Posted: February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Today we are packing for Winter Advance.  We use this name for our yearly weekend with the youth group.  It’s our way to say that we want to “advance” forward, instead of “retreat” backward.  Early tomorrow morning, we will load 2 buses with 70 plus teens, 15 adults, instruments, sound equipment and tons of luggage to make the 4.5 hour trek “up north.”  For this trip, “up north” means close to Traverse City at Lake Ann Camp.  Our speaker this year is Jason Coplen, youth pastor at Crosspointe Christian Church in Grosse Pointe, MI. Our musicians are ready to lead us to worship under the direction of our own Ryan Gasparotto and we are even bringing back former intern, Josh Pyper, for his famous “minute-to-win-it” games.  The snowfall has been minimal this year, but the tubing hills will still be fun.  The students always find ways to make sure they “fly” all the way to the trees, while the leaders on duty pray there are no ER runs necessary.  The crafts, snacks and schedules are all planned and early tomorrow morning, our faithful secretary, Ruth, will be at the church to collect the remaining balances.  It all works like a well-oiled machine.

Winter Advances have always been a favorite for Dena and I.  Outside of the missions trips, these are among the most memorable trips we make.  And unlike the missions trips, this is the only trip that EVERYONE can go on.  There are no requirements (except you follow our rules for the weekend), the cost is reasonable; therefore, the teens show up.  It’s also about half way through the school year which makes the timing near perfect.  We still ask that the students leave all electronics at home, and although they grumble, most oblige.

Through the years, we have seen God do some amazing things in the lives of students through our Winter Advances.  Last year marked the salvation of some of our “church kids” whom we have watched grow up;  They were doing the expected church thing, but their hearts had not truly been transformed.  A year later, we rejoice that their lives have definitely changed and it has been evident over this past year.  We can’t wait to see what God has in store this year.

Yet as I prepare for WA 12, I have mixed emotions.  This year was likely going to be my last WA, even before I found out I has ALS.  The plan was that I would transition out of the youth pastorate position and into adult ministries.  So I have already been entering every event, thinking it may be my last…trying to savor every moment.  Add my recent diagnosis and I am even more convinced than ever that this will be my last go around at Lake Ann in the winter months.  God has definitely confirmed that my decision to change ministries was the right one.  But am I really ready for the change?  Do I want the change?

See, since 1992 when I graduated from seminary, I have taken approximately 37 groups of teenagers out in the middle of winter for this kind of escape.  The number is not exact.  Most of those years I attended two advances,  one for the junior highers, as well.  The past 12 years at Cornerstone, we head to Michindoh every January with our middle schoolers.

37. Or so. That’s a lot of trips.  That’s a lot of students.  I have been so blessed to be able to do this for such a long time.  I have been so blessed to be able to be up close and see God change lives.  Working with teens is so refreshing because they are much more willing to admit their mistakes than adults.  Their shorter life span makes their mistakes seem less overwhelming.  They are facing adulthood and most want to do it without learning lessons the hard way.

So I leave tomorrow with joy, thankfulness and some concern.  I am concerned how I will feel in the cold.  The temperature will not be as bitter as it has been in past years, thankfully, but my body shivers quickly and moves slowly when it’s cold.  I am saddened that I will not be playing football or piling on a tube and flying down the hills.  I won’t even be able to throw snowballs.  I am thankful for so many adults (my friends) that are coming with us this year and know what to do.  I have already delegated  different areas wherein I know I will need help.  It helps that  this group of teens are the kids I’ve watched grow up for the past 12 years.  So I’m like an extra dad to many of them.  They know what’s expected and they do it.  The older ones will keep the younger ones in line.

So, whatever you are doing this President’s Day Weekend, if you think of us, please pray.  Pray for God’s will to be done and for us to accept it with joy.

Matthew 6:33  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

  1. Patrick, well said. I love you guys and will pray for peace and a great final WA!

    • I miss making snow angels…
      John-Mark and I used to always fill the WHOLE ENTIRE yard together after every snow. Not this year. Not last either. Not one snow angel. But we do so many other new things. Yesterday, a new one. Carried across the front yard and up a front walk to visit our neighbor. Was a new kind of cold-winter-delicious. He was barefoot and we were both happy.

  2. Mandi says:

    I agree with David – very well said. I will definitely be praying for you this weekend and for the teens. ENJOY!!

