When Gann Wright called to ask if I would chaperone the Montreat Youth Conference, I said, “yes” because in the moment, I couldn’t think of a good reason to say, “no.” I’d been to Montreat on family vacations when our kids were young, so I was familiar with this beautiful area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. My wife Cathy had already committed to assisting Stacy Pulliam with meal preparations for this year’s conference.
As the date approached, I had second-thoughts. I’d never been a chaperone. Who were all these kids – thirty-three participants? My grown children are no longer part of the IPC youth program. Didn’t I need to stay home and work and keep the dogs company?
Little did I realize the experience would provide a middle-aged man with a spiritual revival. My assignments were not challenging: drive a van, attend keynote speeches in the morning and worship services in the evening. Make occasional runs to the grocery store if Cathy or Stacy needed anything. As a bonus, I got to hang out with amazing young people during meals, group discussions, and on a whitewater rafting excursion. Their energy and enthusiasm rubbed off. Within a few days, I found myself singing praise songs (maybe a little too loudly) and bouncing into the aisles during worship, doing “energizers” (a Presbyterian form of aerobics).
Catherine Goudreau and Gann Wright did a wonderful job relating to and mentoring our youth. Each night, they unpacked the powerful messages from keynote speeches and worship sermons, tackling tough issues and sparking lively, intelligent discussions. And those thirty-three strangers? Turns out I knew most of their parents or someone in their family. These kids are amazing – as bright, respectful and considerate as you would expect, knowing Whose they are and where they come from. Their love of God and joy in sharing their spiritual journey was inspiring. I learned much, laughed a lot and made some new friends and great memories.