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    The Memphis Annual Conference

    Youth - event reviews

    Winter Mission Trip
    December 19-22, 2012
    by Ashley Martin

    This December, the youth group met up with Covenant United Methodist’s youth group in Memphis for our annual Winter Mission Trip. We spent our first night there getting to know the members of the other youth group and just having fun (we also enjoyed some decadent Chick-fil-a, might I add). The next morning, we made our way to Holy Community Church. Throughout the morning, we cleaned a toy closet, organized a food pantry, and cleaned AND organized a clothes closet/room. Our next job was to serve lunch to a group of homeless people. Taking orders proved to be one of the hardest jobs- If you got the order wrong, some were nice about it while others were not so nice, but all were grateful for the food. After everyone was done eating, we broke down the tables, and cleaned up before heading to our own lunch at Gus’s Fried Chicken.

    Our next stop was the United Methodist Neighborhood Center. They have many things there for the neighborhood, from food pantries to children’s center, but we worked mainly in the thrift shop. The time spent there was rather short, but we went to work like good little bees. Time spent there was filled with more organizing and cleaning. Some other people and I color coordinated women’s dresses, others organized belts, and still others organized shoes. We were in and out of there in at least 15 minutes (a bit of an exaggeration), but we got a lot done. We returned to the church, had dinner, worship, and were off to bed by 10 o’clock.

    The next morning we went to Caritas Village. “Caritas” is Latin and translated means “love for all people”. Caritas Village uses art, hospitality, classes, and connections to creatively join people together in common goals from many different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. By interfacing directly with the surrounding community, they create jobs, provide experiential training, facilitate affordable and nutritious meals, and provide an outlet for creativity. We were there for a while doing different things before we actually got to work, but when we did it was plentiful. We were split into three groups. The first group organized different things around the Village restaurant, while the other two groups worked out side. The second group helped out in one of the Memphis Urban Farms; pulling weeds, double digging, and mixing up compost. My group, the third and final group, spent all morning raking and bagging leaves around the Caritas House, where the founder of Caritas Village lives & they offer temporary housing for people in need. It was painstaking (and boring at times), but it was all worth it when a little boy came up to us a thanked us for cleaning up his grandmother’s yard.

    We broke for lunch for lunch around 12 in the afternoon & had some tasty food at the Caritas Village Restaurant (open every day for lunch), and- when we were done- went back to work. We worked until about 3 o’clock on the same house and then found out we were leaving in about twenty minutes, but still had the front yards of three small houses left to do. We quickly ran down the street, raked rapidly, and finished up the houses with only minutes to spare. We rushed back to the bus and were on our way back to Covenant. Later that night, we made our way to Wesley Highland Terrace, an assisted living facility. We sang Christmas carols and handed out Christmas cards we had made earlier that day. After we finished, we returned to Covenant. Before we went to bed we had a game night sort of thing, had dinner, made lunches for the next day, and had worship.

    Our final day, we went back to Holy Community, but this time to help out a different organization. This time we helped out Jacob’s Well, an organization that reaches out to & worships with Memphis’s homeless population. We raked more leaves, bleached mold off of the bottoms of tables, and scrubbed walls with Magic Erasers. It was less painful work than the day before, but it all meant the same. When we finished that work, we ate the lunches we had packed for ourselves the night before and then finished up on some small jobs until it was time for us to leave.

    Later that night, we found ourselves at St. John’s United Methodist Church. There, we helped with their weekly meal for the homeless people and sang more Christmas carols. Our numbers were not as needed this time around, but we did as much as we could- serving food, getting refills, bussing tables, & cleaning up. We had dinner one last time with Covenant &the members or their youth group before returning home filled with the love and power of Christ.

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    Youth Day
    November 10, 2012
    by Holly Dial

    On November 10, we had Youth Day! Our youth group came together with the youth groups of Martin, Jackson, and Murray for a fun day of getting to know each other as the body of Christ and doing some mission work projects around the town of Paris.

    We started out the day by hearing a devotion from Holly (me) and Face. The devotion, along with the rest of the day, was based around the verses Romans 15: 5-7 which talk about uniting with other Christians to give God glory and how this makes us stronger.

