Oregon Young Adults Find Connection & Healing at Retreat
by Rachel Scribner

In Christ alone, my hope is found,” sing the young adults around the fireplace. The song leaders crowd around a smart phone, reading music off the screen. The song was an impromptu choice, and the key is a little too high. But the music team just laughs and keeps on singing. This isn’t a scene from someone’s living room. It’s the conference’s Collegiate and Young Adult Spring Retreat, with approximately 40 guests singing along. And the informal atmosphere is right on key.

Featuring a relaxed pace for better relationship building, retreats are now a bi-annual event for Oregon Conference young adults. Attendees at the latest retreat, April 10-12, caught some sun and sand at Camp Magruder on the Oregon Coast. Hidden from the main highway and right on the beach, the camp offered a place to socialize, relax, and worship, with plenty of room to hike, light a bonfire, and, for a few, splash into the chilly ocean while others watched from a safe distance.

In line with the weekend theme “Being Real,” Pastor Nick Jones of Gateway Adventist Church and SonRise Christian Fellowship opened up about his recent fight with cancer and the very real presence of suffering in the world. His testimony lead to group sharing on Saturday night, and a special prayer for healing. “This sharing time was deep,” says Oregon Conference youth/young adult ministries director, Tracy Wood. “It happens because we feel safe.”

For Wood, retreats and other conference young adult events are vital, because church members aged 18 to 30+ often miss out on peer interaction in their local congregations. Early on, Wood involved the group in program planning. The young adults even suggested the informal style that now characterizes their retreats. “They said, ‘we’ll attend if it’s like this,’” Wood says. “It creates community that doesn’t happen on Sabbath morning.” First time retreat guest Amanda Johnson, 20, remarked that she likes the slower pace. “It’s nice to have a little freedom to get to know each other,” she says.

Wood hopes more young adults will discover the retreats and their peer network will grow. “If we all came together, there’s a whole bunch of us,” Wood says, his voice rising with excitement. “We could turn this conference upside down!”

“‘Til he returns, or calls me home,” sings the group clustered around the tiny screen, “Here in the love of Christ, I stand.”