On the last day of April, we loaded almost 40 kids from my church youth group into a van and a big truck and drove 4 hours to Zanglais for the senior high retreat. The ride could have been uncomfortable and boring but instead it was a high energy prelude to the retreat with games and surfing and singing and snacks. And a little sleeping.
One of the most dramatic moments of the trip was when we came around a bend in the mountain road and saw how a similarly sized truck had fared. Not exactly encouraging!
Zanglais is near Les Cayes, a city of about 75,000 on the southern coast of Haiti. The beaches are sandy, unlike the rocky ones closer to Port-au-Prince, and the waves can get 12 feet high. We spent long afternoons in the water, or for those of us who really don't like salt water, walking and talking on the beach.
Several of the kids are musically talented and many of them have a real passion for singing. There was almost always a group of young people in the gazebo strumming the guitar, pounding away on the bongos and singing praise songs over the crashing of the waves.
During our free time, we played soccer, played a million different card games, and just talked. We even went for an early morning run on the beach! I could've killed the 2 girls who woke me up at 5:00am to go running - we hadn't gone to sleep 'til midnight so I was exhausted. But the run was refreshing and completely worth it.
Of all the retreats that I've been to as a teen and a young adult, this one was easily the winner when it came to balancing fun times with serious times. The kids got to laugh and run around but they also sat down and listened to chapel talks from each of the leaders and took time away by themselves to reflect on what they were learning. I loved seeing a student sitting alone with a Bible or praying with a friend.
Lots of talking, lots of playing, and very little sleeping means tired kids and very tired leaders!