Day Three | Woodlands Camp
by Craig Konchak, Middle School Principal
Remnants of NEON marked the face, neck, arms and legs of every MS camper as the sun rose over the smoke-filled hills of Cleveland, Georgia, on Day 3 of the 2019 retreat. Slow and steady, students rose from their sleeping bags and cabins toward breakfast. The faculty, peppered with cramps, exhaustion, sore feet, tired eyes and achy backs, moved like zombies in the apocalypse toward that liquid gold we call coffee. With a full heart and a full stomach, Day 3 had begun!
After breakfast, students were dismissed to pack their bags, clean their cabins and prepare for the journey home. It was a camping-gear marathon as our kiddos dropped off their bags at the U-haul and headed to chapel.
Bursting with anticipation for the “color squad championship reveal,” they waited with baited breath for the announcement. Instantly, a collision between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat arose as Mr. Williams raised the microphone to announce that team ORANGE had won the day. In all their glory, the orange team and their fearless leader, Twila McMullan, hoisted the RESCUE life saver toward the sky in victory as each team member signed the emblem of a valiant effort.
Hearts and minds were stirred as Mr. Williams reminded each student of their impact on each other and on the Creator they served. Given an opportunity to present a personal testimony, students shared some of the roses from their experiences. Many students came forward to reiterate how Algernon’s messages impacted their lives throughout their time at retreat.
As Mr. Konchak prepared to close the final session of the 2019 retreat with an Irish lullaby, hope was reignited in the realization that there was always next year! Suddenly…a new enthusiasm had emerged, like clockwork, well oiled boys and girls began to move throughout the campus picking up trash and contributing to camp cleanup.
Then it was off to class meetings, as each grade level discussed the upcoming MS student government elections. Teachers passionately emphasized the qualities necessary for this tremendous undertaking. Their spirits topped off with encouragement, students were released to the ga-ga ball pit, gym, and swing porch before the lunch bell rang.
The scent of BBQ filled the air as students were drawn to their last camp meal at Woodlands. After a time of laughter and camaraderie at lunch, the buses were loaded, and each student looked over their shoulder to the emerald green lake to say goodbye.
Memories had been made! Commitments had been planted! Relationships had been forged! Hearts had been RESCUED!
As the students arrived back at home, parents could be seen navigating a maze of luggage and then reunited with the ones they hold most dear.
The 2019 Retreat had come and gone, yet one question remained: How many days till the next one?
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart, for everything that you do flows from it”. NIV
Day Two | Woodlands Camp
by Lisa Willett & Angie Brock, Language Arts teachers
Day two was a blast! Anticipating the arrival of our 5th and 6th graders, we began the day with a quiet time reflecting on Psalm 42. Spread out across Woodlands Camp, students reminded themselves that, like the Psalmist David, our hope is in God. Following quiet time, students enjoyed “rec time” playing GaGa ball, chilling in the swings, and — everyone’s favorite — shooting hoops in the Dome.
Gathering again in the chapel, 7th and 8th grades competed in a Minute-to-Win-It challenge while awaiting our new arrivals. The chapel erupted with loud cheers as the 5th and 6th grades entered! United together, all of our Middle School students then listened to another message from Algernon Tennyson. Algernon spotlighted the ultimate RESCUE, which is Jesus’ sacrifice for us. No matter what our mess, He can create a masterpiece. We could see the true JOY on Algernon’s face as he seemed to look each student in the eye and declare that a relationship with Jesus is the greatest gift of the gospel.
After replenishing at lunch, everyone gathered on the field to compete in the Ultimate Relay Race which included a slip and slide, burlap sack race, greased watermelon carry, plunger run, and soda chug with a dizzy bat spin. Whew! Teams immediately reset for the Color War to End all Color Wars. Color filled the sky as students powdered each other and their teachers across the field. The video is a must see!
During free time, students cooled off in the lake, bounced on the blob, raced on the water slides, and fished from the bank. After a taco dinner, we said goodbye to the 5th grade, and continued our day in the chapel with a Survivor eating challenge. After four grueling rounds, only two of the teams were able to stomach the surprise concoction. No worries! Although edible, baby formula and baby peas are not appealing to the palate.
Mr. Ray and Miss Mary Beth Lawler transitioned us to a time of worship to prepare our hearts for Algernon’s final RESCUE message. In this message, he referred to Jesus as the Ultimate lifeguard, rescuing us from the dead. He encouraged us to be a friend who encourages others to walk in Christ. Students’ hearts were opened as they prayed for each other in small groups. It was evident that many true connections were made among the students. Mr. Ray concluded with a prayer that this message will remain in our hearts as we continue our walk with Christ.
The night was not over, yet! Students shared their amazing abilities at the Talent Show. The performances included singing, dancing, comedy, acrobatics, and musical instruments. Our Middle School has some spectacular talent! The night ended with ice cream and an array of toppings in the cafeteria. Although tired, as students walked to their cabins arm in arm, they agreed that, “This is the best retreat ever!”
Day One | Woodlands Camp
by Lisa Willett & Angie Brock, Language Arts teachers
Find more Day One photos on Facebook!
Day One was full and fun at Woodlands! To kick off Retreat, upon arrival, we gathered in the chapel to set the stage for connecting with our color teams and to hear about the week’s theme of RESCUE. Each color team came up with their own team cheer, with Team Red on top as most spirited. We met our Retreat speaker, Algernon Tennyson, who captured our students with his easygoing spirit and quick wit. At this first introduction, the memorable phrase from Algernon was, “To the grumpiest kid here – I’m coming after ya!”
After a lunch of pulled pork sandwiches and mac ‘n cheese, the Color Wars began with a big team competition of Wells Fargo. All teams represented well, cheering on their color to victory. Our camp nurses Mrs. Rupp and Mrs. Canty were on hand to remind everyone to stay hydrated. From there, everyone spread out over this beautiful campus, riding paddle boards on the lake, swinging on the Giant Swing, zipping down the zipline, and flipping on the Euro Bungy. Those who wanted more team competition played basketball, basketball, and ping pong. The coffee bar was open with board games and frappucinos for those who wanted a cooler setting.
Following a spaghetti dinner, we met back at the chapel for worship and the Word. Algernon began to unpack the RESCUE theme with I Corinthians 10:13. He reminded us that God is faithful, and His grace is always enough. Tonight’s focus was on how God rescues us from temptation and always provides a way back to Him. In our cabin groups afterwards, students chatted about what struck them from Algernon’s talk. An 8th grade girl shared that “it’s okay to be in a rocky place because God will rescue you.”
The night ended with balloon stomp Shark Attack and late-night pizza. After a full, fun day, we rested, anticipating an adventurous Thursday. We’re excited about 5th & 6th grade students joining us today so that the whole Middle School can enjoy this special place!