Why am I here? Do I belong here? What will happen to me? Am I going to be okay? Who am I?
The children we serve at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch often come to us initially confused about their very existence. We help them answer these questions through hours of counseling, confiding, caring and comforting during which time they are given opportunities to connect with experts, trusted adults and peers.
Each year the chapel immersion staff organizes and oversees a weekend retreat for our eighth-grade girls with that very goal. This year’s retreat, held at the High Plains Retreat Center in rural Randall County, Texas, helped nine young ladies focus on finding their identity in Christ.
“We feel this is an important age to invest in these girls as they prepare to enter high school,” said Angela Harris, chapel immersion coordinator for Boys Ranch. “Our society often tells young women to find their identity in their boyfriend, their grades, their physical appearance, their athletic ability and so forth. We feel it’s important for our girls to hear what the Bible says about who Jesus is and who they are as His daughters. This reminds them that their identity in Christ never changes regardless of circumstances. “
“Identity can be so confusing and misleading,” added Boys Ranch Chapel Immersion Program Specialist Aubree Stowe who assisted Harris in planning the retreat along with Caitlyn Colbert who is also a chapel immersion program specialist. “There is a misconception that our value comes from our outward appearance and material possession which can be a very empty way of thinking about one’s self.”
Numerous activities during the two-day event included opportunities for the young girls to affirm the good qualities they see in one another and to engage in worship and prayer time. Both Aletha, 13, and Laura, 13, agreed one of the most effective exercises they did was one involving paper plates.
“Each girl had a paper plate with string on it like a necklace,” explained Laura. “Only the paper plate was hanging on our back. Every girl had a marker and we went around and wrote words we would use to describe the girl on her plate. She couldn’t see what we were writing but, at the end, everyone got to look at their plates.”
Aletha said her favorite memory from the retreat will be her plate.
“The other girls wrote things like that I am a fierce lioness with gentleness, and that I can make them smile when they’re down,” Aletha shared on the cherished experience and token. “I’ve always thought of myself as athletic and funny. I didn’t expect people to call me gentle. It was good to have a chance to see myself like others see me.”
Also joining the group to help facilitate the weekend was Tia Marlier from Denver, an accomplished vocalist, music therapist and dynamic worship leader. Since 2010, Marlier has been a friend to Boys Ranch helping lead girls’ retreats such as this one, and participating in chapel services and providing drum therapy in our community.
“At this retreat, I primarily provided teachings and facilitated exercises whereby I directed the girls to the Bible and what it has to say about who they are in Christ,” explained Marlier. “I also spent time teaching them some fun call-and-response Christian songs. They did a great job catching on.”
Aletha, 13, said Marlier’s teachings helped give her a new perspective of who God is.
“She totally reached me,” Aletha said. “She has such a beautiful voice and when she sang to us, with us and even when she read from the Bible with us, it was so touching. She really helped me understand how God views me.”
“It was a complete joy to get to know these girls and spend time with them,” Marlier added. “They were open to learning more about the Lord and how to more deeply develop their faith, and I believe God did special work in all of us!”
“Refocusing and learning what our Identity is in Christ helps one to love themselves more, Christ more and, in turn, love those around them better,” reflected Stowee on the retreats power and purpose.