So I didn’t have space in my newsletter to tell you about fall retreat…but I want you to hear about it and see how God used your prayers as we were in Loma Mar!
As we talked and prayed about fall retreat, we decided to try something new this year. Traditionally, fall retreat is close to the beginning of school and spans a whole weekend. But there are usually very few freshmen who come. So we decided to switch things up a little this year! Our retreat was simply an overnighter at a camp in the redwoods, and it was a little bit later in the quarter. The hope was that freshmen wouldn’t feel they were giving up a whole weekend of studying, and that they would have more chances to get to know other students before committing to a weekend with “strangers”.
We optimistically planned for space for about 85 people at the camp, a good 20 more than last year. But as it got closer to fall retreat it quickly became clear we were going to need a lot more space than that! By the time we got to the camp, we had a group of 104, and some of our staff had to rent a cabin nearby for extra space! Even more exciting than that was that we had over 30 freshmen, and over half of the group had never been to a fall retreat before!
We had a fantastic speaker that weekend. Matt Mikalatos works with Cru City and has written some humorous-but-deep books on the Christian life, including one with modern retellings of Jesus’ parables. He is an extremely gifted storyteller, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a group of college students quite that focused ever before. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as he retold Luke 15, the stories of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son. Many of our students are either nonbelievers or haven’t read much of the Bible, so these stories blew their minds. The sheep became a first grader on a field trip, lost at the zoo. The coin became a thousand dollar check. The son…well, he stayed a son, a son who had told his father he wished him dead. And yet the father took the train to pick him up when he heard his son was coming home. Some students were in tears. Many asked questions. And the conversation continued all weekend.
One of my favorite parts of any retreat is watching students reach out to those they don’t know. This camp we were at was REALLY small, and there really was no space for someone to “disappear into the crowd.” Our free time was super unstructured, and that allowed for students to just spend time together and have conversations while poking banana slugs or unpacking in their cabins. We had four staff kids with us as well, and wandering around with them helped us start conversations with some of the shy, kid-loving freshmen girls.
So thank you for your prayers. God did some great work in students’ hearts at fall retreat, and the bonding that happened there has encouraged many further spiritual conversations in our community 🙂