Reflections on the Youth Winter Retreat
by Elliott Kwong
It was an honor to minister at the annual Youth Winter Retreat a couple of weekends ago. The theme of the retreat was “Consecration.”
Saturday Morning – A Nazirite is Set Apart – Salvation/Recommitment
Saturday Night – A Nazirite is filled with the Holy Spirit
Sunday Morning – Personal Sharing: Journey with the Holy Spirit
Sunday Evening – A Nazirite is a Worshipper
Monday Morning – A Nazirite is on Mission
On Sunday Night there was a breakthrough in worship. The worship set went as usual and ended with the song “Set a Fire.” We came to the end of the song, and then there was a moment of lingering. We told the Youth to press in, and suddenly it broke and we went into worship for another 20 minutes. For the next 20 minutes, Junior Highers and High Schoolers broke out into spontaneous worship, singing their hearts out, making their own melodies, and worshiping freely until it fell to a holy hush. Then we sang just with our voices “Lord I Give You My Heart.” As soon as we sang the first line, I sensed hearts opening up and tears flowed.
Sunday Night’s message was about becoming a worshipper. In order to offer pure and true worship, we must lay down all the idols and sin we worship. Each student was given a piece of paper in which they wrote down all their idols and sins they had in their life. Then, they came to kneel/sit at the cross, confessing their idols and pinning them to the cross. Afterwards, they went to an adult counselor to receive priestly prayer; acknowledging the sin as a witness and declaring Christ’s blood over them. It was powerful. Many Youth shared they were laying down their busyness and idolatry of academics.
When we cut off all the idolatry, it was as if something lifted. We went back into worship with the response, “Lord I Give You My Heart,” and it sounded like a roar erupted from the Youth. Darkness lifted. It felt like pure joy.
Some other notes:
- In the “Hearing the Voice of God” workshop, Youth learned how to give a prophetic word of blessing. Many received words and pictures that spoke to their hearts.
- Several physical healings happened. Four Junior high boys, after hearing how to pray for the sick, ran to one of the rooms to pray for another boy who was sick and in bed. Three hours later, he was well and joined the sessions again.
- One girl, while playing outside, fell on the rocks, hit her head and got a concussion. She had a headache and was throwing up. While she was resting in her room, Dave Kao and Lawrence Chin came and prayed for her and the headache lifted.
- Another high school boy had sore throat and congestion. He asked me to pray for him, but instead I led the boys at his table to pray for him. After two rounds of praying by his peers his sore throat was gone and his congestion was completely clear.
In the final closing session, we trained the Youth in Follow Up and Aftercare. It was divine that that morning’s TWA we read exactly on the parable of the seeds from Mark 4. In the parable, the seeds were scattered all in different places and only some took root. We took the opportunity to charge the Youth about how they may receive the Word of God, how it takes root, and how it yields fruit. We told them to 1) Clean House–throw away anything they own that does not please God, 2) Spend time with Jesus through the Word (Time with Abba) and Prayer/Intercession, 3). Plug into SJCAC and E2 and not just be a Sunday Christian, 4) Get baptized and show the world that they are dying to their old self and stepping into a new life.
In my years of doing Youth ministry in NYC and now observing the youth on the West Coast, I find two common strongholds in the young generation today: addiction and depression. Addiction happens through idolatry. It feeds depression and depression feeds addiction, causing a feedback loop that brings the mind and soul into a void and darkness. Many Youth today are addicted to their phones, video games, YouTube and social media. Demonization (the influence of evil spirits in our lives) can occur through excessive consumption of games and media, but unfortunately, many Youth and parents are not aware of this. The powerful thing is, simply by leading them through confession of idolatry, laying their sins at the Cross, and the witness of priestly prayer, immediately lifted the atmosphere. Darkness flees when we resist the devil and submit ourselves to Christ.
As parents, we see the addiction, stress, depression, and long for life change in our children. I’m reminded time and time again that breakthrough and life change will only happen through the Cross. Today in the church, with an overabundance of Christian youth programs, self-help books, counseling and strategies, we must return to the basic, “foolish” message of the Cross: Christ crucified. This is the power and wisdom of God.
Transformation is first, always and only possible through the Cross: that is, the repentance from sin, the blood of Jesus, and the regeneration of new life through the Holy Spirit. Sustainability and growth in their faith will only happen through the reading of God’s Word (Time with Abba) and prayer (Intercession/Fire on the Altar/Family Altar). I encourage all families to create a home where prayer and the reading of God’s Word together is a common activity.
It is humbling and an honor for the Holy Spirit to work and minister over the Youth Retreat weekend. One of the greatest joys in Youth ministry is seeing Youth lifted out of the pit. We observed a number of them going through depression, darkness, and addictions. But God is so good, to meet each one and lift them out. Almost all of them shared they received a touch of God that weekend.
What hope is there for this next generation? Today’s generation of Youth (12-18) are growing up in some of the most anti-Christ cultures of our time. Even so, I believe that in such a time as this, God is raising up young men and women, burning with a desire to be Nazirites: those who will set their lives apart from the Christian normality, to pursue Jesus with all their hearts. This is the end-time generation who will usher in the return of Christ.