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Diocese of Miami Hosts Successful First Annual SOYO Fall Retreat

The pink team during Glow in the Dark Capture the FlagThe pink team during Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag

As a teen of this current generation, it’s hard for me to find other people my age that I can connect to and understand on a spiritual level. There are very few places where I feel completely accepted and where I am surrounded by friends who I know will always understand me. These places are at camp, and at conventions and retreats. With these events, I am only able to see my friends who come from all over the southeastern region twice a year, which I think everyone would agree, is not enough.

This is why when Bishop Nicholas proposed the idea of an annual fall retreat to the SOYO board, our immediate response was "Yes!" Anyone who has talked to Bishop Nicholas knows that he loves Teen SOYO. Many would describe him as a teen himself, from the way he uses our slang and taps people on the opposite shoulder, to joking around with all of us. Bishop Nicholas, including many others, know that we teens are the future of the Church.

This is why he wants to see every teen in his diocese active; not only in their parish life, but also active within their diocese. This way, not only will we have a united parish family, but we will also have a cohesive diocesan family. What better way to accomplish this goal, than by having a fall retreat?

Diocesan Teen SOYO Board with Bishop Nicholas and Fr. GabrielDiocesan Teen SOYO Board with Bishop Nicholas and Fr. GabrielThis retreat was held by St. Elias Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Mara Shuler was the main organizer of this event, and had the help of Fr. Gabriel Tannous, Kh. Gigi Tannous, and a countless number of other volunteers. The first task of the Teen SOYO Board was to pick a theme for the retreat. We all voted and came to the unanimous decision that the theme would be a quote by St. John Chrysostom who said, “The only person who is free, is the one who lives for Christ.” This theme was elaborated on by the guest speaker of the retreat, Dn. George Katrib. Deacon George hosted three sessions for the teens to talk about the given theme, and each session taught me something new spiritually. While this retreat was meant to be fun, there was also many opportunities to learn something new about Orthodoxy that related to the quote by St. John Chrysostom.

Friday was the start of the retreat and everyone was filled with excitement. After registration and some fun ice breakers, we had session one with Dn. George. During this session, everyone had a piece of paper to draw the things that make us who we are. Many had sports, family, and friends, but the staple of all our papers were a drawing of a church or a cross. That led into a talk about who we are in the eyes of Christ and our personhood, as well as how our time is spent. We found that school is where we spend most of our hours during the week. We talked about the fact that even though we spend significantly more hours at school than we do church, church still has the biggest impact on our daily lives.

The second session was held on Saturday after liturgy and brunch, and we talked about how much time we, as teens spend on social media. After this session we took a snack break and then played some fun games, including a picture scavenger hunt, which was incredibly entertaining. We then continued with session three which was an activity called Spotify vs. iTunes. The premise of this activity is that there are four different teams and the goal is for all four teams to get from $25,000 to $30,000. The way to earn or lose money is by picking either Spotify or iTunes. There is a different price of gain or loss for each combination on how the teams can choose. For example, if two teams pick iTunes and two teams pick Spotify, those who pick iTunes will win $2,000 and those who pick Spotify will lose $2,000. The simplest way for everyone to get to the goal is for everyone to pick Spotify every time. However, some teams overlooked the main point of the activity which was for every team to reach $30,000.

Instead of focusing on that goal and working together, fear and greed made some teams turn against one another, which in turn caused some teams to fail in achieving the goal. After the activity we debriefed and talked about how that is also what can happen in real life scenarios.

Saturday night we played "Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag," which was a combination of capture the flag and freeze tag. Our night was ended with an "Ask Sayedna" session, which is a teen favorite, and a Compline service. Sunday morning, we had Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and coffee hour, the perfect way to end such a fantastic and exciting weekend with each other.

This first annual fall retreat was only open for the Diocese of Miami SOYO members; however, next year we will host it as a retreat for all of our diocesan groups! I believe I speak for all of Teen SOYO when I say that I am more than excited for the fall retreat to be an annual tradition and another opportunity to be surrounded by my brothers and sisters through Christ, as well as an opportunity to grow closer to my faith. I would also like to say a special thank you to Mara Schuler, Fr. Gabriel Tannous, Kh. Gigi Tannous, and all the people who gave their time to help make the fall retreat a success, and an enormous thank you to all the teens who attended this retreat. I am looking forward for the rest of this year as your Diocese Teen SOYO Secretary. God bless you all!

Submitted by Samantha AbuGhazaleh, Secretary of DOMSE Teen SOYO