It can be good or bad. It lasts forever. We were created for it: Relationship!
Today, we helped run a youth retreat for teens in the barrio on that topic. We came up with most of the schedule and the lesson plans. We saw some familiar faces from our VBS and soccer games. We played games, taught, and shared lessons from our own lives with “los jovenes” (ages 10-18) the whole day.
We started off trying to get to know each others' names. After going around and saying our names a couple of times, we split into two teams. Each team sent a representative forward, who sat on either side of a sheet that we held up. When the sheet dropped, the people would be facing each other. The first to say the other person's name won a point. It was pretty funny when the sheet would drop and both people would just sit and stare…totally blanking on the other person's name. We mispronounced their names and they mispronounced ours, but by the end we all knew each other.
“I liked that we learned their names and they learned ours,” Emily said.
After a couple more games and a time of worship, Philip (Paul's brother) taught about how our relationship with God is the most important relationship we have. He said that we were created for relationship — with God and with others. He also shared about things that break intimacy in a relationship.
When we had prayed about the retreat, we felt like we should show the skit to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse. (You can see it here, on YouTube.) After the skit, Emily shared her testimony. She told about how she had turned to God when she was desperate and he rescued her. She also shared how when her relationship with God was broken, the relationships she had with others (family and friends) also suffered. Valerie also shared from her life, focusing on how God needs to be your foundation personally and for your family. She said that it's your relationship with God that will make you whole.
Since the topic of the retreat was relationships, of course we had to mention LOVE. And what better way than with a quiz! Our quiz was called, “How good of a lover are you?” And yes, there were a lot of embarrassed giggles with that one. But the giggling stopped when we began to ask questions like, “Are you patient and kind with your family and neighbors?” “Can you admit when you're wrong?” We took the definition of love from 1Corinthians 13 and applied it to our various relationships. Even though it was a survey for the teens at the retreat, it was eye opening for us to really consider how loving we are to those around us.
After some service projects at the house church that hosted the retreat, we ate lunch and of course played more soccer. Then it was Ashlynn's turn to share about what she has been learning about guy/girl relationships. “You need to be strong in your relationship with God on your own. You can't rely on your boyfriend or girlfriend
9;s relationship with God,” she said. “It's important that you both grow on your own.” Esther followed up Ashlynn's talk by explaining how to keep God the center of your friendships — by being more concerned with God's opinion of you than with your friends' opinions.
“We'd like your help, now,” Monika said. “We've spent the day talking about love and relationships. Now we'd like to see what this community thinks about love.” We took the “Lover” quiz door to door in the barrio, asking everyone the same questions we had answered earlier that morning: are you patient and kind with your family and neighbors? Can you admit when you're wrong?
As the people filled out these surveys, some of the teens had some great conversations with them. “One of the people we talked to said he was patient and kind with his neighbors and friends, but definitely not with his children,” said Sefora, an 11-year-old who has been part of most of our programs. “I asked him about that, but he just said he was patient with everyone else. He didn't want to talk about his kids.”
Many of the people said “yes” to all the questions on the survey, which surprised our students. “What would this barrio look like if everyone really was that loving?” Philip asked. “It would be much better,” said Fernanda. “We wouldn't have to lock our homes. We could always trust each other.”
The survey was a great tool to get the kids thinking about what love looks like. And we hope that it has left their neighbors with something to think about, too.
“The kids responded well to going out with the survey,” said Michelle. “I thought they would be shy. The neighborhood was so open to them. If someone did the survey in my neighborhood, they wouldn't have even opened the door.”
To end the retreat, Fred and Philip shared about the loving way to relate with the opposite sex. Romantic relationships here in the barrio can be pretty messed up, to say the least. It's pretty normal for the guys to hit on girls when they walk by. There are not many marriages. And many of the marriages split when the husband becomes abusive, but then the wife returns to him time and time again. Or the husband may have different families in several towns. So this was a really significant topic to teach on and the teens paid close attention.
“I felt like the kids really connected,” Katie said. “They responded well in class and seemed to be listening.”
“I felt like I was able to connect with the kids,” Amber said. “We played football and the kids told me they loved me.”
We hope to be with several of these teens next week as we hold another VBS for 9-14 year olds. (We'll focus more on discipleship topics than the Bible stories we did for the younger kids, but no one will complain too much if we add some crafts and soccer!)
On our way home, we went to a Pupuseria for dinner. Pupusas are an El Salvadorian specialty. They're kind of like thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, chicken, or beans. While we waited for the waitress to bring our meal, the home next door began pumping Spanish dance music over the walls. It was impossible not to dance! We got a lot of funny looks, but hey, it's important to have fun after a long day like today!
We ended the night with some more games, PB&J sandwiches, and general silliness. Basically, a typical evening. 🙂