    After hearing the devotion we played some "Get to Know You" games in the CLC, starting with some intense games of Rock, Paper, Scissors. While playing, we got numbers. These were our group numbers for a scavenger hunt and some mission work later on. So we then divided into our scavenger hunt groups. We were to go and find places around the Paris court square that best fit the clues on our paper and take a picture with some of our group members. The goal was simple. Be the group with the most correct pictures. Upon arriving back at the church, we turned in our cameras and got into our mission work groups. Some of the mission work included painting, raking, and working on a Habitat building around town. All of these activities helped us to create stronger bonds with the others while helping out our community.

    We got back to the church and ate some pizza. Yummy. The scavenger hunt winners were announced and worship was held. Mary Beth delivered our message, and a skit was put on by some of the youth. It was an exciting and powerful worship time, worshipping with all of our new friends. It was amazing how close you could get to people you met after one day. We accomplished our goal of creating unity as four different churches so that we could come and give God glory together.

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    Fall Retreat - “Good Earth”
    October 19-21, 2012
    By Sarah Cathey

    As a senior, this year has held an awful lot of lasts. One of these lasts that I was not looking forward to was my last Fall Retreat. I’ve been going on Fall Retreats with the youth group since middle school and it’s always been a great experience for spiritual growth. I, personally, love spending time outdoors in praise. It’s just easy for me to find God, and connect with Him, in His most essential creation- the wilderness. The Fall Retreat has always offered a chance to get back to the basics of simple worship and fellowship connections, and this is what I love most about it. There’s just something about spending some time in the woods, away from society and technology, interacting with people you truly care about who share your beliefs, focusing completely on your relationship with God, that transforms a group of teenagers into a family- if only for a few days. This year’s Fall Retreat was no exception. If anything, the theme, “Good Earth”, served to accentuate the feeling of a natural, fundamental relationship with God.

    Our discussion study theme for the weekend was based on the parable of the sower, and we had a theme time based on each kind of soil and their symbolism in the story. It was a new take on the frequently-referenced  lesson, and it was amazing to see how it could take on a new life after seeing it taught from several different viewpoints. The end result of our weekend study was that, as Christians, we should live our lives in the constant effort to be like good soil, that is- nurturing and cultivating the people around us as well as ourselves, with the hope of producing a crop of love and a relationship with God. We learned this through the usual amazingly entertaining combination of discussion, bible study, skits, games, and personal prayer time.

    The Fall Retreat this year was also just a really fun time to hang out and fellowship. We played games and went on hikes. We had an on-going “World Cup” tournament and took silly pictures. I even had the chance to sling my ENO hammock in the woods and spent some quality time swinging and chilling with some of my best friends. And, of course, we had our last-night-full-out-commando-in-the-woods extremely intense game of infiltration. As we snuck around in the woods, hiding from the guards, and looking for bibles, it was easy to feel God’s presence in the night sky and the wind in the trees. Later, we finished that last night with a worship that ended by pitching our sins and regrets into the lake. It was quite a wonderful ending to the night. Before we left Camp Clark Williamson the next afternoon, we closed the weekend by reading aloud essays that we had written earlier during the trip. These essays were about the people in our lives who have shown us how to truly be “Good Earth”. It was a lovely, fun way to look at what we want to achieve and a perfect ending to the trip. I am sad to say that this is one “last” that I wished would never come, but my last fall retreat was nothing short of majestic.

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    “The Great Adventures of P-First UMY: Goodness”

    June 3-9, 2012
    By Ashley Martin & Patrick Fagan

    The youth group went many places on the annual mystery trip, themed “Goodness” this year. The trip gave us all a new perspective on the word “goodness” and what it means to our faith life. 

    Sunday, June 3, we departed from the church at 7:00am and drove to Cumberland Falls in Corbin, KY.  We stopped for a brief time to take pictures, then  went straight into our 1.5 mile hike, which was uphill BOTH ways! We ended at Eagle Falls where we had our first devotion. Steven called us to write down all the good things that filled our lives, and many of us realized it would be overwhelmingly impossible to write down all of the good things.

    Later that night, we returned to Cumberland Falls and saw one of 2 moonbows in the world. You’re probably thinking… what’s a moonbow? Well, it’s a rainbow caused by the reflective light of the moon. The only other place to see it regularly is Victoria Falls in Africa, which is the largest waterfall in the world.  The devotion helped us realize anything is possible because good things come in unexpected places.

