Lessons in The Sacred Forest
Serving our Discipleship Kids is where the Sacred Forest's purpose both begins and ends... but you better believe there's a whole lot that happens in the middle of that!
At first, our kids might view a trip up to the Forest like a fun distraction. What child hasn't wanted to get away from their chores, homework, and parental figures to go on an adventure far from home? While a Discipleship Retreat certainly provides those things too, it’s so much more than just a vacation.
It all starts with lunch. One of our Discipleship Coordinators thinks that breaking bread together in the Sacred Forest is one of the most potent aspects of SuNica’s ministry. It’s during these meals that everyone shares their story - history, hopes, dreams, and fears included. Everyone’s required to talk for a minimum of 5 minutes, which is never a problem once they get going!
And as stories are shared, the walls start to come down. The kids get a chance to feel heard, and realize that their peers and our staff have struggled through many of the same trials they’re facing. We had a group comprised of El Porvenir and El Limonal kids recently, and saw them build quick bonds after just one lunchtime discussion.
Opportunities for "Accidental Lessons" are everywhere in the Sacred Forest. It could be a teaching moment on the trail with Josh -- he’s like the Jacques Cousteau of tropical trees and plants! On a recent trip, students from El Limonal discovered the simple joy of agriculture as they plucked carrots from the ground and used them in that evening's dinner. Coming from an urban environment, this understanding of where vegetables came from stirred their imaginations.
Boundaries of what kids think they can do are pushed, or even torn down. One group of girls (and a couple of staff members) were given tools and materials and asked to build a few stairs into a steep section of trail. At first these young ladies had no idea how to accomplish the task, but after some trial and error, and a whole lot of laughter, they experienced both the joy of a job well done and a confidence boost for the next time they faced the challenge of something new.
Possibly the biggest Accidental Lessons happen as our kids go for a hike, enjoying the cool mountain air and the lush environment all on their own.
Solitude and silence are two words our kids don’t get to experience often, if ever, at home. These walks alone on the mountainside lead to profound emotions withheld. Alejandro’s testimony from a video last year tells the tale of an incredible experience that happened within the Sacred Forest better than this blog can.
So yes, a Discipleship Retreat to the Sacred Forest is a very different experience for our kids, but it’s far from a simple vacation! There’s not a moment where everyone isn’t engaged in some way - whether it’s helping with trail maintenance, setting up bedding for the night, holding a light while Dona Zorayda cooks (remember, no electricity!), or simply experiencing God in quiet solitude amidst the trees.
Please consider supporting The List campaign this Christmas season. Your donation helps us expand our capacity to bring kids to camp next year, and build critical facilities to keep the Sacred Forest experience sustainable for many years and generations to come.