by Caleb Sebora
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Early in the morning on June 18, a group of nine people loaded into a 15-passenger van in the parking lot of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie, and departed for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
To serve the people and workers of the Lutheran Valley Retreat, a small Lutheran camp located on the eastern edge of the Pike National Forest, about an hour and a half northwest of Colorado Springs, CO.
The mission trip, which is part of the ACT (Active Christian Teens) group at St. Paul Lutheran Church, is in its seventh year, and the journey to Colorado is just one of many destinations that ACT mission trip has travelled to since its creation (including Louisiana and Michigan, among others). Students must have completed their freshman year of high school in order to be able to go.
The trip to Colorado started out with a long drive through the rolling plains in the heart of America from Minnesota, to Iowa, and, the final destination of the first day, Grand Island, NE, where the group (consisting of seven youth and two leaders) spent the night at a local church, before waking up Sunday morning to head out to the Lutheran Valley Retreat. Once at the the camp, the group finally learned what their service activities would be for the week.
“We had to do some fire mitigation and dig holes for a zip line platform,” said Abbi Schultz, a recent graduate of Lester Prairie High School.
“Back in 2002, there was big fire in Pike National Forest, where the Lutheran Valley Retreat is, and two weeks into that summer, the camp had to send everyone home because the fire came dangerously close to it,” said Katie Kuball, director of Christian education at St. Paul, and leader of the trip. “So, what they had us do was collect all that charred wood [because there was still so much left] and make ‘treepees’ to be burned in the winter.”
The other big project of the week for the group was to dig holes for a special platform for the camp’s zip line to make it handicap-accessible, so that everyone could join in the fun.
“Bethesda Lutheran Homes, which is a group home for adults with special needs, is near Lutheran Valley Retreat, and they often come and use the facilities at camp. So we dug holes for a platform so that wheelchairs could get up it,” Kuball said.
Along with the service that the group performed, they also used their time in the mountains to worship and have Bible studies.
“Our theme for this trip was ‘chosen, saved, sent,’” said Kuball. “We were chosen by God, we were saved by Jesus, and now, we are sent to be disciples.”
And while the group was there to serve, it didn’t stop them from venturing out and having fun. On one of the days, the group went whitewater rafting.
“Most of the group had never gone before, so they were pretty nervous,” Kuball said. “But after we did it, everybody loved it.”
The group also got to do some rock climbing and try out some of the high ropes courses at the retreat.
But, perhaps one of the best things that they did, according to Kuball, was take a 4 a.m. hike to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise. Not everybody was thrilled to get up at 4 a.m., “but it was so worth it,” Kuball said.
“It was good to be disconnected from everything for a little while,” said Lester Prairie junior Callie Sebora. “It felt like we were there forever in a good way.”