    The next morning, we woke up and drove to Bryson City, NC. When we got there we boarded a train. It took us to our next destination, The Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we went white water rafting. The devotion helped us realize, metaphorically, that no matter what we did while we were on the train or while we were on the river that we were always going to end up where the train/river took us. As long as we are with God, He will seek to show us His goodness- it is inevitable.

    Tuesday, we drove to Charlotte, NC to the U.S. National Whitewater Center.  I didn’t hesitate to trust the equipment there, or the people that put them there. This really got me thinking- if it’s so easy to trust these things then why is it so hard to trust God? The devotion that day was about trust.

    The next morning, we left by six-thirty!!! Mountain time. And we were on the road to Bishopville, SC to visit Pearl Fryar- who had turned his yard into a topiary extravaganza. Pearl talked about love, and he used his talent, cutting bushes, to express his feelings. He taught us many valuable lessons, but the point Steven tried to make was that- in this metaphorical scenario of the garden & the gardener-  we were the trees and Pearl was God, and God has a vision for all of us. If we let him do his work, we will be transformed into something extravagant.

    We departed from Bishopville and drove to Ridgeville, SC. There, we took a dip in the largest freeflowing blackwater river in North America. The things that make the river black are all the decomposed plants and things that fall into the river (which we didn’t know until after we swam in it). The devotion explained that we do not want to be like the blackwater river and have so much stuff from our past that we can’t get out of our system. In contrast, we want to be like the whitewater river which moves into, over, under, & around  the rocks (our life’s problems) and then becomes truly peaceful after the rough spots.

    Thursday, we drove to Charleston, SC. Our first stop was the Old Slave Mart Museum. The museum devotion challenged us to be a slave to goodness, and not worldly things, and that we would be taken care of by God if we did this.

    We then toured the downtown churches and ended up at the Old Bethel Methodist Church, the oldest Methodist church in Charleston. It was different from the others because, in the earliest days, it had a black and white congregation- though its unity did not last through the conflict that came later. The devotion challenged us to do good things with the goodness we are given and then to stick together unlike the church when times get tough.

    That night, we saw the wonderful production of “One Man Star Wars” at Theatre 99 in downtown Charleston. Charlie Ross, the one man, used his talents to bring Star Wars to a room full of strangers in a different way. The devotion afterward encouraged the multiplying of our goodness through the spreading of our God-given talents.

    Friday, we drove for a very long time. And, due to a tire blowout and an emergency cast removal, we were, for a fact, behind schedule. But we eventually arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA; where we climbed 602 steps to the top of the falls. Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascade waterfall in the southeast, meaning the falls cascade over rocks & mountainside- instead of freefall. The devotion asked us what we could do to keep our own construction of goodness continuing on its fall.

    On Saturday, we had The Best Tasting Devotion Ever. In Atlanta, GA we stopped at Piedmont Park and ate Vortex Burgers. The devotion explained, firstly, how much Steven likes Burgers. Then, it told us that we, as burgers, are good, but- once you add condiments and bacon and cheese (or the fruits of the spirit)- we can become “gooder”.

    Thank you so much for supporting and praying for us!!!

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    Fall Retreat - Nov. 14-16, 2011
    by DeeGee Norwood

    Fall Retreat has always been my favorite trip the youth group goes on, because it's a time when everyone bonds & gets to know someone they might not know so well. It's a chance to get away from everything happening back in our town and put our full attention on that weekend's theme. Every year, the theme changes and Steven & the youth interns do a wonderful job of getting us out of our comfort zones so that we can grow closer to God.

    This year's theme was titled "You". We learned that, even though we face struggles in our lives and sometimes feel like our world is completely ruined, God is still looking out for us. He places bad situations in our lives, because He wants us to see that as an opportunity to really grow in our faith and grow closer to Him. The opportunity is ours- whether we take what He is offering and move past the bad times while growing closer to Him or sit around feeling sorry for ourselves wishing we could snap our fingers and make everything better. God knows who we can be and that's where He wants to get us, but it’s up to us to make that choice whether to try & lead the way ourselves or to let Him lead.

    If you have not been on a Fall Retreat, I strongly recommend going. It's a fun-filled but serious weekend that can honestly change your life. We are so fortunate to have the leaders we do who are eager to lead the youth in God's direction. Each year is an eye-opening experience and I hope everyone gets the chance to go.

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    Youth Day
    November 5, 2011
    by Sam McCadams

    On November 5, 2011, the Paris-First United Methodist Youth Group went to Murray, Kentucky, to meet with the youth groups of Murray-First and Jackson-First.

