Coastline Revival
Coastline Revival

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Coastline Calvary Chapel in Gulf Breeze, FL: Revival for Weary Students

Story by Sean Labar
Photos by Christian Rodriguez

As the days became shorter and the Florida sun began to fade from summer to fall, the isolation resulting from COVID-19 was beginning to take a major toll on the youth of Coastline Calvary Chapel in Gulf Breeze, FL. Most children hadn’t seen or interacted with their friends in months because of lockdowns required by governmental regulations to mitigate the impact of the virus. There were two reported suicides within the local high school community, and students were reaching out to the church’s youth pastor, Daniel Guntharp, for answers.

For the last three years, Daniel has headed up a spring retreat in March focused on leading the youth to bond through Jesus Christ. As in so many Calvary Chapel communities throughout the country, 2020 has created unprecedented challenges and forced the staff to find creative, new solutions.

Boys playing handball

A group of young men from Coastline Calvary Chapel square off in an intense match of dodgeball, one of the most popular events at the annual youth retreat.

Daniel reflected, “All the kids have been away from one another and have been struggling, so we decided to do a fall retreat to get them away. We really wanted to spend some time with them and dive into the Word. With everything going on in the world, we get away and we talk about Jesus. We have fun together. There is hope here. I really feel like with the world falling apart, the young people are rising up.”

Though shorter than other retreats, more than 100 youth from middle and high school took part in the first-ever Coastline Calvary Chapel fall retreat at Camp Victory in Samson, AL, on October 20-22.

“Come to Me [Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Girl singing

Worship is one of the most powerful parts of the Coastline Calvary Chapel youth retreat and is led entirely by the young adults who attend the camp.

Students placed their cell phones in a box for the two days as they focused on worship, fellowship, and connecting with Jesus. “The kids were so in-tune with the message from start to finish,” Daniel said. “For whatever reason, God was setting a stage for ripeness for them to be open to hear exactly what He had to say. They have been on their phones and on technology so often recently, listening to what the world wants them to do. It was amazing to see them listen to what the Lord wants them to do.”

Bethany Koontz, one of the 2020 fall retreat attendees, grew up with a Christian foundation in her life, but admits she never realized the true importance of having a relationship with Christ until joining Coastline Calvary Chapel a little more than a year ago. “I had been running for a long time and Coastline really helped me come closer to the Lord,” the 15-year-old noted.

Girl worshiping

Youth from various ethnic backgrounds, races, genders and upbringings fellowship together at the 2020 Coastline CC Fall Retreat, one of the first opportunities to come together after months of isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions.

For Bethany and her peers in the youth group, the annual retreat had become a staple each year. It was a time to escape the pressures, distractions, and hardships that come with being a teenager. It was their yearly opportunity to focus solely on God.

Still, it was evident this year’s retreat was different. There was a palpable energy and calming effect that came at a time when the youth needed it the most.

“I think there is just something about being in the middle of the woods, without phones and distractions, that is so incredible, but it was especially meaningful this year,” Bethany shared. “We are all facing our own forms of depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear of what the pandemic will bring. So many people left their baggage and burdens at the altar and left it all in God’s hands. It was so cool to watch.”

Girl ziplining

A young lady shows off her unmistakable joy while zip lining through the trees of Camp Victory in Alabama during the 2020 fall retreat.

According to Daniel, several youths in attendance shared similar testimonies. “It was clear these kids were experiencing a transformation before our eyes, and that was really special to see,” Daniel exclaimed. “Lifelong friendships were being formed and new relationships with God were starting. Now all these kids are friends and part of our church. It’s been really cool.”

Bethany provided a first-hand example of the new bonds that were formed over the unforgettable weekend. “I actually met one of my closest friends at the fall retreat,” Bethany recollected. “She got placed in my cabin, and I had no clue who she was and was kind of nervous about it. We kind of just clicked. I watched someone who barely smiled transform completely in such a short time. She opened herself up, connected with my group of friends, and her relationship with God had strengthened more in the past few weeks. So many people gave their lives to God, and I have seen a much-needed light in so many people since camp. I am so grateful we got to spend a weekend fully focused on growing our relationships with God without any distractions.”

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Girls praying

The 2020 fall retreat was filled with emotion as many youth in attendance admitted their struggles with depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation due to months of being apart due to the pandemic.

 

Kids doing devotional

Two young campers enjoy time away from their phones and other electronic devices as they read Christ-centered books while relaxing on swings at the 2020 fall retreat.

 

Kids worshiping

Three young men embrace one another during a time of prayer during the three-day retreat, the first time Coastline CC has held the event in the fall, instead of the Spring.

 

Man praying with kid

Pastor Todd, one of the youth leaders and camp teachers, ministers to a young believer at the 2020 fall retreat.

 

Man preaching

Youth — many who gave their lives to Christ and formed a relationship with Jesus for the first time during the October getaway — listen intently to teachings centered around the next generation of believers.

 

Staff praying

Coastline Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor Neil Spencer and Youth & Adult Pastor Daniel Guntharp lead prayer before the start of the first-ever fall retreat, a decision made intentionally to provide the youth an opportunity to break the isolation caused by COVID-19 and fellowship together with the focus on Christ.

 

Youth praying for pastor

Youth, staff members and volunteers share a powerful moment of prayer at the 2020 Coastline CC fall youth retreat.

 

Youth worshiping

After months apart, more than 100 middle school and high school students worship together as part of the fall retreat that took place from October 20-22.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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