Fun, memories made during Yokota’s PYOC Retreat at the Bible Chalet in Okutama

Photos by Hazel Gray
Photos by Hazel Gray

Fun, memories made during Yokota’s PYOC Retreat at the Bible Chalet in Okutama

by Hazel Gray
Stripes Japan

The bustle in the house only increases when we hear the five-minute warning. All of us are hastening to pack last minute items into our backpacks and ensuring we have enough but not too much. I run to grab my guitar and then I am ready for the fun and exciting weekend ahead of us at the Okutama Bible Chalet.

At Yokota Air Base’s Friendship Chapel, there are other members of the church youth group loading up the vans waiting for us. We join them and finish loading our stuff, then we all pile in and start off for Okutama about 40 minutes away.

When we arrive, other Cadence youth leaders from Okinawa meet us and show us to our dorms. There are 20 young men and women participating in the weekend’s retreat. The middle school and high school boys each get a room in the far building, and girls share the closer building.

The Bible Chalet has a main building for staff, a kitchen and dining room, a dorm with bunk beds, two dorms with tatami style bedding, a rec room, a chapel, and a lounge room. The showers are nice with hot water and a huge tub.

Once we take a look around, we return to the rec room, which has foosball and Ping-Pong tables and carpet ball, and play there until the gong rings for dinner. The meals are served buffet style, with plenty of vegetables and delicious main courses like Japanese pork over rice.

From dinner onwards, we have the best weekend of our lives. The food is excellent, the staff and youth leaders are incredibly kind, and the rec room is delightful. We spend our time participating in engaging and challenging activities and games, we sing songs of praise and have deep discussions on religious scripture and life issues. During the weekend, we study the New Testament book of Colossians, learn how to keep Jesus at the center of our lives and how to keep our actions grounded in him.

We spend free time in the nice lounge beneath the main floor of the chapel, which has a soft drink bar and snacks. We enjoy playing games and sipping and munching on Diet Coke and potato chips!

Sometimes, I bring my guitar and strum a ditty or two to liven the mood. I love playing my guitar for people, and it seems to draw us closer together as friends. At the end of the day, we collapse exhausted into our comfortable futon beds and sleep soundly until morning.

All too soon, our fun weekend is over and on Sunday afternoon, we solemnly load all our luggage into the back of the chapel vans that brought us here. We do not want to leave, but we know that we must plunge back into our routine of school, chores and taking care of our families. As we pull out of the driveway onto the winding mountain road, we wistfully gaze back at the lovely quaint place where we created many beautiful memories.


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