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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“Can you tell me the end of the story?”

Our international group is always an adventure. Between language barriers, cultural differences, and various spiritual beliefs we are always learning a lot (both internationals AND Americans!) It’s a lighthearted, relaxed group that loves to eat, to laugh, and to practice English.

These two international students came on our women's retreat! Pray for them to continue to grow in their understanding of the Gospel and for their hearts to be open to receiving it.

These two international students came on our women’s retreat! Pray for them to continue to grow in their understanding of the Gospel and for their hearts to be open to receiving it.

Because we have a mix of Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and athiests, we center each meeting on a common theme that everyone experiences in their lives. Then we look at what the Bible has to say about that theme. For example, a few weeks ago we talked about anticipation- how everyone has hopes for the future, and how we have a natural sense that there is something more to life. We read about the prophets in the Bible who anticipated the return of Christ and then discussed how anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can anticipate a future world without pain or evil.

Last night we talked about satisfaction. What are we not satisfied with in life? Where do we go when we are spiritually hungry? John 6:35 says that “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

One of our regular students, Bong Joo, brought his friend Cindy* from class. Cindy is a Chinese exchange student who considers herself an athiest but has never really considered the existence of God. She’s read a little bit of the Bible in Mandarin, but not much.

Left to Right: Wyatt (American), Cindy*(Chinese), and Bong Joo (Korean) discussing the storyline of the Bible

Left to Right: Wyatt (American), Cindy*(Chinese), and Bong Joo (Korean) discussing the storyline of the Bible

Cindy was extremely engaged throughout the entire meeting. She asked many questions and was eager to participate in our discussion of satisfaction. We spent a long time talking about what the Bible is, and we described the storyline that connects each book together into one coherent Bible.

“You can keep this Bible if you want,” I told her. She was hesitant at first but as we opened it and gave her a tour, her inhibitions fell away. “What are the most important parts for me to read?” she asked. I was shocked. Here is a Chinese woman who struggles with the English language and has never heard the Gospel- and she grasps the importance of the Bible and is eager to read it! We pointed her to the front of the Bible, where this particular edition lays out the gospel in simple terms and provides verses.

“Can you tell me the end of the story? What happens?” she asked after realizing just how big the Bible is. “Well, Jesus returns again and he destroys all evil and sadness forever,” I replied. “He takes everyone who has a relationship with Him to live forever with Him in a world without anything bad.”

“That’s a REALLY good ending then!” Cindy exclaimed. And it is! I love the excitement that I hear from those who are hearing the gospel for the first time. So often we forget the beauty of God’s plan for us. We forget about the good ending we are working for. What a good reminder of the hope and anticipation we as believers have for the future!

Praise God for Bong Joo’s desire for Cindy to learn about God and for his initiative to bring her to our group. Please keep Cindy in your prayers as she begins to learn about Jesus, and pray for us as leaders as we answer difficult questions and cross cultural, religious, and language barriers. May Cindy come to have a relationship with Jesus and experience this “good ending” herself!

*Name has been changed to protect the individual

And so it begins…

HAPPY WELCOME WEEK!!!!

Thousands of new students are moving into the dorms this weekend, and we’ve spent the last week planning events and outreaches to build relationships with them. Welcome Week can be hell for freshmen, transfers, and international students (away from home, no friends, language barriers, weird roommates, peer pressure, rednecks) but it’s also the week when they start checking out campus organizations.

Surveys have shown that they tend to stick with whatever group interests them the most in the first six weeks. So we try to be OH SO INTERESTING. Glow-in-the dark capture the flag, free pizza, sports days, free water bottles, sardines in the Death Star (yes that is a building), free dessert, bowling in the student union, free pizza. Yes, college students like free things, in case you haven’t noticed. So guess who’s helping?

servant team

Hi Freshmen, Transfers, and International Students!!! Wanna be my friend??

This is our FANTASTIC servant team. The past two days has been planning time 9am-3pm, and I am so impressed. These students are totally throwing themselves into ministry despite their fears and have come up with some awesome ideas. We prayed often, practiced conflict resolution, studied the Bible, and discussed how important it is to reach freshmen in particular. We spent some time reflecting on the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6 and saw that the only way we will make an impact is if we are trusting God, grounding ourselves in truth, and relying on the Holy Spirit for strength. I have a feeling that this team of student leaders is going to be more effective than any I have seen in Davis in the last four years.

welcome week flyer

Just a few of our events this weeek…

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We also packed 2500 water bottles with flyers to pass out…the annual PACKING PARTY!!!

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I’ve also gotten to do some international student ministry this week…Cru had a table at the International Student Fair this week, and my roommate Jane is helping out with her church. She had her first year as an international student four years ago, so God is really putting these students on her heart.

Resource Fair!

Resource Fair!

Last picture, I promise. This is Jaden, our staff directors’ son. I got lots of cuddle time this week and he was so good during our long meetings. It’s so fun watching him learn to talk in sentences!

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He sees the picture and cries “It’s Jaden!!!”