#FORTRESS17 // LCMS Michigan District Youth Gathering on Mackinac Island

A week after getting back, I'm finally blogging about my Mackinac trip! I may or may not have gone a little overboard here. It's rather long, but I want to share it all with you guys! 

View of the fort from the ferry

The group attended the 8:30 service at church for a send-off. At 9:30, the bus arrived, we loaded up and off we went! It's not a terribly long drive up to Mackinaw City. We tried to watch The Princess Bride, but it kept freezing. Oh well. 

I think we got to the island about 4 pm. We had two hours to do whatever (like eat dinner!) before the opening mixer on the lawn in front of Mission Point. Mission Point (MP) is where most of the gathering stuff happened. Last time I went, we missed the mixer because dinner took so long. I met a guy during the mixer who lives in a small town where my friends live! They don't know each other, but it was still cool. The youth group from my aunt's church was there, as well as kids from a Lutheran school who came to sing at our church earlier this year. We had four boys stay with us and they might have been there too! 

Sunday night was kind of crazy because there were 38 kids. We had our opening mass event, then spent our family group time handing out stuff and getting settled in our hotel. Some kids did night options and then we had our closing devotions. Our group got the theater like we did last time. They split you up by the first letter of your city. Got to bed between 1-2 am.

There were three buildings to this inn. Above is the
porch on our building. The ceiling is the floor of
our balcony. It was very nice. 

Our hotel - Harbour View Inn


I got up at 6:30 but we had to be at the MP Sound Stage at 8:15 and have eaten breakfast before that. Food is interesting on Mackinac. Because you are eating at different times than normal and because your sleep cycle is all messed up, some people (including me) didn't feel all that great in the mornings, so we didn't really eat breakfast. Our hotel had some good breakfast too. 

Anyway, we had morning mass event, Bible study (think morning devotions), then our sectionals. There are a bunch of speakers and you choose two each day to go see. Today, I went to see Bryan Drake and Pastor Ryan Peterson. 

Bryan Drake is a mentalist/illusionist. He did several "tricks" and his whole point was how our brains are greatly influenced by suggestion. So things in the world are influencing us and we might not even notice. It was pretty neat how he used illusion to illustrate that. 

Pastor Peterson was talking about Dealing With Doubt. He had three main points that he then expounded on. They were: 
#1 - Don't Bury Your Doubts, Dig Deeper Into Them. Basically, don't ignore the issue; confront it and root it out. This is going to mean reading the Word and praying more, even though you aren't going to feel like it. 
#2 - Talk To The Right People, Not Just Some People. It's not going to help if you aren't seeking help from the right places and people.
#3 - Pray Every Day, Not Just On Bad Days. Pretty self-explanatory. 

After sessions was LUNCH! I was always particularly hungry because, as I said, I didn't really eat breakfast. We then had a little bit of free time before our servant event, but most of us went back to the hotel to change into our work clothes. It was raining basically all day, and we had to work outside! The servant event wasn't the best experience for many reasons, the biggest being, we didn't really seem to be doing work that really benefited the island or the people who live there. But we did it.  

Soaking wet!!!!
Back to the hotel to change/shower. Almost all the girls did paint scraping and we were wet and dirty. I had an umbrella, so I stayed sort of dry, but most of them were soaked! Then we got to eat dinner. We were supposed to go to the fort, but because of the rain, they switched Monday and Tuesday's evening schedules. So instead, we had mass gathering, night options (I went to see 321 Improv and laughed so hard, I thought I might be sick!), closing devotions, and family time. Then it was back to the hotel for bed. Again, going to bed between 1-2 am!

I don't remember where in the timeline this guy was, but he is an amazing painter. He first painted a castle (fortress) and then talked about how we as humans build our fortresses and then trust in them. Then he started painting over it and said that when we do our own thing, it usually doesn't end up well. Some more painting and he ends up with an incredible picture! 


Sunshine! No more rain! Same morning routine: breakfast, mass event, Bible study, sectionals. A bunch of us were going to go see Bryan Osborne from Answers in Genesis, but he filled up before we got there, so instead, we went to see 321 Improv. It was good too. 

