Thursday, June 28, 2012

Saipan Retreat!

This week I took a group of 10 teenagers and 6 adults from the Lutheran Church of Guam 90 miles north to the small but beautiful island of Saipan. We had a great time! Here are some of the highlights
 Just landed in Saipan!
 First thing we noticed different from Guam... Flame trees are in bloom everywhere. 
(PS... I did not take this picture while driving... Travis did).
 Within 30 seconds of arriving at our accommodations, the kids had a game of Spoons going.
 Our first order of business was to tour the island, starting with a 20-minute movie at the National Park Center about the incredible WWII history on Saipan. We learned about the Japanese occupation, the American liberation, and the sad stories of the Suicide and Bonzai cliffs.
 Our next stop was to Bird Island on the east (Pacific) side of the island.
 Girls are awesome
 Next we drove to the top of the Suicide Cliffs, where thousands of local families jumped to their deaths shortly after the Japanese were defeated. They were told the Americans would take them as slaves :(
 Looking over the steep drop...
 Another difference between Saipan and Guam... no snakes, which means awesome birds! We were all captivated by their beautiful singing. Here Tammy Jo is bird watching.
We headed to Memorial Park for what turned out to be one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen!

 I posted this picture on Facebook and could not believe how much attention it got... apparently other people were as captivated as we were. Simply incredible!

After a late night playing some of our favorite games (paper telephone and mafia!), we took some time to chill and reflect on the beach with morning devotionals (and journaling!). 
You can see the island of Tinian in the distance 
(where the A-bomb took off from heading to Hiroshima).

 Then it was off to the Wave Jungle Waterpark at Saipan World Resort. No one's excited...

 Introducing the "toilet bowl," the kids' favorite ride... slide around a few times until it spits you out into a pool below.
Toilet bowl ninja
 Water slide time!

A nice ocean view from the top of the slide tower... go Malia!

Hanging out in the wave pool... this was a tough picture to get with all the bobbing
Waterpark Olympics... who can do a handstand the longest 
(does this picture say summer vacation or what??)

Chicken fight!!! As you can see, no one had any fun at the waterpark.
 After our fun day in the sun, we did a little shopping... and we found Saipanda!
We drove back to the Bonzai Cliffs to watch the sunset. Everyone crowded around when the girls spotted a sea turtle in the ocean below!
 Not sure which is more gorgeous... the sunset or these sweet smiles :)
 Guys being goofy... shocking
 The wall of sisterhood
 Crafting into the wee hours of the morning!
After another late night of fun and games, we did our beachside devotionals, then a small service project... a beach clean-up!
 Saving the world, one Pringles can at a time (and yes, Travis's shirt really says that... oh Travis).
There was no shortage of trash to pick up (sadly)
Not bad for 15 minutes of work. 
Then it was all fun and games at the beach and an easy 35-minute flight home.

Gator Girls! I have converted some fans :)
My favorite parts of the trip? Here goes!

 Gorgeous red flame trees everywhere you look
Games galore! And kids (and adults!) who know how to have fun.
 Hanging out with these guys (thank you for all your help!!!)
Introducing Jamaica to a new land. She is 15 and this was her first time to leave Guam!
And finally, a sunset that could stop time.

"I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells." Psalm 26:8

So hard to believe the sun is setting on this incredible role I have found myself in here. It has been a heaping dose of Vitamin F (friendships, fun, faith, etc.). Thankfully I still have a few good months left. You better believe I will be soaking in every minute.

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