Dad Jokes for Jesus in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Retreat center in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

A note for those who know me: this article is not going to be a glorified advertisement for the William Peace Connection Ministry.
While I am always happy to see more people in our Monday meetings and I know I promote them a lot, my point in writing this piece is to share the great time I had during the CLUB Ministries retreat during the weekend of Jan. 25 through 27.
Ever since I became a part of the leadership team for the WPU Connection Ministry, I have been wanting to go on the annual retreat to the Blowing Rock Conference Center.
Until now, a series of bad weather forecasts and confusion about what the retreat was about had stopped me. However, since this is my last year as ministry president, I felt that it was my duty to go and the conditions were perfect this time around.  
The area around the Blowing Rock Conference Center was simply stunning. You could look down to see the forested smoky mountains for miles and watch civilization come to life at night when the city lights turned on.
It was also too simple to get lost around that area as well. As Google Maps told my friend, Dean Wilms, and I that we had arrived at the Blowing Rock Conference Center, we were confused why no one was there.
It turned out that we had arrived at the hotel part of the conference center and we were supposed to register in the gym. After going in circles for about ten minutes, we found out that the gym had been right across from where we had already driven the whole time.  
The retreat largely consisted of seminar sessions and worship. Each day of the retreat was bookended by contemporary Christian singer, Caitie Hurst leading everyone on the retreat in four worship songs with great talent, a corny series of plays, and then we were released to go to the seminars.
As the retreat was aimed at high schoolers, the seminars largely talked about issues that teenagers would face in grade school (like drugs, sdf, and having parents that might not accept your beliefs).
Some of the more serious talks on racism and personal finance were interesting to me because we had Connection meetings with those topics. While we went more in depth with these topics at our Connection meetings because we were all young adults, it was still neat to see the topics from our meetings being discussed by kids who have not experienced the all-nighter that is college.
There was also the option to go ski or snowboard on Jan. 26, but I did not do that because I wanted to finish one of my Motion for the Screen assignments and it cost a little extra.
The best part of the retreat was meeting the members of the other Connection Ministry at East Carolina University.

Design Editor and Staff Writer, Ethan McElvaney with friends
Ethan McElvaney
Ethan McElvaney, Dean Wilms, and the ECU Connection member they met while at the retreat

As Joel mentions the ECU group in our leadership meetings a bit, I expected that they would be a colossal ministry, but it turns out that their attendance is around the same as ours at eight to ten people. All of the members of the ECU Connection were decent people, but there was one in particular that Wilms and I got know pretty well over the weekend.
He was very charismatic and funny, but when he told us his story, it was clear that he did not see himself the way we did. During his time at ECU, this Connection member at the school infamous for its party culture had fallen into all sorts of alcohol and drug-fueled antics while he was in a fraternity he had joined.
I will not go to into detail about all of the things he did because many of them were personal, but he acted as a buccaneer throughout many of his college years because he desperately wanted to feel cool, even though he arguably did not have to try.
Late on Saturday night, he told us about all of this and that he wanted to rededicate his life to Jesus Christ, but was still ashamed about his actions in the fraternity.
Here, God gave us the opportunity to console him, help him find out how to keep avoiding the temptation to fall into relapse like he has been doing, and I got to be a hypocrite by telling him that he did not need to feel like he needs to please other people.
After this catharsis, he volunteered to give a short speech to the retreaters who had come to the seminar about the perils of drug abuse. This was a huge step for him and Wilms and I were both proud of him for having the gall to tell others about his experience in front of a large group of people.
Even though I know it takes years for people to testify like our friend from ECU did about their issues, I wish we had the opportunity to help people through that more often because it reminded me why I am a Christian, as well as why I help out with the WPU Connection ministry to begin with.
Overall, the retreat was an excellent experience that I would gladly go to again and has made us at WPU Connection ponder the idea of starting a smaller young adult’s retreat.
The only guilty pleasure that I may not want to import to our possible retreat from the haven we had at Blowing Rock, NC was the constant bombardment of dad jokes being launched from the ministers. As the retreat was mostly made out of kids who have not graduated out of the public school system yet, the quips the ministers made while talking on stage had to be kept to what the kids would understand or find appropriate.
The result was several typical dad jokes being uttered that many have not heard outside of listicles on the internet making fun of them. These jests ranged from a character in the plays being named “Harry the Potter” to the classic Sunday school dad line of Adam going woah-man when first seeing Eve.
I thought that Wilms and I had escaped the endless dad jokes as we left the retreat, but there was a bus next to us as we drove through Boone, NC. Guess what the bus line in Appalachian State University’s city is called?
It is called “The AppalCart.” The freaking “AppalCart.” That is when I had to let Wilms know that the minister’s dad jokes from the retreat were starting to stalk us. Considering that we got to take a fantastic weekend in our memories with us, that was only fair to face as we went back home to Raleigh. 

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