    When we arrived in Murray, we went to the church and mingled with people from Murray as we waited on the Jackson group to arrive. They arrived and we got started on what would be a great day! First, Faith, from the Murray group, gave a devotion on being together as one body in Christ. Then Steven got everybody together and we played a game called Elbows; where you had to find someone to touch right/left elbows, knees, and the crown of your head with while remembering who it was for the next time it was called. After that, we got into four teams and played Human Pong across the gym.

    After the games were over, we got into four different groups and went on a photo scavenger hunt around Murray where we had to find a location and take a picture of us doing a particular action there.
    When that was over, we went back to the church and got back with our Pong groups. Amanda, the leader of the Murray group, gave a devotion on Galatians 6: 10 that says we should not stop doing good. In that regard, each group then went to a different place to do a service project for different parts of the community. We worked for a couple hours, doing things like house cleaning, yard work, or packing food for Need Line.

    We had Mr. Gatti’s pizza for dinner. And, once we filled our stomachs with energy, we spent that energy in worship around 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-19- singing songs, sharing our prayer concerns, watching an awesome spontaneous dancing melodrama performed by people from the three groups, and hearing a devotion from Mary Beth, the leader of the Jackson group.

    The goal for the day was to make new relationships, to come together as God’s people, and to use our community to help others. The theme for the day was “Don’t Stop” and we learned that we shouldn’t stop coming together, doing good, and helping others. And that we shouldn’t stop rejoicing or praying or giving thanks to God. And that we shouldn’t stop the Holy Spirit as it seeks to work in us

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    The Great Adventures of P-First UMY: Joyful Noises
    June 2-9, 2011
    by Brittany Martin & Keith Schaal

    (NOTE: click here to load up and listen to the "To You (Joyful Noises)" mp3 file while you read)

    This year’s theme was joyful noises.  A joyful noise can be anything you do through your life that brings praise to God and puts him in the spotlight, or it can be showing your gifts in a way that shows God to others and gives him the glory.

    Our first day kicked off at 5:45 am. We drove from Paris to Kansas City, MO. There, we went to the College Basketball Experience. Our first devotion talked about how we are all capable of feeling pure joy. We feel the joy at both worship and at the edge of our seat sporting events. We learned that we shouldn’t hold back the joy during worship. We should be as loud and free in our worship as we are at exciting games.
    Our first stop on day two was the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City. We were given a quote from Picasso that says, “There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” We are called to be different, unique. We sometimes get caught up in what others think our worship should be, but God calls us to be someone who, through our worship, inspires others, stands out, and is a joy to the world, showing the truth about our relationship with God.

    That night, we met with Aaron Gillespie, a Christian musician. One thing he said that stood out was that we have to find what we love and use that to praise God. He dared us to be that crazy person who shows God through everything we do, who shares his word all of the time, and helps those who need it. He told us, though, that we are called to do it in a kind and gentle way.  That night, we went to his concert and praised God, along with hundreds of others in the Des Moines area.

    The next day, we made our first stop at the Mall of America. While there, we went through a mirror maze. Going through a mirror maze is very confusing, often like the callings that God gives us.  But you just have to trust that he will lead you through. You may not always understand why you are doing it, but you must trust that God has a path set out for you and a purpose for your life.

    That afternoon, we met with Matt Moberg, another musician.  He shared his story with us & told us that you don’t have to be athletic to be good at something.  Instead, we just have to trust that God will lead us and that we do have a purpose and God will lead us along the path. And the closer we get to God, the closer we get to ourselves.

    On Sunday, we stopped at Old World Wisconsin, which is a reenactment of the 1800’s in Wisconsin. There, we learned about the importance of community- that one role someone plays in not more important or less than another.  We also cannot compare our gifts to gifts that other people have been given, because if- in 1860 Wisconsin- everyone was a blacksmith, then no one would have shoes. And, if everyone now was a good singer and wanted to direct the choir, then there would be no one to preach or read the bible on Sunday mornings.

    That evening, we met with the Fish Sticks. They are a Christian comedy group that uses laughter as a door opener to share their testimonies. They taught us that you don’t necessarily have to be a good singer or great at public speaking to share the word of God. You can use something so common such as the ability to make people laugh to open the door to share God’s word.
    The next day, we drove to Cave City, KY, and set up camp at JellyStone Park. While there, we rode down a waterslide they had at the campground. In our devotion, we learned that sometimes our callings will be a long drive, but at other times it will be a short ride down a waterslide. In both, we need to remember the reason we make our joyful noises. Because, in order to share the joy we have in our hearts, we must first know & feel joy ourselves.