  3. Phyllis says:

    Enjoy every minute you can enjoy, and we’ll pray that God will do amazing things for and through you and for and through the kids. Rejoice in Him! Enjoy His creation! Enjoy His blessings! And we’ll also pray for a safe time for all of you.

  4. Rosalia Duff says:

    Patrick, I will be praying for 37ish. That lives will be changed. I pray for your safety and that of all who attend. May it be a time of reflection on how many teens you have helped with they journey to serve the King of Kings. What a great legacy you have been a part of. Your trusted bride,Dena at your side to help you when needed. I pray for you to have the strength to do the things needed to be done. I know you have with you willing adults to do the task you have for them at hand. May God be Glorifed this weekend. Have a great time and know that many brothers and sisters in the Lord are praying for you. love and prayers, mommaduff

  5. Brad Jackson says:

    I remember when you called me the day Winter Advance began when I was in 8th or 9th grade. I didn’t have the money to cover the fee but you let me come anyway . It’s the little things that you did for us that I remember the most. Have fun this year “Pastor Pat.”

  6. Mike & Linda Herhuth says:

    How privileged you have been to have been able to have been used by God to influence so many young lives for Him – more than most who have lived twice as long as you! Cornerstone is blessed to have had you for all these years! We will be praying for you, the other leaders, and the youth during this years WA.

  7. Florence B. Frey says:

    Pat, Dena, Paige and Parker: We will be praying for you this week-end. Love you

    Pastor & Mrs Frey

  8. Delphine Warbington says:

    I commit to be praying for ALL of you Patrick, in this another leg of the journey. To GOD be ALL the Glory!

  9. Jared says:

    I am thankful that you are able to embark in another Winter Advance. This trip was by far one of the best I ever took and I had the previldge to go 6 times. Although I wish I could join you all since I haven’t gone in 4 yrs, I have used this weekend to look back in my notes I have kept throughout the years. Each year I am reminded of great material. Sometimes God even reveals more to me that I didn’t understand back then. Also, some points are brought back to me as a simple reminder. We shall see what God wants me to learn this weekend! Thanks for being who you are, a God fearing man leaning on the Lord at all times! I hope to catch up with y’all soon!

    Grace & Peace,

  10. Janet Rice says:

    Dear Patrick,
    I will be praying for this winter advance. What a privelege you and Dena have God use you as an instrument. What a blessing to witness the transformation of lives. I will be praying for this winter advance that it will glorify our Lord and I will be looking forward to hearing how this Winter Advance has transformed the lives of these teens. I will be praying for you to have physical strength during Winter advance. I will pray that those that are going will jump in when they need to jump in. Patrick and Dena you both continue to be a wonderful testimony. Parker and Paige Have a wonderful time. All of you just enjoy this winter advance. I am sure that the Lord will use you as His insrument in the adult ministries. Keep the Faith! Continue to Fight the good fight!
    Love in Christ,
    Janet and Chris Rice

  11. Alan Bonjour says:

    I will be praying for the group and the leaders.

  12. kelley secrest says:

    Will be praying for you this weekend. I was blessed beyond measure to attend several WAs with you and know this will be a great time of refreshment for you and the youth. Do you guys still play “spoons”??!! Hugs from Kentucky – kelley secrest

  13. Melissa Bielo Hermann says:

    I can still remember Winter Advance at Calvary! Such fun memories! That was a long time ago!! Will continue to pray for all of you as the Lord walks you through this…and I pray this WA is a blessing to you and to the students!

  14. Tina Winner says:

    Love you all and I continue to pray. Enjoy your time

  15. Jacob Alvaro says:


    As one of the few who was in that first group of Cornerstone kids for the Advances, I can honestly say that those are also some of my most memorable trips as a teenager. Between the early morning wake-up calls, the hours and hours of tubing (complete with jumps when the adults weren’t paying attention), and the massive snowball fights, I had a blast. But above all that, the messages that you would bring us have still stuck with me to this day. The Truth that you instilled into all of our hearts back then has helped get me through so much through the past 12 years. I praise God for you, Dena and all the leaders that have taken your time and effort and abundantly poured it into the lives of so many students. We will be praying that God does some awesome stuff this weekend in both the lives of the students and the leaders!


  16. Mel Stull, Jr. says:

    The Lord Was There (Charles Spurgeon)

    . . . Although the Lord was there . . .
    Ezekiel 35:10

    Edom’s princes saw the whole country left desolate and counted upon its easy conquest; but there was one great difficulty in their way–quite unknown to them–“The Lord was there”; and in His presence lay the special security of the chosen land. Whatever may be the machinations and devices of the enemies of God’s people, there is still the same effectual barrier to thwart their plan.

