7UP Brings Students Closer to God

What happens when you bring together more than 140 enthusiastic seventh- and eighth-graders, 30 dedicated sponsors, uplifting music and thought-provoking worship experiences in a unique setting? You get 7UP — a spiritual retreat weekend designed for seventh- and eighth-graders, hosted by the Upper Columbia Conference office of education.

The creation of the 7UP retreat stemmed from UCC’s strategic plan, “Serve One More.” Brian Harris, UCC vice president for education, shared, “When we evaluated the available programs for this age group, we realized that we had a gap to fill. While our fifth- and sixth-graders have their annual outdoor school experience at camp, there was nothing in place for our seventh- and eighth-graders.”

He continued, “Bringing these kids out to worship at camp aligns perfectly with our overarching goal: to guide students towards an encounter with Jesus, acceptance of His gift of salvation and the decision to follow Him.”

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2023, the inaugural 7UP retreat unfolded at Camp MiVoden, welcoming seventh- and eighth-graders from across UCC eager to participate in the inspiring event.

“This retreat offers students the opportunity to worship together, establish new friendships and immerse themselves in the wonders of God’s creation found at Camp MiVoden,” explained Harris.

The central theme of the weekend was “The Love of Jesus,” with inspiring messages delivered by Lindsey Haffner, Redlands Adventist Church associate pastor. Haffner has Pacific Northwest roots and is an alumna of Rogers Adventist School and Walla Walla University. Luke Irvine, WWU alumnus, led praise and worship alongside a music team featuring WWU students and alumni.

Among many of the standout moments during the retreat were the Sabbath afternoon activities, where students ventured outdoors to connect with the natural world. The options were abundant, with hiking, canoeing and boat rides topping the experiences the retreat participants enjoyed.

“During this time, Caleb Foss, Camp MiVoden program director, orchestrated team-building activities that were not only fun but also held valuable spiritual lessons for the attendees,” shared Harris.

The success of 7UP has set the stage for it to become an annual event, with the date for the 2024 session already marked on the calendar.

“This retreat not only strengthens the spiritual bonds of these students but also serves as a testament to the commitment of UCC office of education to provide meaningful spiritual experiences for the students in our schools,” said Harris. “7UP represents a promising initiative that reinforces the mission of nurturing young hearts and souls in their faith journey.”

Featured in: January/February 2024