Lost and Found, the Virginia Synod youth event for 7th and 8th graders was held November 22-23 at Eagle Eyrie Baptist Convention Center in Lynchburg. This year nearly 200 youth and adult participants got to witness and live out the theme “You’re Welcome” based on Romans 15:7, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
This year’s planning group made up by Mackenzie Anderson (Trinity, Newport News), Lukas Fick (College, Salem), Riley Houtz (Christ, Roanoke), Sarah Lambert (Christ the King, Richmond), and Ryan Mertz (Epiphany, Richmond) worked with Pastor Dave Delaney to plan nearly every element of the weekend. This year the planning group focused on how God calls us to be welcoming to others and how much richer our lives are when we overcome the fear of change and work to welcome others with open arms. This focus set and guided the entire weekend, from the theme, t-shirt designs, as well as the creative skits the group performed for those in attendance.
During the weekend, participants enjoyed the planning group’s skits, which focused on the cast of the hit TV series, “Bunkmakes”. The show is about four friends at a church summer camp, “Welcome Woods,” and their camp counselor. The problem the actors face is that here at the start of their fifth season, a new cast member has come on to replace someone who left, and the cast is struggling over how to make him feel welcome. Over the course of the skits, the cast begins to pay attention to the lessons they are presenting in their scripts, all about building and growing community. From this, the cast work to be more welcoming and inclusive of their brand new castmate. In the end, the entire cast bonds and wraps another great season of their show.
Following each skit, Pastor Chuck Miller (Wheatland, Buchanan), the chaplain for the event, summarized the skit and emphasized how the problems the Bunkmates cast were facing were similar to situations everyone has faced when trying to be welcoming to someone new.
Bryan “Hep” Hepner and Tori Smith acted as the planning group advisers and helped the group prepare to get up on stage. In addition to working with the planning group, Tori and Hep planned and performed their own series of comedic skits for the middle schoolers. The pair entertained as the Critter Patrol, sharing how to engage with nature in very silly ways!
Following large group presentations, the participants at Lost and Found got the chance to break off into small groups, arranged by age group. In these small groups, participants were able to reflect on the weekend’s theme, the skits presented, and relate all of it back to their own faith life through conversation, games, and crafts. During the weekend, small groups took a look at how the church welcomes us in baptism and worked together to organize the liturgy of Holy Baptism. Groups also worked together artistically to create paper versions of a Snapchat filter that shared welcoming messages, emphasizing the many ways we can welcome one another.
Lost and Found 2019 was filled with laughter, fun, worship, and conversations that encouraged participants to remember to welcome one another into God’s loving family. In an age where the effects of things like bullying (both in-person and online) seem to have intensified, we find that God has given us the gift of welcoming, which can make a world of difference in our churches, communities, and the world.