On a sunny September Friday afternoon, we drove down the winding leaf-glittered drive of beautiful Camp Au Sable. Family First weekend had finally arrived! We excitedly exploded out of the car and made our way to the auditorium to check in for the weekend. Excited giggles erupted when we found out we would be staying in the newly erected Eagle Lodge. We rushed over to explore our home for the weekend. After our bags were unpacked and we settled into our room, we made our way to the cafeteria for dinner.
Dinner was an agape feast where we served one another. At the center of every table was a box with the word “Unplug” gracing its exterior. During mealtimes, we were instructed to place our phones in these boxes so we were not distracted by them. This allowed us to actually connect with each another. After we were done with our meal, we strolled over to the auditorium for the first meeting.
During that first meeting, we heard the start of an inspiring continued story series from Emilia, a woman of Ukrainian heritage but raised in Moldova. Emilia lives in the Upper Peninsula. As the weekend unfolded, she told of her family, her Adventist upbringing, what it was like to grow up in a communist nation, and God’s miraculous work and faithfulness in her life. As a young woman, Emilia dreamed of simple things we take for granted—carrying a Bible, the freedom to share what we believe, and religious liberty, It was inspiring and affirming to hear that when we have faith in God and faithfully follow His leading and calling, He ensures that His work will continue to move forward.
For Sabbath School, we did a nature scavenger hunt, from hunting for a maple leaf to finding a rock or searching for a pine needle. God’s nature is amazing, and He has made it to decorate our world! He made nature for us to enjoy and reset from the hustle and bustle of life.
For the church service, we heard another part of our continuing story and were introduced to Keith from Little Light Ministries. Keith spoke about media and how much time Americans spend on devices and social media. Sadly, some people allow social media and devices to take precedence over the things which should be important in our lives: work, school, family time, and, most importantly, God.
On Sabbath afternoon, there were many activity options. Our family chose to do the boardwalk animal hunt, visit the nature center, and complete the afternoon with a wagon ride. As we sped around the boardwalk, we searched for a nailed paper with clues about the type of animal we were seeking. At every checkpoint, stuffed animals were hiding to confirm our answers. There were 24 checkpoints in total; it was neat to see God’s handy work while reading about these selected critters.
Dinner followed our afternoon activities. Vespers brought us another anticipated story by Emilia and some fun songs to close out the Sabbath. Our Saturday night activities included glow-in-the-dark games in the athletic shed, including four-square, basketball, volleyball, and bowling. The evening wouldn’t have been complete without delicious s’mores, popcorn and hot drinks.
At each meeting throughout the weekend, five family names were chosen. Once a name was drawn, a family member could come forward and select a prize. Some of the prizes included stuffed animals, surprise bags categorized by age and gender, storybooks, and much more. To make sure no one was excluded, at the final meeting the remaining names were included in a rapid drawing until all names had been drawn.
As the weekend came to a close on Sunday, we were sad. We had such a great time! There were still some activities to enjoy, though—horseback riding, go-carting, and a couple of breakout sessions. When we finished, it was time for our family to head home.
I asked my family what they enjoyed most about Family First. My 8-year-old sister’s favorite part was the nature center and the go-carts. My 11-year-old brother enjoyed horseback riding, glow-in-the-dark games, and go-carts. My dad’s favorite part was the glow-in-the-dark games and horseback riding. My mom enjoyed having a relaxing weekend where she did not have to cook.
Family First is a really fun weekend we look forward to as a family. For the past seven years (minus the two-year Covid-19 hiatus where Family First did not take place) our family has made it a priority to register. I believe it is something every family should do! I hope to see you next year at Family First.