2015 GYM Senior Ski Trip
For the past 8 years, Grace Youth Ministry has taken its high school seniors on an annual ski trip to Durango, Colorado. Our seniors have actively participated in youth ministry for years, remaining connected through events and bible studies, while serving the church and community along the way. Many of us have travelled to foreign countries with the youth group to preach the gospel, led vacation bible schools with Mission Arlington, and served the younger students on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. To celebrate their faithful students, the GYM leaders reward the seniors with a spring break ski trip. While for many of us the trip was a wonderful opportunity to try a new sport and take a respite from school, relationships with fellow students and leaders grew tremendously through skiing together, nightly encouragement sessions, and yes, even the cramped van rides.
After arriving late Saturday night, we spent Sunday touring Durango, snapping pictures, picking up souvenirs, and renting ski equipment. Sunday night commenced our first evening of encouragement time. Worship time led by Chason opened up our evenings for the following three nights, and one by one throughout the week, each student was placed on the “encouragement hot seat.” As a student, I was not only humbled and heartened by the praise and advice offered from my friends and leaders, but my understanding and appreciation of my fellow students grew in unimaginable ways when I was impressed by their willingness to openly express their love for one another, and their modesty when being praised.
During those times, not only were students refreshed and sharpened by feedback from friends, yet Caleb delivered specific encouragement and advice to each and every student. I can personally confirm that I grew closer with my fellow seniors through receiving and giving praise, and Joe and Caleb’s insight into my character and future will never be forgotten. I believe I speak for every student when I say that we all gained new appreciation for each other on the trip by evaluating one another the way Jesus would.
On Wednesday evening and our final night of worship together, we had the opportunity to host, share the gospel with, and pray for Caleb and Joe’s friend Michael Lee. A Durango native, Michael met Caleb and Joe several years ago on a former senior ski trip and he has remained in contact with the youth ministry over the years. For the first time on any ski trip, we seniors took communion together, and were able to share the meaning of Jesus’s death and resurrection with Michael, a non-believer. Although our friend may not fully accept the truth of the gospel just yet, he responded positively to our time in fellowship, worship, and communion, and he bade us to, “Keep the light that we have, and continue sharing it with others.”
We know that the Holy Spirit was present on our trip, and we know He stirred in Michael that night. Ministering to Mr. Lee gave us the chance to not only to bless one another within the body of Christ, but to demonstrate the same kindness and warmth to our friend. Michael remains in contact with Joe and Caleb, and we’re eager to see how in the coming years, Michael will open up and respond to the truth of the gospel.
Monday morning we rose early, headed to the slopes, and most of us began our first ski lesson. The athletically dominant mortals who didn’t require further instruction before they began conquering blacks, shall remain nameless as their dauntingly impressive skills are now renowned throughout the senior class. As on Tuesday and Wednesday, we spent Monday skiing as long as the resort was open. (Except for me; I didn’t ski very much because I’m about as good at skiing as an epileptic sloth after a game of laser tag.)
Dominating (or slothing) the slopes with our fellow students as we grew in our ability provided occasion even outside of encouragement time to serve one another, embolden each other to persevere, and to spend time with leaders working towards a common goal in a common activity. Whether in the lessons, on the slopes, or on the ski lifts, our time shared with one another was endlessly uplifting, and we have God’s presence on the trip and the dedication of our leaders to thank for that.
Though the ski trip may have served as a vacation, none of us took a break from growing in God and developing relationships with each other. As a senior who has been part of the GYM since 7th grade, I can firmly attest that the ski trip has been the most rewarding activity I’ve participated in with youth over the years, and for good reason. Not only was I able to mark skiing off the list of sports I cannot do, but I got to know my leaders better on and off the slopes, while gaining godly insight and appreciation for friends old and new. For the students privileged enough to be a part of the senior ski trip, it served as a God glorifying commencement activity to celebrate the conclusion of our high school days, and a refreshing week away to reflect on His faithfulness during our time in the Grace Youth Ministry.