This past weekend I directed our church’s first all-church retreat in 13 years! It could have been subtitled “The Retreat Where Almost Everything Went Wrong.”
But I must say it was probably the best retreat ever! 🙂 But not for the usual reasons…here’s why.
First of all, the morning of the retreat, I got a call from our pastor that due to a small stroke he had the day before, just a few minutes ago the doctor had said he could not go to the retreat. This was not only terribly sad (we love our pastor!) but also threw a kink in the works as he was the ONLY speaker lined up for the entire weekend. We didn’t even have workshop speakers! And he was supposed to speak at four different sessions.
Fortunately, the pastors had met the day before and made a Plan B, which was that some of us would step in and take the different talks. Because some of our team were already doing other tasks, we were actually short one person, so Alex’s wife Erica stepped in as well. Yay, Erica! One challenging piece was I was supposed to preach on Sunday. But I was coordinating the retreat. So this was definitely going to be interesting…
Then, the weather forecast said it might rain the first day (Friday), which was the day we were heading up. Wendy and I went up together and when we got there, there was only a little snow on the ground from the morning fall. This is what it looked like a little bit after we got there.
But after a bit it started looking like this.
It was very beautiful, actually. It has been a long time since I saw snow fall.
It was actually quite a juxtaposition with the beautiful spring flowers that had been blooming because the weather had been warm.
People loved the snow! These are some of our beautiful interns and helpers. Michelle (on the right side) is the intern that works in my area. I have really enjoyed getting to know her this year!
The snow kept coming down. Soon it looked like this. By the end of the evening, we had five inches of snow. All winter it had been super dry and the retreat center had a total of two inches of snow for the entire winter!! But the day we drove up they got five inches.
This was a bit problematic as this freak snowstorm caught us all unawares. People arrived in flip flops and shorts. Cars got stuck on the road and the retreat center had to send out a snow plow to dig them out. Some people stopped by the town and the townspeople told them they would never get through, so they went back home (after driving almost an hour and a half to get there).
Meanwhile, half our program staff was missing. We couldn’t reach anyone because there was no cell phone reception. We had no idea where anyone was or who was even going to show up.
Also, all the people who signed up to camp were jumping ship. There was a lot of scrambling to see if we could find housing for them.
Then there were also a bunch of people who got sick. God totally worked it out that the people who were sick ended up vacating cabins that the tent campers could then occupy.
In fact, in one cabin there were some women with exactly five empty beds after one person dropped out. Then a group of five women camping in a tent said they needed a place to stay. That is totally God’s providing!
So we hung out in the afternoon registering people and waiting and wondering if people were going to show up. Kyle and his baby were a great example of “hanging out.”
He’s so cute!
Our main session was supposed to start at 7, but our emcee and children’s director were missing! They finally showed up at 7:30 so we started our program close to 8.
Matt did an outstanding job as emcee. He really set the tone that lasted the entire weekend — tons of humor and interaction!
One of our goals was to create a “fun” atmosphere, and he had little tennis competitions between people.
He introduced his sidekick, “Crazy Claudia.” Karen was hilarious! Not only did she have everyone laughing, but she got everyone moving and doing exercises — young and old!
Even pastors and their wives!
The next day Claudia was fired, so her replacement came in… Lotus Flower.
It was like Asian meditative exercises. Her commentary was hilarious. Everyone joined in!
She introduced her sidekick, Wong Directions. Earlier Steve had said, “Might as well perpetuate those Asian stereotypes.” Ha ha! Here he is demonstrating what looked like a tai-chi move, but he called it slicing a watermelon.
Then later Disco Diane (or whatever her name was) showed up.
She got the pastor’s wives to hep her! It was so awesome. They did a great job.
Josh and band did a great job leading worship. We did a lot of camp songs too, which added to the fun atmosphere.
Audrey, Hannah, and Jordon busted out some moves.
We even had a surprise visit from some of the college students who jumped up with different instruments.
Saturday night was our “campfire.” We had it indoors because it was wet outside. People performed skits. Some of them were hilarious!
The pastors put on a skit. Half of us didn’t know what was going on because they missed the rehearsal, and those that went to the rehearsal were not told what was fully going to happen. Matt was the leader and he started out with “There’s a bar.” “Whar?” “Over thar.” I was totally laughing because I had seen this before and knew what was going to happen.
We just went down the line.
And ended up in ridiculous positions.
Whereupon Matt gave us all a push.
And we ended up like dominoes! It was pretty funny.
One time we had a Rock Paper Scissors competition. The little girl won out of everyone in the whole room!
Albert was a total trooper. A loud and noisy retreat is not really a favorite thing for an introvert, but I soooo appreciated all his support. He helped Josh with tech.
I was really glad he was there!
This is an example of the crazy weather. This is Saturday morning.
This is 24 hours later.
And this is how it looked like after all the snow had melted.
The bummer about the snow was that everyone was looking forward to the 45-minute free train ride. It got shut down due to the snow.
People had also signed up for a stagecoach ride. But it was inoperable.
People were excited about playing ping pong. The tables were broken.
People wanted to go hiking. It was all wet out.
The status of activities changed throughout the day due to weather conditions. There were other fun things to do but it was a bit limiting due to the weather.
HOWEVER… what was the best part of the retreat?
God was at work!
Having a diverse line-up of different speakers at each session actually ended up being a big bonus… tons of people commented how much they appreciated it!
People were able to worship!
Thanks to children’s ministry, parents of young families were able to enjoy the sessions without interruption.
Michelle worked super hard with our wonderful college volunteers, who cooked every meal except Saturday night and saved everyone like $30 in registration fees as a result.
People met lots of other people, which is sometimes hard to do in a church our size with four services.
There was tons of laughter and fun and enjoying being together.
On my side, God woke me up at 4 in the morning and gave me a passage to speak on. Then Saturday during break time (less than 24 hours before I was to speak), the entire sermon was started and completed in a few hours. I can’t say how much this a total God thing because the last time I preached was over 3 years ago and before that it would take me 2 weeks to work on a sermon. I would put in probably like 20-30 hours in per sermon. This time it was less than 3. And when I got up to speak, I had total peace this was what God wanted me to talk about… the story of Mary and Martha. Probably part of the reason it seemed to come so easily was because I could relate to Martha… ha ha! It was the easiest talk I have ever given. It totally was God.
At the very end we took a group picture. Unfortunately some people had already left. But I’m glad we got the pictures… a serious one…
And a silly one!
So even though so many things went wrong, I really felt at peace the whole time and enjoyed the retreat. It was a blessing to be there with the church family and hear the different ways God blessed and spoke. I got to meet new people as well.
And more to celebrate — my two weeks of craziness were finally over!