Gem State Adventist Academy starts every school year with a long-standing tradition. The entire school family spends three days at Camp Ida-Haven. This spiritual retreat sets the tone for the year and provides an opportunity to bond as a school family.
The school's spiritual theme this year is To Go. During the retreat, Pastor Ever Perez, Bible teacher and GSAA Church pastor, asked the staff to share personal stories of what it has been like to stand up for Jesus.
John Soulé, GSA principal shared a story illustrating that a Christian life is not easy, but simple. Athletic director, Jeremy Perkins shared that even when we have our own plans, God wants us to follow His and is ready to receive us into that plan. Samantha Schnell, GSA head dean shared that sometimes God keeps us in a place for as long as necessary, until He has everything He needs ready to continue our forward motion in His plan. Assistant Chaplain, Kailey Perez shared about the confusion she has encountered as God's plan has not always been clear, but that she continues moving forward in faith, believing that He has a plan even when she can’t see the end right now.
"All were blessed by the authenticity and transparency of the faculty stories," said Perez. "This was a great way to begin our school year. God blessed immensely.”
Soulé believes the retreat draws the students and staff closer to God and to each other. It's an important way to start the year off right and it carries over to daily life on campus. For Soulé, one of the most meaningful experiences at the retreat was evening campfire, where the question was asked, “How did you see Jesus today?”
Service is also a component of the annual retreat. The GSAA family spent several hours cleaning up various areas around the camp by weeding and clearing brush. The time spent in service is an opportunity to invest and take ownership of the camp as well as a way to say 'thank you' to the camp staff hosts.
The Ida-Haven retreat is not just a much-loved tradition. It is a privilege and a blessing. When the bus headed for home, everyone was tired and happy to bring home many memories.
When students were asked what makes the annual retreat valuable, fun and important to them, they answered in a variety of ways.
"The most valuable aspect is all the amazing memories that are made, the most fun is being with friends and bonding with new people, and the most important thing is the spiritual euphoria we feel when we’re up there, along with what we do with that experience," said Ely Ingraham, senior.
"Making new friends," said Everett Stone, sophomore.
Sela Estep, GSAA senior said, "I think that the Ida-Haven retreat is super important at the beginning of the year because it gets us closer as a school. It gives the new and returning students good opportunities to get to know each other better. It helps Gem State to become a tighter community."
"Connection and bonding are important," said Sofia Creitz, freshman.
"I think the most important thing about the Camp Ida-Haven retreat this year was being able to get to know the freshmen and to connect with the new students in my class," said Kloe Stoldt, junior.
"The Ida-Haven retreat sets the tone for the rest of the school year, builds a spiritual atmosphere and provides a chance for students to get to know each other," said Izzie Henry, sophomore.
"My favorite part is getting a feel for the student body; learning who the extroverts and introverts are and who the leaders are. It’s a really rewarding experience," said Josh Essink, senior.
"The most important thing is that it allows everyone to get to know each other better," said Seth Davis, freshman.
"One thing that is valuable is having a chance to bond with your fellow students in a different setting, right at the beginning of the school year. It establishes relationships quickly and gives a good start to the year," said Jenna Waterhouse, senior.