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  • Sandy Nippert

Thunder 2019: A Quest for Hope

Thunder. For many of you it’s that annoying loud sound that wakes you when a big storm is coming through and sends your dogs whimpering under the bed. While I personally love a good thunderstorm, let me tell you what I really think about when I hear the word thunder.

Last month, McMinnville Covenant joined 18 other churches from our conference at the annual Thunder Retreat for middle schoolers. Two 6th grade students and two leaders made the laughter-filled drive to Cascades Camp and Conference Center in Yelm, Washington. It was a smaller group than normal. Michael Terrill and I typically take multiple vehicles and close to 20 kids to camp each year. This change in dynamics allowed for more connection in small group times and allowed the two students who were on their first overnight adventures away from home to really spread their wings and try new things—maybe even new foods.

This years theme was “A Quest for Hope,” and it was so evident how well that worked into the kids lives that weekend. The first night we learned about the three types of hope, a Wish Hope, a Reasonable Hope, and a Christian Hope. Over the course of the weekend we discussed how it was a wish hope that there would still be two spots left to sign up for paintball so that both of them could sign up, because they weren’t going to sign up if the other couldn’t sign up too. I shared with them that with this being my seventh Thunder retreat I had a pretty reasonable hope that they were going to have a good time no matter what free time activity they were able to sign up for or what the kitchen served us at meal time or how weird and crazy the big group game was. Together we explored what it means to have a Christian hope, a hope that does not disappoint, a hope that no matter what bad or hard thing is going on in our lives, God is still good. And while the sign ups for paintball filled up before it was our turn, the boys did have a great time at camp. In fact, one of them even told me on a scale of 1 to 10, his first Thunder Retreat was an 11.

We worshipped God and climbed water towers. We learned about hope and we learned new games. We deepened friendships and we sling-shotted pumpkins into the lake. We bravely stepped out of our comfort zones and we were reminded that God is always with us no matter where we are.

Our time at Thunder had me reflecting on our recent sermon series “Deep Roots Wild Branches” and how Mac Cov’s and Cascades Camp’s stories are so intertwined. For years we have sent students and adults alike to camp and retreats there. Some of those very students and adults have gone on to serve on staff at camp either for a summer or a more permanent year round status. Young people from Mac Cov have grown up to serve as pastors in other churches and now bring their own students to camp and retreats as Cascades. The deeper one’s roots, the more beautiful the wild branches.

Thunder. It’s the sound caused by lightning. It’s the sound of laughter and youtube coming from the back of the car. Most beautifully, it’s the sound of hundreds of middle schoolers worshipping God.

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