Every now and again God does something totally unexpected.
This year, the theme of our Chapter Retreat was “Nothing is Impossible with God”. Over the course of just 24 hours, the Lord proved this to us in numerous ways.
First of all, we had to book the retreat a few weekends earlier than we usually do. This made Beth and I a bit fearful that we wouldn’t have as much time to recruit, and therefore we would see a drop in our usual attendance.
Second, while it was still well-planned out in advance, due to the many illnesses that visited our family over the winter break there was more work to be done leading up to the retreat than we would’ve liked, and this made us worry.
Thirdly, the Friday of the retreat was the same Friday that delivered numerous inches of snow to the Hampton Roads area in a matter of a couple of hours—the same hours, in fact, that our students were supposed to drive to the retreat center. After texting nearly 100 students and telling them to turn around and that the retreat would now start on Saturday at noon we were convinced that many of them wouldn’t even show up the next day. I (Eric) was also frustrated that all the work I had put into my Friday night talk might be for nothing. But…
Then God did something a bit unexpected. The next morning not only did every student that had registered show up — but we had 3 students show up that had not registered, making this a record-breaking retreat for us with 103 students attending!
We moved the Saturday morning session to right after lunch, and other than not having as much free time between lunch and dinner, things would proceed from there as usual.
Beginning Saturday afternoon, Beth spoke from the experiences of Elizabeth and Mary (mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus respectively), two mothers that by human standards should never have been mothers, encouraging us to see our God as one who operates by his rules and standards, not ours.
After dinner, Rob (IV Staff training with us this year) spoke from Paul’s conversion from terrorist to missionary (see Acts 9 and Philippians 3) and shared related stories from his own life. As we responded in song later that evening the students were challenged to count the cost and turn to Jesus either for the first time, or in deeper faith and repentance.
That night two students responded in new faith and became daughters of the King! Not only this, but numerous Christians were transformed as well, confessing, repenting, and receiving mercy and strength to carry on by his grace.
Sunday morning I closed the weekend by sharing in depth about a very dark period in my own walk, one that involved questions and doubts about my faith and Jesus himself. I focused my talk on John the Baptist (Matthew 11) looking at how Jesus responds to those who harbor doubts—be they large or small. I shared that doubting/questioning is far more common among the saints than we tend to realize because we’re often too ashamed to talk about them. But Jesus is not ashamed to call the weak-of-faith his friends! I have been incredibly humbled by how many students had at least some small connection to what I spoke about, and that God would delight to use this sinner to build his kingdom.
Lastly, this was not only a weekend of “harvesting.” Many seeds were planted that we may never see the results of in the 4 short years we get to spend with these students. But one seed in particular God brought to a rather speedy harvest just a couple of weeks ago. One of the non-Christian students that came with us was very intrigued by the gospel, but knew that he was not ready to call upon Jesus that weekend. But in the coming weeks as many of his questions were given answers, and the Spirit continued to press upon his conscience his need for Jesus, he responded in faith and repentance and came to call Jesus his own so that Jesus would call him His own.
What a blessing that we (Beth, myself, and Rob) get to take part in this glorious ministry! Indeed nothing is impossible with God!
Thanks to our student Katherine Canaday for the use of her photos.
View other posts from our March 2013 Newsletter: