Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from NET Team 9! I am here sitting in a Starbucks while my team is putting on a retreat at St. Bede Academy in Peru… Illinois! It’s a week after Thanksgiving and the team is feeling refreshed and energized to finish out this half. We spent the holiday with the Lombardo family in Colon, Nebraska: a town of 138 people, about an hour outside of Omaha. I know what you might be thinking. 138 people? Must have been a boring break! But it was one of the most fun weekends we’ve had on the road!

We decided to go to the largest zoo in America for our team day! And we spent time relaxing with the family. One of their daughters is a NET alumnus, so she asked if we would do a couple of skits for the family, and we did!

Elise, our female team leader, asked what some of the highlights in Colon are, and the response she received was, “When the NET team comes!” Everyone in town knew we were there, so we had the amazing opportunity to just be and hang out with the people in town. The Lombardos have an open door policy for holidays, so neighbors would just come in and say hi. It was a blessing to feel so welcomed.

Then we hopped back into the life of a retreat team. Monday came and we were back in Omaha, putting on a retreat for sophomores at a Catholic high school. We did our thing and the retreat went well, but no one decided to share their NET experience. Then Tuesday came and we were back at the high school to put on a retreat for the juniors. Again, we did our thing, and I thought we would again have no one share. But there was one young man who came up to the table and filled out a form. I noticed him sitting in the back, quiet and seemingly unresponsive the majority of the retreat. Then I read what he wrote.

“I feel closer to God, and I have an idea of who He is. Now thinking about joining.” – Connor

When I read that, it reminded me of why we are here on this mission. We put on a retreat for around 200 students within those two days, and if only one of them experienced Christ, it’s all worth it.

Sometimes after retreats, it’s hard to tell if any of the youth received anything. But our hope is that one brick was knocked down from walls they built up. Or one small seed was planted. Or any other analogy you want to use. We pray that everyone is able to experience Christ in a remarkable way, but that doesn’t always happen. So we hope for the small things. We place our hope in God and allow Him to work in His own way, big or small.

Last night, my host dad asked me why I was doing this mission. And it made me think. We are usually simply asked how we got to NET, but never really why. My answer was simple. I, personally, am here so I can learn to trust God more. But I am also here because I grew up in a community with a great youth group. I knew God at a young age. I knew it was possible to be holy and cool. That is what I want to bring to youth across the country. I want them to know that it is possible to love Christ in a world that is so against God. And if I can get that message across to at least one teen through my witness this entire year, then it is all worth it.

I asked my sister, a former NET blog writer, for a cool/ funny way to end this blog. She told me to end with, “And that’s the way the cookie crumbled.” But I thought closing with a scripture might be a little better. Not as funny or cool, but more fitting.

“May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

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