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Read the word “taken” and you might think of something that’s been stolen. The adjective might be associated with loss of control, freedom, or identity. But that’s not the message Orlando Bolan and Josh Dornbos of New City Kids wanted twenty teen boys to walk away with when they planned a guys’ retreat just days after Superstorm Sandy plowed through the boys’ New Jersey neighborhood. The retreat’s focus was TAKEN.

Twenty New Jersey teens on a retreat.

“We talked about how God takes us in spite of our sin, and that he wants to take us places we may not have imagined,” Dornbos explained. This message of a deep love by a Father who knows and adores each of the young men is not one a lot of them have heard, he said.

“There is a lot of brokenness here,” he said, describing the area where New City Kids is located. Many of the attendees are without a father figure; some are the only male in their homes. Many struggle with anger, shame, and the lure of gangs, making the message of God’s love for them difficult to grasp.

There was a strong belief among the teens that they had to cover up these struggles in order to be a Christian. “We felt led to have some time away with them to talk about how God already knew what they felt they needed to hide,” said Dornbos. “He has a great plan for them—some of which has already been accomplished by Jesus dying for the sins they felt ashamed of.”

The retreat at Camp Ladore was not fancy. “There were no bells and whistles,” said Rev. Trevor Rubingh, executive director of New City. “No focus on sports. No music. No sailboats. Just a promise to engage with God,” which is exactly what the group of 14- to 18-year-olds was looking for.

So what did the young men take away from their retreat? Greg Nelson, one of the chaperones for the retreat, said that it’s hard to summarize the impact of the retreat on the young men, but that he saw them build relationships with each other. “They realized that being in a relationship with God is ‘real,’ and now they are using that relationship as a model with each other.”

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