Thursday, March 12, 2009

Retreat Update

I want to update everyone on our retreat weekend, especially for the benefit of those who prayed. So first of all, thank you to everyone who prayed for us. God answered your prayers and did some amazing things. We got back on Sunday night, and overall it was a great time. We stayed in the town of Nuernburg, which is a walled city much larger than the small town of Kandern where BFA is. So there were plenty of things for the students to do in town. Above you see a picture of the youth hostel that we had all to ourselves for the weekend. It appeared to be and felt like a castle, but I don't know what the history of the building is. It was very spacious and a great place to host an event like this for a group our size. There was even some soccer played in the (very) wide hallways upstairs with a miniature ball. The building was on top of a large hill in the city, and the other picture is a view down the hill into the town. There was both good and bad that came from the weekend so I want to share both with you.

The bad: several groups of students were either caught or confessed to drinking alcohol over the weekend. The attitudes of those involved cover both extremes and range from very repentant to completely unrepentant. Two young men from our dorm were caught amongst a group of five total because they drank over the weekend, purchased alcohol to bring back to school, and also lied about it. The reason the guys were caught is because a bag was accidentally left at the school after everyone was dropped off and headed home Sunday night. The bag contained some alcohol and cigars, which led the investigation to the student whose bag it was. Our two students who were involved were both given a four-day suspension that needed to be spent with their parents so plane tickets were purchased at a moment's notice and the two of them are now in Sweden and San Francisco. These two guys and the others with them are the students who are unrepentant and apathetic about their punishment in general. If anything, they are proud that they broke rules and are searching for sympathy from the rest of the student body, a portion of whom seem to be giving it to them. One of these guys is open about being an unbeliever, and the other one has had a rough past and is very apathetic about fixing his poor behavior (and may be an unbeliever as well). With that being said, I somewhat expect guys like this to openly sin and break rules, but that doesn't make it much less unsettling for me, the rest of the staff, or the students. Alcohol is a tough issue because the attitude about it is much more relaxed in Europe. The laws and drinking age are different, and many of these students occasionally drink at home with their families, but can't drink here. This makes it all the more controversial, but not unimportant. Pray for Min and Erik, that God would soften their hearts and reveal to them the reality of their sin and their bad attitudes. Also, pray for the rest of our students and the student body, that they would have a proper understanding of breaking rules and the consequences. The issue is not that drinking alcohol is a sin but that it is in violation of school rules and compromises their integrity.

The good: there was a lot of growth and spiritual openness displayed over the weekend, and I believe the good far outweighed the bad even though the bad is getting more attention right now. The small group that Tommy and I led went very well. We were taking over a small group that already meets during the week, but their small group leader couldn't be at the retreat. It was a group of sophomores, and four of the six guys were from HBR. Through our meetings, the guys opened up to us and to each other more than they ever had before. I had the privilege of getting a glimpse of their true hearts and their desire to change. This was really exciting for me. They all showed a real desire to grow in their walk with our Lord. For the third and fourth times that we met, we actually allowed them to lead the group, asking the questions that were given to us beforehand and making sure everyone answered and was involved in the discussion. Several of them are beginning to show signs of real spiritual leadership. Pray for Andrew, Sam, Z, and Michael, that they would be serious about their commitment to Christ and would choose to make their lives about Him. Pray that they would remember the weekend and their intentions for life change. Pray for me, that I can connect with them on a deeper level now as I continue to invest in them and that I can challenge them to keep seeking growth. I am really excited for the opportunities I will have for ministry in the coming days. I have a weekend off coming right now though, and I'm leaving town for a while so pray that I find rest and come back refreshed.

Thank you as always for your faithfulness. In reading my updates, in giving, in praying. Thank you! God bless!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Retreating from Heartbreak

This was a tough morning for me! All week soccer tryouts have been taking place at school, and this morning the lists were posted telling who made the team. If you don't know the soccer culture outside the U.S., well... it's a big deal. We had 14 guys from our dorm trying out (half the dorm), and for a lot of them, it would be a dream come true to make it on the team. There were 42 guys in all trying out and only 30 spots available. That means 12 young men needed to be rejected, and eight of them ended up being our guys. That. Stinks. To put it lightly. I think they were kind of preparing themselves for the letdown, but I know each of them is still very disappointed. It's not that the ones who were cut are bad at soccer. Many of them are quite skilled, play with so much heart, and were so excited by the idea of playing soccer for BFA. Six of them are HBR seniors who have never played soccer on the team before so they started off at a disadvantage. I'm not saying the process and final decision were unfair, but I was surprised that so many good players failed to make the team. I think I was feeling worse about it than some of the players themselves. I was in a bad mood all morning. But this weekend should be able to cheer everyone up.

This weekend we are embarking on the annual high school retreat. Every high school student will be loaded on a bus and driven five or six hours away to the city of Nurnberg (or Nuremberg). This will be a time when the kids can just get away from school and Kandern and enjoy the weekend in a new place. RA's are not required to attend this event, but many of us are going anyway. All four of the RA's from HBR will be there. While there, we will get to shed all of our normal duties and be able to merely hang out with the kids and enjoy the weekend with them. I will be helping to lead a small group of six sophomore guys along with Tommy, an RA from Sonne (check out the link to his blog on the right). Please pray for the spiritual growth that may take place this weekend. As you know, taking students on a trip like this out of their normal surroundings sometimes opens them up to realize things they normally wouldn't, and it is often camps or retreats that kids point back to as a major event or turning point in their spiritual lives. So pray that the students' hearts would be softened and would be vulnerable to the Word of God and the words that the speaker and the small group leaders would have to share. I myself am looking forward to a great weekend, and I will be carrying the burden of prayer along with you. We're leaving tomorrow morning (Friday) and will be coming back Sunday night. Thank you to those of you who will be praying!

Auf Wiedersehen,