Sparking Connection

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By Dana Rieck

Attendance at Miniwanca’s four-day Spark 2023 retreat nearly doubled in its second year as 62 people gathered for reflection, connection and introspection. Many were returning to camp after years away, but some were brand new to the AYF.

The program, held from Sept. 21-24, incorporated workshops, personal reflection, small group and community-wide experiential programs, and time to soak in the beauty of Miniwanca.

Darrell Jones returned as keynote speaker. He is a minister, spiritual director and mindfulness coach with a long history at Miniwanca. His partner, Cari Jacobson, joined him to create a dynamic weekend.

“Adults appreciate the opportunity to unplug and gather in community and have a high-quality program experience, while also having the flexibility to enjoy free time, rest and rejuvenate,” Holley Young, director of adult programs, said. “Having ideal weather all weekend was a fantastic bonus that allowed for hiking, swimming in Lake Michigan, tubing down Stony Creek and climbing Old Baldy.”

The daily schedule included programming that was led by presenters and Spark participants, including three nights of “Evening Reflections,” where participants led a small team of people and created their program around a daily theme.  Each small team selected readings, music or a community activity.

“This is just one example of having the Spark Community lean into being a part of the overall Spark offerings,” Young said, noting this year’s program was a success because of the active engagement from everyone who participated.

In a post-program survey, participants said they appreciated the balance between social engagement and time for solitude. They also highlighted the program’s beach sunsets and morning meditations.

“I would like to think each person went home thinking how they can connect young people with the program,” one attendee wrote in their survey response. “We were sparked both personally to our core and couldn’t stop talking the whole drive home.”

Attendees also went tubing on the creek, had a game night, gathered around campfires and played Bingo.

One participant wrote in their survey response that Spark was a privilege to attend and “be surrounded by such amazing humans in a beautiful space.”

“My hope for next year’s Spark would be to simply provide a platform for all who attend have this type of takeaway when returning home!” Young said.

Spark aligns with the AYF’s value of growing together through all life’s stages and invites adults to experience a retreat with tangible takeaways in a safe, fun and welcoming environment. Spark will return to Miniwanca September 12-15, 2024.