geared towards students, I personally gained so much from the lessons as well. In other words, it wasn’t just a time of building relationships, but also of growing spiritually. Those kids are such loving, caring, helpful, and just fun kids to be around. Feeling blessed to be a part of their lives and praising God for such a wonderful week with them!
I have to admit I miss them already!