    The saints are God’s heritage, and He is among them and will protect His own. This assurance grants us comfort in our troubles and spiritual conflicts! We are constantly opposed and yet perpetually preserved! How often Satan shoots his arrows against our faith, but our faith defies the power of hell’s fiery darts; they are not only turned aside, but they are quenched upon its shield, for “the Lord was there.”

    Our good works are the subjects of Satan’s attacks. A believer never yet had a virtue or a grace that was not the target for hellish bullets: whether it was bright and sparkling hope, or warm and fervent love, or all-enduring patience, or zeal flaming like coals of fire, the old enemy of everything that is good has tried to destroy it. The only reason why anything virtuous or lovely survives in us is this: “the Lord was there.”

    If the Lord is with us through life, we do not need to fear death; for when we come to die, we will find that “the Lord is there.” Where the billows are most tempestuous, and the water is most chill, we shall feel the bottom and know that it is good; our feet shall stand upon the Rock of Ages when time is passing away. Dear friend, from the beginning of a Christian’s life to the end, the only reason he does not perish is because “the Lord was there.” When the God of everlasting love shall change and leave His elect to perish, then may the church of God be destroyed; but not until then, because it is written, JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, “The Lord was there.”

  17. Amy says:

    Will be praying for all of you! Enjoy this trip! You are a blessing to so many, and these kids are blessed to have all of you! Safe travels!

  18. Tracy says:

    Praying that God will pour out His blessings this weekend for you, your family and your youth group. Thank you for sharing

  19. rachelmoen says:

    “It ain’t over till it’s over!”

    Thanks for the many memories and lessons learned on winter advances. I agree, it was one of the highlights of my youth group days. You worked hard to make it an impact and yet fun, I appreciate it! Enjoy it not looking back, but striving forward towards the new calling God has for you.

    We love you and are cheering you on every step on the way!!!

  20. Patrick (Pat!)-
    What a fruitful ministry the Lord has given you these many years with teenagers! There are many families and lives affected in a positive way as the Lord allowed you and Dena to be used as instruments of His grace. While you ‘leave’ this phase of ministry in your lives, know assuredly that our Heavenly Father is simply moving you into a new ministry to bless a new generation of His children.

    I can still remember the days of your teenage years wondering how God was ever going to touch your heart and use you for His glory! Little did we humanly know what a great influence you would have on other lives for God’s glory. As your ‘adopted’ parents we are eternally grateful for the opportunity to watch you grow spiritually into the leader you are today and we look forward to seeing how God will bless and use you in your new ministry phase for years to come. You now join those of us who realized years ago we could no longer handle the youthfulness of today’s generation! I am still amazed at how much energy and enthusiasm God provided you for all the years of youth ministry. Quite frankly, I was worn out after working with you and Matt Frey as your youth pastor for a couple years!

    God has truly blessed you with your ministry there for His glory Pat. I know you’re honored to have been His servant with teenagers all these years, but know assuredly that God will indeed bless and use you and Dena in a new phase of your lives and ministry together.

    Enjoy this weekend- have a blast pretending to still be young and then jump into your new life with us old folks in adult ministry! Have fun, son!

    We love you and pray for you daily.

  21. Jo Ann Gasparotto says:

    Patrick, along with so many others, I am thankful that you will be with our students with such enthusiasm! I have specific prayers for you this weekend, as I understand how the elements can effect you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all you do, and your example. I will be praying for all that are there. Continued prayers for your family~ Jo

  22. Paul Burns says:

    Patrick, we as a family will be praying this weekend that the Lord will work in lives and that He will give safety as you all travel!

  23. Earl and Becky Short says:

    just wanted to assure you that there are many in IOWA who are praying for you. trusting that God will richly bless your weekend. warm smiles and many prayers!

  24. shelly-ann grant says:

    I pray u all will have a wonderful time on your trip. Patrick I pray u will still have has much fun watching the youth. An know I will not cease to pray for you and the family. Continue to trust God to carry you.

  25. Carl & Lori Reichanadter says:

    Patrick & Dena,

    You’ve been on my mind and in my prayers quite a bit in the last couple of days. The passage of Scripture that comes to mind is Jude 24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty,dominion and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen.” Bless you my friends. Carl

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