To be honest, I’m a closet worrier. As a generally laid-back guy, I put on a good front, but when it comes to ministry, I need to practice Lamaze-style breathing. Even though at this time last year I’d only been here a week or two, I’ve recently been worrying that I haven’t been doing enough.
“Oh, no! I can’t get the Danish guy to come to anything!”
“Why do the Iranian couple keep promising to come to our worship services and then don’t show up?”
“Why won’t the Turkish guy answer my calls?”
“Where’s my Chinese friend who always came to things last year?”
But, above all, “Am I failing?”
The retreat this weekend was a breath of fresh air. God reminded me that He is the one working in the hearts and lives of the students in this ministry and on this campus. And He also reminded me of how far we’ve come since last year, as you’ll see in the pictures below.
We had over 80 students come to retreat, and 11 of them were international students. What’s really cool is that this year, several of the internationals who came were Christians. For example, Junesse and Ganaa above, from the Philippines and Mongolia respectively, have both been believers most of their lives. It’s exciting to see how God’s going to use Christian internationals in Chi Alpha in the future!
Daniel and Patrick are both from Indonesia. Daniel grew up in a pentecostal church and Patrick in a Catholic one. Despite their differing backgrounds, they both loved the retreat and connected really well with me, as well as many of the students.
On Friday night, we played several fun icebreaker games. This one is always a favorite: “Bang the Pot.” Someone bangs a pot (or in this case, a djembe) and the students have to get into groups according to the number of hits. Hilarity ensues.
Neither of these Chinese girls are believers yet, but the one on the left, “Leah,” has been regularly attending worship services and Bible studies for the last semester and a half. It’s evident that God is working in her heart. “Laura” in the middle has only come around relatively recently, but it’s clear that Jesus really speaks to her through the worship. I hope to have many good things to say about these two in the future.
On Saturday morning, we had a short worship set and a mini-sermon from our guest speaker before breaking out into discussion groups. We then went off alone to pray, read our Bibles and journal over the theme of the weekend: “The Father’s Love.”
Speaking of love… :] The Chinese girl on the right was dodging pictures all weekend, which fortunately resulted in this adorable photo.
We had delicious food all weekend, thanks to the recipes of one of our pastors, Missi Trask, as Adam in the center will attest. Maria on the left is from Germany and we were amazed to discover when we became Facebook friends that she’s actually friends with one of my friends from Kazakhstan and his girlfriend from Austria! They met at a Christian program in England several years back (the same place where my friend met his girlfriend). It’s such a small world, and God is working behind the scenes to orchestrate amazing stories!
“Henry” on the right was invited to come to retreat by his friend Leah after only attending one service. One of my favorite things is to see internationals, even non-Christians like Leah, become inviters because they sense that Chi Alpha is a group that anyone would love to be a part of. There’s something different about the people they meet there and the things they experience. It makes my heart happy.
Michael was the sole Chinese Christian at the retreat. He and I have been meeting regularly for discipleship. He’s only a sophomore, so please pray that God will continue growing him so that he might become our first international student on our leadership team for next year!
In case you were wondering about why we had blindfolds in the last two pictures, we played a game called Blind Kickball on Saturday afternoon. It’s basically like regular kickball, except that each “player” is really two players. The non-blindfolded player kicks and catches the ball, but the blindfolded one is in charge of running the bases and throwing the ball. It’s similar to blindfolded trust games where people have to follow and trust voice commands, but with a twist. Above, I’m trying to adjust my partner Ganaa so that she’s actually pointed towards first base. It’s already comedic to watch Americans play blind kickball. I promise, it’s so much funnier to watch internationals who don’t even understand the rules of baseball, let alone kickball or blind kickball.
We had free time after blind kickball. This is a retreat, so, unlike many “retreats” you may have been on, we actually wanted people to come back refreshed. During the free time, some students napped, others studied, some played Ultimate Frisbee, others canoed. Me? I got beat in ping pong by “Harry” and Henry. I felt better by destroying them in foosball afterward. ;] Harry has been regularly coming to one of our guys’ small groups with his roommate, “Eclipse,” who became a Christian last year. Although Harry hasn’t decided to become a Christian yet, you can sense how God’s changing him. When you ask many Chinese students what you can pray with them about, they rarely refuse, but their prayer requests typically center on very self-oriented things like their studies, getting a good job with lots of money, or their family’s health. All good things, no doubt, but you that God is beginning to change their hearts when they become more other-oriented in their prayers. I really believe that’s what God’s working in Harry’s heart right now. I can’t wait to share more of his journey with you!
We had awesome worship throughout the whole weekend, including some impromptu worship around the bonfire on Friday and Saturday nights.
A group of girls, mostly new, along with a couple of our leadership girls. It was really cool to see old and new students bonding, especially when they included internationals, not viewing the international students as somehow in a different category. This is truly an answer to my prayers for diversity over the summer. God is so good!
Reflecting on the retreat, I realized that all my stress and worry hasn’t amounted to much. But the work of God in these students lives (along with the lives of those who couldn’t attend) definitely has! I’m much calmer now, trusting–as though I were playing blind kickball–that God will guide me and these students closer to Him.