Sorry for the delay in posts, but the past few weeks were incredibly hectic as we prepared for our annual spring retreat a week and a half ago. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, this year has been a year of stretching giftings for me. Preparing for the retreat, this became especially apparent. I found myself shooting and editing videos, planning games, contacting students, recontacting students, and making sure that others were contacting students. I tend to be a laid back person by nature, but God is teaching me how to sometimes be a more orderly planner.
But all the work was definitely worth it. We had around 25 people at the retreat, including three students from the One More Friend in Kyrgyzstan. I could just tell you about it, but I’d rather show you the retreat via some pictures that my lovely wife Elisa took.
This statue of Lenin that we found on the ground covered in leaves and a tarp speaks volumes about the sort of place that I live. A center that was once under atheistic communism is now a Christian retreat center. God redeems all things.
Before each service, I broke the students into their countries and had them discuss some questions, ranging from silly (“What’s the funniest practical joke you’ve ever done?”) to spiritual (“Tell about a time in your life when you realized that the way that you were living was different than your beliefs and values.”).
But here I was telling a joke.
Blind-folded trust walk. It’s hard to say whether my favorite part was when one girl led her boyfriend unnecessarily up a ladder, or when another girl shouted “Lower! Lower! Careful!” at her partner until he was almost lying on the ground, even though there were no obstacles around. Trust, indeed.
They each had a balloon tied around their ankles, and the goal was to pop the other players’ balloons and be the last one standing. This was one of several games the students played to get points for their countries. I told them to blow up their balloons and then trade them with a player from another country. And when they finished blowing them up, I told them I changed my mind and that they should keep them. I’m wily like that.
This was during an obstacle course. At this station, they had to all stand on a piece of newspaper and get their photo taken. I also had them chug a Pepsi, not taking into consideration how much most people here ate soda. One guy actually threw up while running after that. I’d feel bad, but we gave them points for going all out.
Worship. On Saturday night, Jon told N., on the left, that she needed to sing another song when we were praying after the service, and she got a panicked look in her eyes. “You only told me to prepare 3 songs.” “Well pick another song,” Jon told her. She did, and she did an amazing job. A great night of worship, and a great growing experience for her.
Will, our team leader, sharing. He shared on the them of the Holy Spirit and us not putting God in a box. Although this is a predominantly-Muslim culture, there is a church presence, but it tends to be pretty legalistic. At the end of the retreat, several of the students shared testimonies about feeling freed from that legalism.
Besides games, we also gave out random points throughout the weekend for things like having their team bandanas with them, cleaning, and best animal noise (monkey defeated eagle). At the end of the weekend, we awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. After a game of full body rock paper scissors, this girl, B., won an iPod shuffle. She was ecstatic!
For me, though, the best part of the weekend was when A., my Central Asian-Chinese friend that I’ve written about before, came up to Will and told him that he’d decided to follow Jesus and wanted to know how he could tell his parents. Please pray for him as he begins this important journey. It will be even more difficult for him, having to deal with both the Islam of being Central Asian, and the atheistic communism of growing up in China.