Public High School & College Students Gather for HI-C Retreat
120 public high school and college students converged upon Camp Au Sable for Hi-C, an annual retreat specifically for Adventist and non-Adventist students that attend public schools.
Samuel Girven | December 7, 2022 | Cadillac Church Member
One hundred and twenty public high school and college students converged upon Camp Au Sable for Hi-C, an annual retreat specifically for Adventist and non-Adventist students that attend public schools. Hi-C is hosted by the Youth Department and Public Campus Ministries of the Michigan Conference. Held on Nov. 4-6, 2022, the retreat helps encourage Adventist youth, while also creating a safe space for their non-Adventist friends to evaluate their understanding of Christianity and Adventism.
The purpose of Hi-C is twofold, explains Chad Bernard, youth director at the Michigan Conference. “You're dealing with young people who are Adventists, who are in non-Adventist environments. It's radically different when you're in a school environment where that's just not on the radar. We're wanting to encourage them,” he says.
Bernard also points to a second component—Adventists encouraging their unchurched friends to attend. “We're hoping that they bring their friends who aren't Adventist or Christian. They don't have any experience with all of this, and we're trying to create an environment where there's a comfort level where people feel comfortable connecting with each other in a Christian format so we can point them to Jesus and then call them to a life with Christ.”
This purpose permeates the retreat’s structure. Networking opportunities are intentionally designed by event organizers to make everyone comfortable enough to let their guard down. “Whenever you go into a new environment, especially if you're unchurched or you don't have relationships with those around you, most people have their guard up. They're like, ‘Do I want to talk to these people? Do I trust them?’” Bernard said.
One example took place on Sabbath morning, Nov. 5. Participants walked around Shellenbarger Lake at Camp Au Sable in a two-file line. Each person had to have a conversation with whoever was next to them for several minutes. When the time was up, they shifted to whoever was next and held another conversation. By the end of the walk, everyone had met all the other attendees at Hi-C. “We tried to create an environment where there are relationships starting to be formed and connections to be made. After the event, we want these relationships to continue as much as possible.”
Another notable relationship-building activity was the “Hi-C 500”. A new activity for Hi-C, participants braved cold and misty conditions on Sabbath evening for team go-kart racing. The activity was a hit. Participants created new bonds among the newly formed teams through trial, error, and even potential victory. “They told me, ‘You’ve got to do that every year.’ It was so much fun and they were super excited about it,” Bernard said.
The event’s theme, “The Thread”, was inspired by the organizers’ desire for youth to understand the Bible as a love letter. “We would love young people to realize that the Bible is really a love letter that is part of a bigger conversation. Essentially, you have a father in heaven who's hurting because we're not together. Throughout scripture…there’s this common thread of, ‘I want to be with you, I love you.’”
“It's not just something that is found in Exodus or in Deuteronomy, but it's something that infuses all of scripture,” added Israel Ramos, director of Public Campus Ministries at the Michigan Conference.
This theme provoked guest speaker Mark Howard, director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries for the Michigan Conference, to give a series of messages that described this “thread” as God’s love expressed through his laws and scriptures.
“God’s laws are given to bring happiness to his creatures,” he told the audience of youth on Friday, Nov. 4. “Whatever your background, you have a heavenly father who wants you to prosper, be happy, and fulfilled. In mercy, he’s given you his law.”
Howard expanded upon that foundation throughout the weekend. “What impact do you want to make on this world?” he asked the group on Sabbath, Nov. 5. “What are you living for? Are you even standing for anything, or are you one of those people who wears everything out front, but inside you just bend to whatever way the wind is blowing?”
Over the weekend, there were three decisions for baptism, and nearly 30 people expressed a desire to participate in small-group meetings.
“I think this is…one of the most intentionally interactive things that I've ever been to at Camp Au Sable,” said Lauren Pease, a 19-year-old student at Oakland University. “[The messages] really spoke to me about all the struggles and being steadfast to God, and doing what he wants us to do, and following His law,” she said. “I felt like he was talking to me, and I felt like there was a reason for me to be here.”
“Overall, this is my first time being here,” said Kayla Harden, a 20-year-old student at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. “I like it. I liked the diversity, getting to meet different people from all over, and getting to converse and engage with them.”
The next Hi-C retreat is scheduled for Nov. 3-5, 2023.