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Local youth group connects with God, each other during summer trip

NATCHEZ — In less than two weeks, most Miss-Lou students will be back in the school day routine, but a few of those students are going into the school year on a spiritual high.

The youth group at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church returned earlier this week from their summer trip to Chicago and Mammoth Cave and Jamestown, Ky.

The trip, which is planned yearly by a committee of youth group members, gives the students a time for fun and reflection, youth group president and summer trip task group chairman Chesley Coffey said.

“For me, the retreat portion of the trip is what is most enjoyable,” Coffey said. “After running around for a couple of days we retreated to the Cumberland Falls area of Kentucky where we were very close to nature. That environment allows the group to be more introspective.”

Each year, the trip features fun activities, community service activities and worship and spiritual activities.

This year the group visited Chicago for fun at Six Flags, a Chicago Cubs baseball game and sightseeing, including a church service at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, the highest situated sanctuary in the United States, but also did work at the Marcy Newberry Association, a community agency that provides assistances to the underprivileged on the west side of Chicago.

The group cleaned up a garden area and painted a porch while at the center.

Youth group member Caitlin Lofton said working at the center allowed the group to put the trip’s theme, Love Strong, into action.

“Basically the whole year we concentrated on God’s grace and how to show it leading up to this trip,” Lofton said. “God’s love isn’t just about praying and praising, but it is also about doing service in the community and showing God’s love in the world.”

After a few fun-filled days in Chicago, the spiritual retreat began for the 36 students and nine adult chaperones.

During that time, Coffey said lessons centered on the theme are taught in small group and worship settings.

“This is one way our group becomes really spiritually-focused,” he said.

Youth group secretary Adam Blackwell said the group unplugs from reality during the spiritual retreat portion of the trip.

“They take up our cell phones and electronic devices, and that really allows us to connect with God and connect with ourselves and each other.”

The trip is funded partially through the church, but the youth group works year-round to raise money for the trip by selling lunch plates, fruit and through the annual dinner theater production.

“The retreat and what is learned during it, make the months of play rehearsals worth it,” Coffey said. “I’ve been doing this for seven years, and it is a formula that works. We do something different each year and have good times with good friends. It is an experience everyone gets a lot out of.”

Lofton said during the trip the students bond closely with other youth group members.

She said that is the experience she looks forward to each year.

“We work all year long raising money for this trip,” she said. “What makes it so special is you get to connect with all the people that you are there with. Each year, it is the experience of a lifetime.”

The students on the trip range in age from rising seventh graders to rising college freshman. Blackwell said the trip is a level platform for everyone involved.

“Our group, with the age range, is unique,” he said. “It is a chance for everyone to connect within the group and with God.”

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