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“LIFT Lifts Spirits”—12-Year-Old Reports on Bible Retreat


It was a sunny, warm fall day on Sunday, October 2, when my classmates and I excitedly loaded up in three different cars headed for LIFT at Camp Au Sable in northern Michigan. Do you know what LIFT stands for? If you’re anything like me before I went, probably not. Lifestyle Improvement For Teens (LIFT) is a fall retreat for Michigan Conference seventh and eighth graders where young people learn to make good spiritual, physical, and social lifestyle choices. The Michigan Conference education superintendent, Jeremy Hall, says that LIFT has been around for many years, and he remembers going to it himself as a student, nearly 35 years ago. For three days, from October 2 to 5, 2022, 180 teens gathered from all over the state to spend time in nature, learn more about the Bible, and make new friends.

Every day was crammed to the brim with fun activities. We got up, had breakfast and morning worship, then headed to breakout sessions. There was also recreation, games, and free time. Evening worship and then bedtime came after dark. (The days were very long!) The next day, we started again! 

Every day, we had three breakout sessions, like Kitchen Creations, Trail Building, and more. I really loved being outdoors and taking the wilderness survival breakout class, where I learned how to build a shelter and filter water in case I ever get lost. Sketch the Scriptures was very enjoyable: we Bible journaled and drew what happened in Bible verses. Our music breakout teacher, Mr. Steve Martin from Chicago, was an unofficial world record breaker: he composes music and plays at least 46 instruments! He taught us praise songs and how to lead out up front. I got to play my violin on stage and lead out in song service with a bunch of other students from the music breakout group.

The author tries out a shelter she built with a group of students (photo by Jennifer Payne)

Our speaker for worships was Pastor Steven Conway. The theme was “Purposed” and the Bible verse was Daniel 1:8: “Daniel purposed in his heart.” Most of the Bible stories in worship were about Daniel and Joseph. They both followed God and did the right thing, even when it was difficult. Pastor Conway was very interactive as he led out in worship. He had us sit in groups and discuss points of interest from the talk by giving us a colorful and vibrant chart with lots of emotions arranged in a circular pattern. We marked feelings to identify and understand better the Bible characters’ thoughts and struggles, because then they didn’t feel like people who lived thousands of years ago. Instead, they became more relevant and in-depth. It was very fun and thought-provoking. By the end of LIFT, many students were enthusiastic about getting baptized.

One of the benefits of LIFT is learning how to live healthily and happily. Horseback riding is a great way to get outside, as I learned on a horse named Latigo during recreation time. He kept stopping to eat grass, which was a bit annoying since we were not supposed to let our horses graze while riding them, but he was a very nice horse anyway. There were lots of pine trees that we rode beneath, and I had to duck repeatedly to not get hit in the head by a branch laden with needles. I really enjoyed my trail ride. Another day during recreation, I walked all the way around the lake, which was about two miles. It was a great way to get lots of exercise. The trees were eye-popping with all their red, yellow, orange, and purple. The lake was right there, and sometimes I could see other LIFT kids canoeing; I waved, and they waved back. Every quarter mile there were signs informing you of the distance you had walked. We could hear different birds and the wind in the pines. The weather was clear and sunny. All the physical activity gave me 20,000 steps in one day! The fresh air and hiking were some of the things I liked most about LIFT.

Shellenbarger Lake (photo by Juliana S. Payne)

Juliana with the horse Latigo (photo by Jennifer Payne)

Another great part of LIFT was meeting new friends. There were lots of outdoor activities where I got to meet new people from all over the state. Many people played Ultimate Frisbee, tug-of-war, ga-ga ball, and capture the flag. I snuck over to the other side, until someone found me out! My classmate, Charles, a seventh grader, said that he liked hanging out with friends. Another classmate, Autumn, said she enjoyed meeting new people that “in the future could be your best friends.” Getting to know lots of people we might not have met otherwise was exciting.

When I asked Mr. Hall what the goal of this retreat is and his favorite part of LIFT, he responded: "Our ultimate goal is [that] the young people make decisions for Jesus Christ and have a saving relationship with him. Each year, we provide an opportunity for young people attending to make that decision, and we usually have around 60 decisions for baptism. Those decisions are then forwarded on to local schools and pastors so follow-up can take place." 

I thought that LIFT was really fun, and my friends and I had a great time there. My favorite parts were riding horses and playing my violin on stage. All of the breakouts taught me something, and everyone was so friendly. I can’t wait to go to LIFT next year!


Juliana S. Payne attends the Niles Adventist School and Niles Westside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Michigan. She is about to turn 13 years old and loves reading, writing, animals, nature, and science. She reported on the Michigan Conference's Lifestyle Improvement For Teens camp exclusively for Spectrum. 

Title photo by Jennifer Payne

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