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Diocesan Spring Youth Retreat of Illinois

There was complete silence as we walked through the 2 mile hike.  We saw wild turkey, eagles, and beautiful spring scenery in the forest of Kansasville, Wisconsin without a word.  When else would children get an opportunity to be completely cut off from the world and learn how to be silent, still, and listen to the voice of God through nature?  The 2016 Assyrian Church of the East Spring Youth Retreat was a perfect chance for our youth members (ages 14-21) to not only have fun and grow closer as a youth, but also to learn biblical skills through bible studies and activities.  We were blessed during the retreat from April 22nd-24th to have His Grace Mar Paulus Benjamin, and St. Andrew’s Parish Priest, Rev. Cor-Bishop Fr. George Toma join us during the weekend.  The retreat theme was discipleship and the bible verse from Matthew, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  You are never too young to disciple to others and as church leaders we want to ensure that our children know how to preach the Word to their peers and family members.  The weekend was split into three parts.  Friday’s lesson was regarding silence and hearing the voice of God, the silent walk through the woods, with no cell phones, helped emphasize the need for youth to cut off from the world and allow quiet time with God.  To disciple to others you first must go to God and ask for his guidance, but to do this you must be silent and learn how to be still.  Saturday’s lesson built on top of Friday’s and was about how to listen to others.  Most Christians forget during discipleship that you must first listen to the questions and concerns of others about faith before trying to just make your point.  Lastly, on Sunday the lesson combined the previous bible studies and focused on how to disciple to others through silence and listening.  The weekend was filled with fun with nightly get togethers of dancing, a bonfire, flashlight tag, and visiting a farm where the kids got to meet horses, ducks, sheep, and even a peacock.  We also had daily prayers celebrated in the chapel every morning and evening according to the liturgical rites of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East.  We are very grateful to the St. Iakovos Retreat Center, apart of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago where the staff were very flexible with fulfilling to our church’s requests and needs.  We are hoping that this will be an annual or bi-annual event where youth from the entire diocese can come together to become stronger in their relationships and faith.  We are hoping to plan another retreat for this Fall!  If you are interested or for more information please contact your local youth president, all registered youth members are welcome.

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