    The next day, we went to Mammoth Cave and took the lantern tour. We learned that we need to let our lights shine for all to see, but we have to remember that God is the one being glorified- not us. As we walked through the cave, we realized that God will light our paths if we just trust in him. Zorbing was next on our agenda. Zorbing is basically rolling in a giant hamster ball down a large hill. In our faith lives, we sometimes reach what is called a ‘spiritual high,’ those times when we just feel so close to God, when everything seems clear. Often, after these times, we get sidetracked & lose the momentum we had in our relationship with God. So, when we gain these new levels in our faith lives, we need to be consistent and keep it going, keep it “rolling”.

    That evening, we met with B. Reith, another Christian musician. In our talking to him, we learned that each of us is an instrument that God plays, and that we all make our own unique sound. No two of us will sound the same. This led perfectly into our last devotion, as we went to NashVin studios with a song that we had all written together to have it recorded. It would seem as though the world would just need one microphone, but we quickly learned that all microphones have their own unique properties and produce their own unique sound. And, in order to get the sound you want, you have to use different mics and sometimes even more than one mic at a time, just as God seeks to use all of us to make his joyful noise. 
    Pablo Picasso once said, “When I was a child, my mother said to me, If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general, if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the pope, instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” Well, we can all use the gifts we’ve been given to become great. And, using all we have learned, we no longer make joyful noises- we are joyful noises.

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    The Great Adventures of P-First UMY: Like a Child
    May 29 - June 5, 2010
    by Sarah Cathey & Alex Hartsell

    The theme for this year’s Mystery Trip  was "Like a Child". Here’s a quick breakdown of the trip’s itinerary from start to finish, along with our purpose for each stop along the way.

    Saturday was an eight-hour bus ride to Mansfield, OH- home to the Richland Carousel Park, and our first devotion. However, we didn't get to ride it that night, because it was closed (Steven planned it this way). The devotion compared looking back at our childhood faith to looking in the window at a carousel we couldn't ride. We also got to see pictures drawn by the children of the church about their image and opinion of God. After that, we wrote letters to God. And all the praying done during this devotion must’ve gotten through, because we stayed in a hotel that night.

    But our comfort was short-lived, because we had to be on the van the next morning by 5a.m. for our 13-hour bus ride. We passed through several states and, when the bus finally stopped, we were in Grand Isle State Park in Vermont. This would be our home for next 3 days. When we arrived, we had our second devotion. We still had daylight to do this, because Steven, Figs, and Alex had kindly gone ahead and set up our tents before we got there. This devotion highlighted the difficulties of pressing on in our faith life when it seems like we're going nowhere. Steven drew a great parallel to this with his nephew, Greyson, and the endless monotony of trips inside a car. Then we headed to the tents for some shut-eye.

    On Monday, we woke up and started our day in the village of Plymouth Notch, where President Calvin Coolidge was both born and sworn into office by his father. We took a tour before starting our devotion. It talked about how, as a child, we think that we can do anything that we want in the world- even become president! This devotion reminded us that we can do anything through God.

    We then went to Bromley Sun Mountain Adventure Park where we rode the Alpine Slide. At the bottom, we had another devotion waiting for us that talked about how trusting God would take us somewhere good even if we didn’t always know where or how it was taking us, just like the slide.

    Tuesday dawned rainy, and a little cold, but that didn't stop us from heading to the Bragg Family Sugar House. Here, we learned how the Bragg family has been making maple syrup for the past 8 generations. We had fun, and got to taste a few free samples. Next, we went to the Simon Pearce Glassblowing studio. We watched the artists, and learned about the beautiful process of glassblowing. Afterward, we went to the Path of Life Garden, where we had our next devotion. The garden was a massive collection of modern art arranged to match the journey of life. Our devotion here showed us that, just like the processes of creating maple syrup and turning a piece of glass, our life and our faith sometimes take us through long and difficult tests & trials, but that there’s always something worthwhile when you come out the other side. For dinner, we ate at the Simon Pearce restaurant, where we had a devotion at the mill that powers the restaurant and the studio. This devotion was about using the people and resources around us to get through those difficult parts of life and faith.