The second sectional was Integrity and Boundaries with Tige and Sara Culbertson. A large part of their ministry is helping people realize what their struggles and temptations are, then thinking through what boundaries you need in place to help you avoid/conquer them. They talked about recognizing things that are "red", "yellow", and "green". Red means stay away from them; they are your stumbling blocks. Yellow is things that are maybe okay in small doses, occasionally. Green are good things and these are what you need to be surrounding yourself with. 

After sectionals was lunch again, then we had about four hours of free time! People went into town to shop (FUDGE!!!), biked around, rested a bit. I went to the Butterfly House, which was really cool! (Just to clarify, when I say "I", I'm always with one other person, usually in a group of lots of people. We were always supposed to be in groups of 3 or more, but another girl and I got special permission to go to the Butterfly House just us, because it was just up the street from our hotel. The rule was mostly for traveling around the island and at night.)

Dinner, family group time, and then THE FORT! They split the gathering into two groups; one stayed at MP and had a gathering with the Culbertsons while the other was at the fort, then we switched. I'd never been in the fort before. After the mass event portion, they did a gun salute (super loud) and a cannon firing (not very loud, surprisingly). We got to explore around a little bit, but not long enough. Then, there are Boy Scouts on the island all summer as tour guides. One played Amazing Grace on BAGPIPES!!!! and another played Taps on the trumpet. Then we left and went to our closing devotions and then bed. 

Views from the fort (+ below)

St. Anne's at night (like midnight!)

The last day of the gathering. We had to get all packed and have our luggage out of our rooms before mass gathering. The girls in my room got mostly packed on Tuesday and then just had to throw last minute stuff in. 

Mass gathering was Communion service. After the service, our group had to grab lunch somewhere, and they had to leave the island on the 2 pm ferry at the latest. The leaders let the kids choose whether or not they stayed on the island a bit longer or went over to Mackinaw City to do touristy things there. 

My family and I were staying an extra day. We rented bikes and biked the perimeter of the island. One of the bikes was a tandem, which I've never ridden before and always wanted to. It was neat. Definitely easier on my legs (which were already sore), but I had to share ;) We took about two hours to go around, stopping to rest or take pictures. We grabbed dinner and got back to our B&B just before the rains came down. It rained the rest of the night but stopped the next morning. 

Bearded dragon (I think) at the Butterfly House


Got a decent night's sleep. Went to bed at a good time and didn't have to get up super early. My legs felt okay enough that we decided to try to go up to Arch Rock. Instead of the stairs though, we went up the road. It's probably a longer way, but it's not climbing and it was pretty. We got to see some gorgeous houses, a far off view of the Grand Hotel, and walk through some cool forests. I could stay up there for hours. The view is just incredible! And the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. I would love to live on the water.

The road down ends right in town, so we did some last minute shopping (everyone else got fudge; I had bought mine on Tuesday) before getting on the ferry. On the ride over, the top was full, but we got to sit up there on the way back. I LOVE IT! The wind, the up and down motion, the sound of the water!!!! Pure bliss. 

Skull Cave ("cave")

Walking back from Arch Rock. The guys were much 
faster than Mom and me ;)
Dark chocolate covered Oreo! Delicious :)
We decided to drive across the Mackinac Bridge, because we kids don't remember doing it before. There was some construction, so we had to drive on the grating and it sounds like a dying cow or something. Ate dinner in St. Ignace and then drove home! 

Something amazing is the luggage transportation on Mackinac - people on bikes balance piles of suitcases on a bike basket, with bags hanging off the handlebars!!! It's incredible and I don't know how they do it. 

As you may have gathered, I did a LOT of walking over the five days. On Sunday night, at the mixer, I used my thigh muscles in a weird way, so from day one, they were a bit sore. Walking all over made my shins and feet sore, and biking really did in my thighs. From the waist down hurt. I couldn't sleep curled up in a ball because that hurt my thighs. I say all this, not to whine, but to say how amazing arnica gel and tablets are. I came home, put the gel on my thighs and shins, and drank arnica water, and the next morning, I was SO much better. Just in one night! 

Our groups' shield. Every group made a shield to put
on a door that they had there. The creature is a 
'platygon' (platypus + dragon)' and that's from
a 321 Improv joke. 


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