Nearly a year ago I was sitting on my bed in Assembly Inn at the 2008 Montreat Youth Conference, Week III pondering about the doors God was throwing open in my life. In less than 12 hours, I’ll be headed back to that sacred place that speaks so deeply to my heart—this time with a new youth group, the folks from Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia…and with my 1-year-old daughter Katie who is already at Montreat with her wonderful mom and my dear wife Elizabeth (a small group leader for the week) and the best mother-in-law Ann (aka Nana). I can’t wait to share this experience with the PHPC youth and advisors, my family and also see old friends I haven’t seen in a few years.
To say that I’m excited about a return to Montreat would be an understatement. I’ve had trouble sleeping the past, I’m so stoked. This will be my 12th Montreat youth conference (8th as an adult leader) and my 13th Montreat conference (counting the January 2008 College Conference). With each Montreat, comes a sense of sheer joy knowing that youth and adults will experience God’s love in some profound, poignant and even humorous ways. With each Montreat, comes a flood of memories of past conferences–experiences that truly shaped me as a husband, father, pastor and friend. Montreat has and always will be the weigh station for my faith, the place called Emmaus where I can refuel and be rejuvenanted in the presence of God in those blue mountains, around Lake Susan and in the sweltering heat of Anderson Auditorium.
For those who have been to Montreat, it’s hard to explain what the place and the youth conferences are like to those who’ve never been. The best words can barely describe the majesty and grace of that place. Even when Montreat and the conference is imperfect (and believe me it’s as broken and filled with sin as any church or other destination) there is still beauty in the midst.
Here are some pictures of my Montreat experiences over the years. I look forward to adding more pictures and memories to this collection when this week is over: