When I got on the plane to Norfolk, VA at the end of this past June, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly excited. I was on my way to some “leadership camp”, as vague and bland as that sounds, and though I had protested and protested the idea for weeks before leaving, my mother insisted, as mothers will invariably do when they “have your best interest at heart”. The whole way there, I couldn’t stop telling myself that it would be boring, that I wouldn’t like anyone there, or that I would be dying to leave the whole time. Suffice it to say that a week later, as I packed my bags for the plane ride home the next day, I felt stupid. Stupid because every single one of my preconceptions turned out to be one-hundred percent false. Stupid because after just one day at Goldmine Leadership School, I knew I was spending a week with people I will treasure for the rest of my life. But most of all, I felt stupid for almost not experiencing something I now couldn’t imagine my life without.
Every day at Goldmine, we engaged in thoughtful and open discussions about ethics, group dynamics, and what it means to be a leader. These Leadership Skills Development sessions, as they were called, were varied and almost always interesting, and everyone felt like they were included. Every night, one of two groups would lead a worship that they would themselves, and the results ranged from highly emotional and honest sermon-focused worships to amazingly liberating musical ones. The stuff we churned out was great, and sometimes inspiring. We also devoted some time each day to developing our credos, which could be written, drawn, or even performed musically, and were provided with excellent, thought-provoking prompts to guide us in each days’ self-discovery (and anyone attending this camp will discover something about themselves).
But it’s the little things that stick with me the most. It’s the dinners we made each night, the conversations we had in the woods the night we went camping, the “hurricane” (really just a nasty rainstorm) that had to drop by the one day we went to the beach. These moments will stick with me because, above all, the people I met at Goldmine were nothing short of spectacular. As different as we all were, we all had one thing in common: we weren’t afraid to be ourselves. And that level of openness and sincerity meant that each of us shined in our own ways, and that we all appreciated each other. In fact, the last night, during which we all went around in a circle and told each other what we thought each person had brought to the week, brought me to tears.
I am so grateful that I got to experience something as wonderful as Goldmine. It’s an experience that simply can’t be matched. And while some of the things I’ll treasure about it are unique to my experience, I also can’t recommend the program more on its own merits. And so I encourage every teen in all of our congregations across the Southeast to look into Goldmine Leadership School. You won’t regret it. Plus, you get a t-shirt at the end, and that’s always nice.