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Monday, November 15, 2010

Retreating from the normal...to the lake


So back in October, I had requested prayer for a weekend retreat that we took with the Northstar kids (grades 10-12) at our school. Last year, we organized this beginning-of-the-year retreat hiking up a local mountain and staying in a hut with no electricity, no water and having to carry all of our stuff up a hill for the weekend. I thought it was great, but the kids opted for a more luxurious and comfortable location this year: a church owned cottage right on Lake Malawi.

Thankfully as we become more experienced putting these retreats on twice a year, it becomes easier to organize all the details. I use a schedule similar to the one we had last year, use a packing list that changes very little, and find vehicles that can get us there. Becca and I plan the menu, do the shopping, and pack it all up. The biggest challenge in preparing is the actual devotion/messages that we give during the morning and evening times of worship. We had brought together an all-star cast of staff to go along: Brian Carlisle, our new principal; Katie Dinwiddie, our stalwart math teacher; Ian Nagata, visiting worship pastor from CA; Becca Hiroto, need I say more; and me (they just bring me along to drive;). We were planning our weekend topics and settled on the "I AM" statements that Jesus makes about himself in the gospel of John. We divided them amongst ourselves and went to work prepping.

It was an exciting time and I believe that the time was very meaningful for both the staff and students. We enjoyed great food together; spaghetti Friday night, hot dogs and baked beans Saturday night. We had some fun washing dishes together, especially since we got shocked every time we touched the faucet or water coming from the faucet (due to faulty wiring). We played some rousing games of Nerts, Stratego, and War. The lake provided plenty of entertainment, as well as a cool reprieve from the hot and humid midday. We went on a long walk to the sand dunes just a mile away and played freeze tag in the water for about an hour. We enjoyed very little sleep, and when we did sleep, we were in a state of passive sweating. We may have played the most passionate and lively edition of the "paper game" (Taboo, charades and one-word clues combined to form a wonderful game) ever experienced in Malawi.

But the common experiences weren't he only significant stuff happening. Each of our four group meetings were deep, thoughtful and worshipful. Ian and Nate worked together to lead us in some great worship songs. Each staff member shared about one or two of the I AM statements and challenged the kids to not only recognize the validity of these statements, but the implications of each one in their lives. Jesus is the Way, Truth, Life, Good Shepherd, Bread, Light. If this is true, what do these specific statements do to change our relationship with Him? I so appreciated the talks because they went straight to the heart of the matter; our need for a personal and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

I must say that the retreat took a lot of energy to organize and put on, but it was all worth it. We look forward to seeing the fruit of this retreat in the months and even years to come. How grateful we are to serve God with our fellow staff at the academy.