This article first appeared in the email newsletter of St. Philip’s, Charleston.
“How was your weekend?” my beautiful wife asked me.
“It was …” was all I could say as my 80-pound beast of a dog almost knocked me to the ground upon my return from Regenerate.
Regenerate is a youth retreat designed for high school students to grow closer to the Lord Jesus. For 20 years, this event has been held at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center. This year’s theme was HOPE. What is biblical hope, and how do we live it in our daily lives?
The speaker was Jacob Graudin, son of Steve and Tracy Graudin and former youth grouper at St. Philip’s. I can’t even begin to put into words the joy I had sitting at the feet of one of my former students as he preached the Gospel that saves, all weekend long. Jacob built an incredible foundation for the students to grow from through his three teachings. He tied personal stories of suffering and deep theological points together to formulate a beautiful tapestry of biblical hope for this young generation of Christ-followers.
The Birdsongs were our worship band, and they did a tremendous job of playing songs that tied right into Jacob’s talks and the scripture that we were studying all weekend. The Birdsongs come from Tennessee and are a family, three brothers and a sister. They all play every instrument you can think of: mandolin, bass, guitar, drums, keyboard and violin to create a sublime cacophony of melodies. I kept thinking to myself, “Man, I would love to go to Christmas at their house!” They played a beautiful hymn called “This is my Father’s world,” which Jacob pointed out to us was J.R.R. Tolkien’s favorite hymn and part of the inspiration behind Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Peter Jackson, who filmed the Hobbit series, had that hymn woven into the score for all three films. The Birdsongs played new songs and the old classic hymns with joy and passion and helped create an environment for the Holy Spirit to go to work on our hearts.
As the band played beautifully, I was off to the side praying and giving thanks for life, when one of my students tapped me and wanted some prayer! Tears instantly started to flow down both of our cheeks as God united us in the Hope of the Resurrection. His grandfather had passed away recently, and he was missing him and loving on the memory of his legacy.
I was praying again, and a random student from another youth group came up to me and sobbed. I said, “Is there anything I can pray for?” He just looked into my eyes and said, “I am just so thankful for all that God has done in my life, and I just wanted to express that to someone!” We praised God together, for His steadfast love endures forever!
Regenerate has it all and provides a beautiful time and space to draw still, unplug from technology, and grow as a group. It offers memory-creating moments from our small group prayer time, to corporate liturgy, games, meals, and fellowship with youth from all over the diocese. Our group always makes inside jokes that bring us laughs years later, and this year it was Italian accents! “Bada bing, bada boom, forget about it!” There was a moment that would be hard to forget. During small group time, we were sharing and praying, and our eyes were drawn to the radiance of the sunset. At that exact moment, a family of deer came out of the forest to the dunes. The sun bathed them in the golden light, and the hymn “This Is My Father’s World” rang true in our hearts.
Please join me in praying that the eternal seeds of hope planted in the hearts and minds of the youth will grow 20, 40, 60, 80, 100-fold for the Kingdom of God!
by David Louis Gilbert, Youth Minister, St. Philip’s, Charleston