Had someone asked me to go on the Encounter with Christ Retreat three years ago, I would have laughed them off. Yeah, I like campus ministry, but I wasn’t about to go on a corny retreat. But now that corny retreat has shaped my college experience for the better.
And here I am now looking for different and unique ways of sharing my experience with others so that they too might tap into this amazing retreat.
Encounter is an amazing weekend where students have the opportunity take a step back from the business of college life and truly open themselves up to the love that constantly surrounds us, yet so often goes forgotten.
In light of all the desire of creating a diverse and accepting environment, I couldn’t think of a better starting point than realizing the love that surrounds us. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. For myself and for others, I’m sure it’s also very easy to give into individualism which builds walls of seclusion around each other. Not in a selfish sense, but in a way where we end up going through the motions of the business of life and lack deep meaningful relationships. In that, it’s easy to forget who you are within your deepest self and the love that surrounds us.
I’ve struggled with constantly building up these walls throughout my life. It’s no doubt easier; it acts as a protective barrier. But in the end, it leaves me feeling like I’m missing something deep and fulfilling. The retreat is a powerful experience that combats that.
At the retreat meeting point on campus, retreatants give up their phones and watches (scary, I know) to ensure complete presence and vulnerability. On the retreat, we’re broken off into small groups after a talk where a small group leader pours out a part of their story of life.
After the first talk I followed my small group leader to a small room where he asked us a reflection question. The wait for someone to answer was painfully awkward. And for whatever reason I spoke first.
I remember exactly what I said, and if I said it here it would sound so odd. But for me, at that moment, it was something that needed to be voiced. That moment of vulnerability gave way to an amazing weekend of love and support.
After the Encounter it’s remembering those moments of happiness, silly awkwardness and raw emotion that grounds me in moments where I might start building walls of individualism up again.
This year, I’m one of the co-coordinators for the upcoming retreat on Oct. 26, which offers me a unique perspective. I realize now the outpouring of people’s time and effort that goes into making this retreat what it is. So many different wheels spin in making the retreat as intentional as possible, and it takes hours to prep. It also pulls in the greater campus community in many amazing ways.
As a busy senior this year, I couldn’t imagine my four years without Encounter. It’s a saying within the retreat that each person receives what they need from it, but being blessed with still being a part of the process allows me to continue to learn and grow, and I’m so thankful for that.