By Kathy Schmugge
CHAPIN — Twenty-eight high school students were sent on the search of a lifetime recently — to achieve a worthy goal of Christian maturity.
The weekend SEARCH retreat, held the last week of October at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin, gave them a running start toward that goal.
SEARCH is a peer ministry program offered for and run by the youth, sponsored by the Charleston Diocese Office of Youth Ministry. It is a national program that originated in the Mississippi Diocese. Some compare it to a Cursillo retreat offered to adults, but not quite as in depth.
SEARCH program coordinators, Tim and Ann Forbes, had a powerful experience with the program as youth and have been leading the program for several years. Because of the recent birth of their daughter Grace Ann, they did not attend this weekend so college volunteers such as Theresa Wagner, from the College of Charleston, and Patricia Williams, a student at Clemson, came to help. Wagner described her SEARCH retreat in high school as a reawakening of her faith. She volunteers so that others can grow in their relationship with Christ.
“SEARCH gives young people an opportunity to discuss the same issues as they would with adults but with a different perspective,” she said. “Students can sometimes relate better to one another.”
Wagner is a member of the Wheat Team that prepares meals, cleans, and develops skits and games. They are so named because they are following Jesus’ words that one must die to self, using the illustration of the wheat that dies so the grain can be produced. Many college and adult volunteers who assist on the wheat team are more behind-the-scene offering help and support.
“We want to give them a positive experience with the faith,” said Jerry White, youth director for the diocese. His hope is that SEARCH will create an opportunity in the busy lives of the young people, to sit back and contemplate where they are in their own faith journey and examine what they believe and why.
The co-directors for this search were Dutch Fork High School Seniors, Lauren Burton and John Devine, both parishioners from Our Lady of the Hills in Columbia. Besides having already attended SEARCH, these coordinators along with other team leaders had to participate in a training weekend where they learned to organize the upcoming event. It was at this gathering that the team chose the theme, “Trust in God’s Will.”
Prior to the sacrament of reconciliation, the team performed one powerful skit called “Turn Around.” Young volunteers wore banners around their necks with the sins of the day written on them. A girl began to take each of the sins as her own by placing the banners around her neck until eventually the sins began to destroy her life. She cried out in desperation, first for her friends who could do nothing for her and then finally for Jesus. It was with that call of repentance that a youth who played Jesus physically removed her sins and put them around his neck symbolizing what Christ did on the cross and continues to do every day for those who call his name and sincerely approach him for forgiveness.
The SEARCH retreat is designed to help individuals see their value as members of the Christian Community and to give them a desire to see and bring Christ into their own lives and environment and share him with those around them.
Many of these young people have began a quest for a mature faith, one that all Christian are called to obtain, a call to change and to give sacrificial love so perfectly illustrated in the events of the weekend.