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Life of I: Sydney Youth Retreat

There was fun, laughter, faith and fellowship at this year’s annual youth association retreat!

The event, which was organised by the Assyrian Church of the East Youth Association – Sydney (ACEYA – S), was labeled a success. With close to 100 people in attendance, coaches departed from St Hurmizd Cathedral early Friday evening 12th of July.

Upon arrival at the Wesley Vision Valley site, a hot dinner was served and youth were placed into colour groups ready for a night of activities that included photography, painting and affirmations. Rev’d Father Narsai Youkhanis, Youth Associations Australia Chaplain, gave a welcoming talk on the importance of making Christ the center of our lives. Building upon the retreat theme, St Paul to the Romans 12:2a, we as Christians should not conform to worldly patterns, but rather live a Christly and Godly life in peace and holiness.

The groups were then offered free time to get unpacked and settle into their lodges before some called it a night and others opted for the cafeteria for some hot chocolate, coffee and light snacks around the fireplace.

On Saturday morning attendees woke up to a big breakfast at the main hall that was sure to prepare them and give them the much needed boost for an afternoon of enduring sports.

There were screams of victory and overcoming fear of heights as groups competed in sports activities ranging from archery, to rock climbing and high wire zip line.

After an adrenalin packed afternoon, it was time for spiritual relaxation with Dn. George Rasho taking one workshop and Danny Kelaita and Morris Toma co-leading another. Youth took part in both group discussions titled iFall and iMe. The discussions focused on selfishness and the world today and the influence and effects of technology on our lives.

Later on in the afternoon, the amazing race, titled iRace, kicked off with teams scrambling to look for clues to finishing first. Each clue stop had verses from the Bible that led them to their next location.

The last dinner was served late Saturday evening that consisted of succulent chicken, vegies and gravy, followed by an all ice-cream dessert. Once dinner was over, campers made their way to a bonfire for a short talk from Rev’d Father John Kushaba, hymns and toasted marshmallows. Youth then made their way to their lodges for free time before lights went out for an early Sunday morning Eucharistic Liturgy which was consecrated by Rev’d Father Narsai Youkhanis.

The Eucharistic Liturgy took place at the Valley Chapel that was surrounded by greenery and a lake. The youth partook in the body and blood of Christ to the angelic hymns of the church choir and the beautiful scent of holy incense.

After the Eucharistic Liturgy, breakfast was served, followed by a short break for campers to pack their belongings and regroup one last time. Youth had their last lunch, got back into their groups and were each presented with a card picturing His Beatitude Mar Yosip Khnanisho, the late Metropolitan of Iraq and revered saint of the Holy Church. Before departure, individual colour group photos were taken, followed by a large group photo that concluded the retreat and saw campers board the buses with new friendships and stronger faith.

By Emmanuel Brikha

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