Fall Retreat and more!

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.

Even the babies bonded with each other 😀

Banana slugs everywhere!

Quick beach run…only 20 minutes away!

Staff team getting ready to check students in for the weekend!

You can’t have fall retreat without s’mores!

They’re just ridiculously fun!

Night hike crew!

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 🙂

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Post-Project Musings :)

I am finally starting to feel better, and being home for a couple weeks has given me a great chance to reflect on the summer and to consider where God might be taking me in the next few years! 

So what did I learn this summer?

  • I learned a ton about what it looks like to start a student-run campus movement. As we met with students on some of the campuses that were harder to reach, we got the opportunity to cast vision for the students and show them how they could lead their friends and classmates in Bible studies. This was really exciting, and I liked that it focused less on us forming relationships with them and more on the students forming relationships with each other. This is much more sustainable in the long run because we have to come back to school here!

    Rhodes University in Grahamstown

  • At the beginning of project, I was hesitant to step into a pseudo-leadership role on the team but was pushed into it as I was one of only two students who had been to South Africa before. In hindsight, I think it was a great experience, as I learned a lot about what it looks like to lead in word and action while still letting students experience things on their own. As my teammates came to me with cultural and ministry questions, I was able to use my past experiences to help them understand ministry in PE. I was really surprised at the huge amount of respect I received and it was so neat to see God use mein this way.

    Dinner with Lisa, a UCD junior this year. We had the greatest conversations and found out we had a lot more in common than we thought!

  • Last year in CRU at Davis we talked about how every relationship is a two-way discipleship opportunity. Unlike last year, I was one of the older students on my team, and I had the privilege of bringing younger Davis students with me. I noticed God using my conversations with them to encourage them to take steps of faith, and I was often convicted as I listened to God speaking to them through me and realized my need to grow in the same areas. Taking steps of faith is a lot easier when you’re doing it alongside someone else!It was so encouraging to see God redeem struggles in my life and use them to help others. Even the students on campus showed me the Gospel in ways I’d never heard it explained before. “God is such a gentleman,” one girl repeated over and over. 
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    How can you resist this? One of the girls at Jerusalem Ministries

  •  I realized that God has placed a deep passion in my heart for community development ministry, whether it is in the US or in another country. We worked with an organization called Jerusalem Ministries in a local township that provides Christ-centered community services such as vocational training, drug rehabilitation, aftercare programs, and a library. I love to see how whole neighborhoods are affected by Christians who share the good news not only through words but also through pouring into their communities. Christ modeled this idea so well, and I am excited to follow His example with my life.
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    He was totally sacked out in my lap for a good half hour while we watched the little girls’ dance class. The girl in pink next to me never left my side while we were there- so sweet.

    As I am entering my senior year, almost everyone has asked me what my post-graduation plans are. To be completely honest, I don’t know yet. I’m looking at different programs, including STINT in South Africa and a Christian international agriculture development course with ECHO. I’ll be going to a conference in the fall with CRU to learn more about what it looks like to be a Christian in the workplace. I’m not too worried about not having a plan yet; pray that God will continue to lead me. 

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Potential STINT 2014 team? hahaha Khaya’s trying to talk us into it

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…but agricultural ministry sounds awesome too!