    On Wednesday, we began the day at Lake Champlain Chocolates, watching the chocolate making process and, again, enjoying some free samples. We also had to pick out some chocolate not meant for us, but we weren't told why. Then, we went to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory and took a tour, where I got to annoy the tour guide with my PAW-SOME bear puns. After that, we made teddy bears in our image, but- once again- they weren't for us. We then hopped back on the bus and headed to the Vermont Children's Hospital (where Steven was born). There, we handed out the teddy bears and the chocolates to the children that were there for long stays. It was very much a life-changing experience. Finally, we went to the original Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, where we had our devotion for the day. It taught us that love is sharing. Just like a child, we have to give up what we want sometimes to help make others' lives better, represented by our experience with the chocolate and the bears and Ben & Jerry's corporate mission statement. We then went back to the campsite and wrote more letters, only- this time- it was role-play time and we pretended we were God writing back to ourselves.

    On Thursday, we woke up and took our tents down, headed for some new location. Our first stop (and first devotion) was at an old, abandoned wild west theme park called Frontier Town. Our devotion reflected on how the park changed hands over and over until, eventually, it was left rundown and empty. Along with our childhood, our faith could end up like this if we don't preserve it. So, next on the agenda, we went to Six Flags New England! We had fun, got a little wet, and rode some pretty rockin’ roller coasters before our next devotion. This one pointed out how the huge park that we were currently in had started long ago, as Riverside Park, with only one ride (‘The Thunderbolt’) and was built upon until it became what it is today. In the same way, if we build on our childhood faith, it can grow and become something great. That night, we stayed at Steven's cousin's house in New York.

    After we left Steven's cousin's, we headed back to Mansfield, OH- staying at the same hotel and once again finding ourselves back at Richland Carousel Park, only this time- it was open! We took a couple of rides on the carousel before having our devotion. This devotion taught us that, eventually, we'll have to get off the carousel and make something of our faith- not a Frontier Town, but a Six Flags. We then received letters from our families and friends and members of the church. It was a very emotional time for all of us while reading them. When we finished, we had one more letter of our own to write- to someone on the trip, about how we've seen God in them over the trip and maybe even outside of church. Finally, we went and got some Cracker Barrel and went back to the hotel, where we crashed.

    Saturday, we climbed on the bus one last time for our 8 and a half hour ride home. For lunch, we stopped at Steven's parents' house in Kentucky, where the Heits treated us to a great meal of taco potatoes. This was the sight of our last devotion, too. This one wrapped up the theme and pointed out that no matter how old we get- childlike innocence, faith, love, and patience are things we don't need to ever let fade.

    We had a great time on this trip and loved all of the great ideas, devotions, and symbolism throughout it. We truly learned that, to never stop growing in our faith, we must be like a child.

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    30 Hour Famine
    February 26-28, 2010
    by Teela Etheridge (& Megan Montgomery)

    1:00pm on Friday, February 26th.

    That was the start of a long 30 hours for those of us going to Lakeshore for the 30 Hour Famine sponsored by World Vision. The famine is “an international youth movement to fight hunger” and those of us participating this weekend wouldn’t be eating again until 7:00pm on Saturday; an extremely daunting timeframe.

    We set off on our adventure with our stomachs rumbling and our minds busy with thoughts of what the weekend had in store for us. We arrived at Lakeshore and were assigned to groups titled with food: Hawaiian Pizza, Barbeque Nachos, Fried Chicken, etc. The food groups were our discussion groups for the weekend and they allowed us to meet people from other youth groups. We talked about hunger in other places and how we could use our talents to do something about it. We heard from three people about their mission trips to Uganda last fall/winter. It was interesting to hear about how they all had been there at the same time but got there in very different ways. We wrote Bible verses in Spanish to put in sandwich bags that would be distributed through a program in Nicaragua. We also wrote letters about the Famine to friends at home, so that we could get a jump-start on talking about these issues to other people.

    Among all those serious things, there was also some schooling on the basketball court (by top dogs and underdogs), some playing around with cameras and self-timer, some stepping, some cup spinning, & a whole lot of ninja-ing, but- most importantly- there was a lot of learning about what we have that we can use to help those that have less.

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    Winter Mission Trip
    December 18-21, 2009
    by Keith Schaal

    This years winter mission was a great success, and you're probably thinking to yourself, “How, Keith Schaal?” Well I will tell you.

