February 12-14, 2010 we retreated deep into the woods of Chesapeake with around 90 students. This year we said goodbye to Camp Rudolph-a Christian camp near Emporia, VA that has faithfully served CNU IV on retreats for the past 8 years-and hello to Triple R Ranch. Triple R is a well known camp among Tidewater area churches and schools, and recently built a new facility capable of housing over 130 people. We were one of the first groups to use the new Ponderosa building, and the students especially loved its warm fireplaces and beautiful lofted ceiling.
Its fascinating to us as leaders how much the atmosphere affects the feel of a retreat, and Triple R certainly had a positive effect. The carpeted floors allowed for students to find comfy corners in which to study Scripture and open spaces in which to play board games or “Ninja” – a game the students played every chance they got (see picture). An attached kitchen made it possible for us to keep the coffee and hot cocoa flowing as students hunkered down to listen to a series of talks on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Our messages were based on a series of sermons by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Pres. in New York City. In his sermons, like his book Prodigal God, Keller discusses how the elder brother in the story is also far from the Father in heart (not just the younger brother). Similarly, we all stray from God in mainly one of two ways- in squandering and slavery like the younger son, or in arrogance and ungratefulness like the elder. But, fortunately for us, the Father can also be called prodigal-he is recklessly extravagant in showing his love for his children and redeeming them.
We also, with the help of several students, created a visual walk-through of the text. On Saturday night after hearing Eric speak, the students walked through a dimly lit side-room in groups of 6. Encountering 9 stations, they were instructed to view pieces of art or interact with tangible objects that pertained to the story. The walk ended with a life-size cross, where students laid their “crowns” at the feet of Jesus.
I (Beth) would say this was a pivotal moment in the retreat for many students. It was exciting, as a staff, to envision something so different from the norm and then watch it come to fruition. But more than that, I saw the Spirit take our physical work and move a step beyond what the objects themselves could do. At the end of the evening, I returned to the room to clean things up-but there was still a student there, bowed before the cross, praying. It humbled me to see just how powerfully the Spirit was weaving all of the elements of the weekend together. I love to see Him take our feeble attempts at ministry and make them into a masterpiece!