By Kate Robertson, National Alumni Board
The year I turned 14, my family of eight pulled up stakes and moved from the sun-drenched desert of the southwest to the rainy, gray reaches of the mid-Atlantic coast. Although our parents had grown up under the broad shadow of the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell, it felt like a foreign country to the rest of us.
Moving is hard. Moving while in high school is very hard. I wasn’t an outgoing girl. I was shy, bookish and reserved. We settled in a small rural community, and it seemed as if everyone in my school had known one another since preschool. My siblings were the only other pupils in our Sunday School, and our parents often served as our substitute teachers – which made Sunday School just an extension of our dinner conversations. We’d moved from a large city with an active church and a Sunday School bursting at the seams. I felt like a fish in sand. Nothing felt familiar – except my parents and my siblings.
You see, what had gotten me through the many moves during elementary and middle school, in the city we’d come from, was Adventure Unlimited’s chapter activities. There were family pool parties, hiking expeditions for teens, service projects for everyone. I loved our A/U Chapter. It was fun, inspiring, and I could invite a friend from school if I wanted to. I met new kids at almost every activity, and my Sunday School friends and I got closer with each outing. This was a place where I knew who I was and where, if I was willing to try something new, I had the encouragement and prayerful support of everyone there. I didn’t know how I would navigate high school without it.
It was the middle of September. I’d survived two weeks at a new school and I was drained. I arrived home from school one afternoon to find an envelope on my dresser. The address wasn’t familiar, but the red oval logo with “a/u” in the middle was. I tore open that envelope and thought my heart would burst out of my chest. It was a hand-written letter from the local A/U Chapter adviser – I didn’t even know there was a chapter nearby – inviting me to an upcoming organizational meeting. She’d heard from the chapter adviser in my old town that I might like to join their group. I wanted to cry. I was home.
During high school, my family moved two more times, and I attended one more high school before graduating. On the surface these were tumultuous times for me. My parents would have two more children (bringing our total to eight), and I would face the passing of my dad soon after graduation. I was academically ambitious, making my high school years demanding and self-isolating. I spent most of my time in the library. I seemed to struggle with finding my way socially.
But one thing never changed – the love, support, encouragement and sense of community I felt with my A/U Chapter adviser and my fellow teen council members. I can still remember the bus rides, the concert at the Fillmore East, movies, service projects, picnics, crushes, bake sales, camp fundraising, inspirational talks and long conversations around our advisor’s kitchen table. Giving back to others through serving on our teen council gave perspective and grace to my life.
Today the A/U Chapter program is called DiscoveryBound Outreach. The name may be different, but the heart of these local community groups and gatherings is still the same. It is has provided an unbreakable thread of purpose, community and connection throughout my life.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love camp. But it is the A/U Chapter program that gave my life focus, structure and a sense of home throughout the year, long after the horses had grown their winter coats, the snow had settled in Columbia Basin, and the aspen had lost their leaves.
If you or someone you know is seeking a sense of spiritual community, an opportunity to unite with other children, teens, 20s/30s, adults or families in inspired fellowship, service and recreation, look here for a DiscoveryBound Outreach chapter in your area. Can’t find one? We’ll help you start one.