“I went into it thinking it was just school bonding time,” said Maplewood Academy senior Nicholas Morrison. Many students arrived at North Star Camp thinking the same thing—hang out with friends, eat food, open the Bible some, maybe get a spiritual high. But everything would return to normal after it was over. What actually happened during this year’s Spiritual Retreat was a surprise to everyone.
Honestly, I would have to describe it as the “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” or even “latter rain.” I remember standing in the middle of Polaris Hall and thinking to myself, This is what it must have been like at Pentecost. The Spirit was pouring, I mean pouring Himself out onto the students and staff during that incredible night.
We began the worship service at 7pm Sunday evening. After an awesome time of praise and worship we moved into Bible study. As we started sharing with one another and reading the Word, time seemed to stand still. Before we realized it, we had been together for five hours. Yes, for five hours we thought about Jesus, talked about Jesus, were saturated by Jesus and the reality of His being. Students and faculty were prophesying; they were speaking the truths of God. They were living out the prophecy of Joel that states that in the last days God’s Spirit will be poured out and young men shall see visions and old men shall have dreams (Joel 2:28).
The Holy Spirit took over and allowed 103 students to willingly listen to Him and permit Him to speak through them. If I had a dollar for every time I heard students get up front and say, “I never do this” or “I’m not a public speaker—I don’t even know why I am up here” I would be rich. In fact, I was rich—rich with the Holy Spirit who showed up in a gigantic way.
So what is the aftermath of all of this? Here is what some staff and students are saying:
Many students have experienced Jesus for the first time. They have tasted and they see that He tastes good. —Mollie Cummings, assistant Bible teacher.
Our students this year are interested in God. It’s not a passing fancy. The Holy Spirit is moving in ways I have never anticipated, but I’m not going to slow Him down or get in His way. —Linda Vigil, chaplain.
God has brought people out of their comfort zones to express how they feel about Him. It’s amazing to see what’s happening on our campus—something that hasn’t happened in past years. —Anesia, Junior.
Everyone is just getting into their Bibles. Even if you don’t really know a person, you can go up to someone and just talk about God. —Jonathan, Sophmore.
I see the kids’ hearts being more open to spiritual things. —Christopher Morrison, athletic director.
I feel like it’s still unknown why this year is so awesome and what’s going to happen next, but I’m just going to ride the wave. —Dru, Junior.
The students are continuing to engulf themselves in God’s Word, holding nightly Bible studies in dorm rooms. They are rising up and living out the call to go and preach God’s word. Many have preached at their home churches, sharing the remarkable things God is doing on campus and, more importantly, in their hearts. Within the first month three students were baptized and many more have either recommitted their lives to Christ or are studying for baptism.
What if Jesus is actually coming soon? What if the prophecies of old are coming to fruition? What if the Holy Spirit we have pleaded for is actually here, and here to stay? I’m telling you, God is up to something big. He has begun a work not just at Maplewood, but all around this world. Something huge is about to happen with our young people. They are ready for the Spirit’s continual outpouring. They are rising up as a youth army of God. What if this is the new normal? Are the rest of us ready to jump on board this train?
Ricky Melendez is a Union College student youth pastor assisting the Hutchinson Church on the campus of Maplewood Academy.