The John Paul II Adventure Institute lived up to its name last week, full of adventure and faith. The Institute, inspired in its teachings by the Sodalit spirituality and the theology of reconciliation promoted by Creatio, was holding environmental education programs for almost 50 students near Estes Park when the Colorado floods began. The rest is history… they made national news here on CNA. Below some highlights of the article.
The group left Denver on Wednesday when the rain was steady but light. This is the first year the seventh-graders took the leadership retreat. A group of eighth-graders were at the camp earlier in the week and left before the storm.
On Wednesday evening, Sarah Tartell said some of her classmates felt a special connection to God when they were praying.
“It started to pour rain and it was so pretty,” she recalled. “The girls were singing their hearts out.”
But the next morning the group awoke to high water around the cabins and an issue about power at the camp. Grams and the other adults agreed with the option to carpool the group to higher ground at the Highland Presbyterian Camp in nearby Allenspark, which the Red Cross has used previously for shelters in times of crisis. The camp became a makeshift shelter but Red Cross officials could not get there because of washed out roads.
Tartell said the chaperones drove the students to the new location with music playing on the car radios because they didn’t want to alarm the students. But once the adults were alone they tuned the radio to KOA and understood the severity of the situation.
“Everyone was very nice at the camp and the locals knew which roads were passable and which roads were not,” she said. “The teachers kept the students busy with new activities.”
The adults were able to keep the students positive and in good spirits, despite a challenging situation. An older group of visitors already staying at the camp were quilters and taught some of the students how to quilt. The students also played a game they dubbed, “Survivor: The Flood” based on the Biblical characters of Noah, David and Jonah. They hiked, sang songs, and recited the rosary.
“We read through James Chapter I on trials, perseverance, and the rewards of enduring challenges in order to grow in faith,” Grams wrote in an email to parents.
Several area residents evacuated to the camp engaged the students in conversations.
“Many of them already knew their homes were destroyed but they were so thrilled they just got out with their dogs and other animals,” Lynn Tartell said. “Our kids really understand that kind of loss now.”
The students said the experience brought them closer together as a class.
“When we first got there, there were three groups of girls visiting together,” Sarah said. “But when we all ended up sleeping in the dining room together, we stayed up most of the night talking and learning a lot more about each other.”
Early Friday, when the heavy rain finally subsided, the group went outside and sat together in quiet prayer.
“We finally could see the mountains,” Lynn Tartell said. “We all listened and talked to God.”
The group knew they needed to leave when the buses were available Friday evening because another storm was being predicted, which could have further delayed their return and compromised safe travel. They arrived home to teary-eyed parents, clapping siblings and the ultimate celebration meal: pizza.