    Paris, Murray, and Camden UMY's teamed up for this extravagant event. For two days, we all helped at the Last Minute Toy Store. This toy store gives out toys to kids who, without it, wouldn't have a Christmas at all. We ended up helping over 4,500 kids to have a very Merry Christmas. We did everything from greeting to taking bags away for our guests. Also, a few of us helped out at a local thrift store called Thrift Smart. All of the proceeds made at ThriftSmart go to five different organizations around the world. Here, we helped clean the building, stack shelves, and sort goods around the large store.

    Many of us really bonded with the other youth groups more than we ever had before. We shared a lot of laughs and a lot of good times. During one worship, we went around the room and every single person told how they had been touched by God that day. It was pretty eye-opening for everyone.

    Everyone had a great time at this year's Winter Mission Trip. We met some people, played some games, and helped out a few thousand families. We got closer to others, ourselves, and most definitely God.

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    Fall Retreat - Nov. 13-15, 2009
    by Alex Hartsell

    Once again, we ventured back to Lakeshore (located exclusively in Eva, TN) to attend our highly anticipated Fall Retreat. The theme this year was "BraveHearts". We had many goals to achieve in becoming a BraveHeart, but the most important one was to stay strong for God and to not lose our faith in him, even through the toughest times. Through PTs, fun games, sessions, and worships, we all realized how to be a BraveHeart.

    We went through four fun-filled, yet- at the same time- serious, sessions where we got into three groups: the Seaverigons, the Scottsmen (aeeeeYEEE), and the Winter Fish (clap, hands above head, and hold for a few seconds). We then enjoyed a nice bonfire where we talked about what a BraveHeart is and how we can become one. Steven talked about where the theme comes from; how in the movie "Braveheart", William Wallace was willing to risk everything for something greater than himself & was bold enough to stand up for what he believed in. Even though he knew he was about to die, he did it anyway. After that serious conversation, we chilled out and had s'mores (some with strawberry marshmallows, which are pretty awesome by the way). You might ask, "Well, Alex, where do s'mores fit into being a BraveHeart?". I would then answer with this: When you roast a marshmallow, you don't always get it perfect. But, since there are billions of marshmallows in the world, you can always have a second chance to make 'that perfect marshmallow'. And, as Christians, though we will make mistakes & fail to be a BraveHeart at times, we will always have another chance to stand up and be a BraveHeart. You might totally blow your chance and be like "Oh darnit, I'll never have another chance like that." Guess what. You will. Just like you always try to make 'that perfect marshmallow', you'll always get another chance to have 'that perfect situation' where God calls you to be bold & stand up. After that, Winter Fish led us through their worship where we were blindfolded and walked to the Tabernacle to discuss more about BraveHearts. Finally, we said our goodnights and were off to bed.

    We started the next day down by the girls' vesper ring where we sat and looked for God. We had PT, lunch, and our next session. In that session, we played a very interesting game of Excuses Encore. We had a couple seconds to come up with a halfway decent excuse to prove why we didn't do "that thing". We also talked about doubt and how we even doubt God sometimes, which isn't a very cool thing to do. So, we decided to do the opposite- trust. Trusting in God would enable us to live day by day without worry, because all of our problems would be entrusted with and in God. Then, Troy led us to the high ropes course where we went on the zipline in the dark. The main objective: trust in God. If you don't do that, then how can you be a BraveHeart? Afterwards, we had a trust session with Steven. We did several types of trust falls and really bonded as a group. Thankfully, there were no injuries. Then, that night, the Seaverigons led us to the woods, blindfolded, to talk about how hard it sometimes is to be a BraveHeart.

    The next morning, The Scottsmen led us to the blacktop and the upper sunroom to do a little skit about a guy named Stephen, a true Christian BraveHeart. He gave his life for God, sort of the William Wallace of the Christian faith. He knew that being stoned to death was a small price to pay to be faithful to his God and to live forever in his Father's house. And though, as Papa G told us in his message that morning, he may not have been able to see the flowers that would grow from the seeds he planted that day when he was bold enough to stand up for God, the flowers did grow, and we’re evidence of that. And the same thing can happen when are brave with our hearts.

    All the youth went home knowing what it meant to be a BraveHeart and how to become one. They know that it is something very hard to do and what a challenge it will be. Are you up for that?

    Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Paris First United Methodist Church