A Transformative Teen Retreat Amidst Snow and Rain

By Matushka Dennise Kraus

The Lenten Teen Retreat at Frost Valley YMCA unfolded against a backdrop of natural beauty and wintery surprises. Nestled in the serene Catskill Mountains, this retreat provided a sanctuary for 29 participants, including 16 enthusiastic teens and dedicated chaperones. As raindrops and snowflakes danced together, hearts warmed, and souls were nourished.

Despite the unpredictable weather, the retreat’s centerpiece remained the thought-provoking sessions led by Dr. Dn. Sampson Nash. An esteemed ethicist and Associate Professor of Medicine at The Ohio State University, Dr. Nash engaged the teens in profound discussions about living a Christ-centered life. His insights on the role of Scripture and the impact of our modern culture resonated deeply. The Q&A sessions allowed the teens to seek clarity and delve into the complexities of faith and the challenges of life. Dr. Nash’s presence was a beacon of wisdom, guiding them toward a more meaningful understanding of their Christian journey.

As snowflakes mingled with raindrops, the teens reveled in a variety of activities. Indoor archery sessions echoed with laughter as they aimed for bulls-eyes. The rock-climbing walls witnessed their determination and teamwork and teambuilding activities fostered communication. These physical challenges mirrored the spiritual ascent they were experiencing.

Prayer services punctuated the retreat, with the young adults serving, chanting and singing the hymns and prayers, led by Janet Neis-Drobish. On Friday night, evening prayer brought everyone together, as each of the Teens participated in the prayers. Saturday morning’s Akathist service, “Glory to God for All Things,” uplifted hearts and minds, and Archbishop MICHAEL gave a beautiful sermon on seeing the glory of God in dark times, just like the priest who wrote the Akathist while imprisoned in a Gulag. “He was able to look out of his barred window and not look at the mud but raise his eyes and see the stars!” Following the Akathist, during “Q&A with Vladyka”, Archbishop MICHAEL answered questions ranging from “what is your favorite color” to “what is the most impactful talk you have given” where Vladyka answered it by telling his life story in which he gave the most profound relationship “advice” and how God was with him throughout his life. Great Vespers on Saturday evening fostered reflection, allowing them to pause and contemplate their faith, followed by a cozy bonfire and smores. And on Sunday morning, the Divine Liturgy for St. John Climacus Sunday marked a beautiful conclusion—a celebration of the Eucharist that bound them as one body in Christ.

In the quiet moments between sessions, as snowflakes melted into raindrops, the teens forged lasting friendships. They shared stories, laughter, and late-night conversations. The Youth Retreat at Frost Valley YMCA was more than an event—it was a transformative journey. As they departed, they carried with them the blessings of fellowship, faith, and the assurance that their steps were guided by a loving God.

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