It is late on Monday evening. We have just spent an our of our exec team meeting hashing out details for the upcoming weekend’s fall retreat. We’ve talked about food, the speaker, shopping, small groups, games and just about every little logistical detail you could imagine. But looming in all our minds over everything else is one huge dilemma: transportation.
Ah, the seemingly mundane detail of getting people to and from the event.
And yet here’s where we stood less than a week before our retreat: 110 students signed up, only 60 some rides accounted for. We seemed to have exhausted all options, most NU students are from out of state and don’t bring cars to campus. We even felt that 60 cars was an amazing feet considering we were already borrowing from friends who weren’t even going to the retreat. We potentially had the use of some church vans, but needed to find an older driver and the prospects of finding that were not bright.
The only option we thought was to rent minivans through the university motorpool service. A minivan for the weekend that could fit 7 students was somewhere around $200. None of us even bothered doing the math. After going around in circles trying to figure out how not to spend a fortune on renting vans for the retreat, we basically resigned ourselves to the fate of taking a huge hit financially.
But then Kristi, our prayer coordinator, led us into a time of prayer for the retreat. The students prayed hard. I prayed hard. As an exec team we agreed together in prayer that God had a plan and a purpose for the retreat. The theme is “Beauty in the Broken” — we were bringing in a fantastic speaker, Asian American counselor Jon Warden, to walk students through their own personal brokenness and how to experience Gospel healing in a deep and meaningful way. We all agreed in prayer that Fall Retreat was going to be fun as always, but this year we also wanted it to go deeper. To be a place where students, freshmen to seniors, Christian and non-Christian to meet God in a powerful, transformative way, and enter into a deep and authentic experience of Christian community. We all believed that was God purpose… we just needed to find a way to get everyone there.
We prayed meaningful prayers. I led students in an old song:
Here I am (here I am), nothing much to give to You.
Here I am (here I am), asking for the privilege
To be used by You. I want to be used by You.
Used me, dear Lord. Make my life a living sacrifice.
Use me, Lord, to be a light in the darkest night.
Lord, for Your glory.
While I can’t say I felt this spiritual high, I left the meeting with a sense that we had done all we could and the rest was really in the Lord’s hands. As soon as I hopped on the train to head home, I got a call from an alum who said not only will he volunteer at the retreat, but he was open to driving one of the church vans as well. I got home and in my inbox was an email from Kristi saying that a few more cars came through. Within the next few days I heard from a few more alumni who said they were willing to drive. For the past few weeks previously, we had hit a dead end on the transportation front. We had basically resigned ourselves to paying a boat load of money to the university to rent minivans. But clearly God had a different plan.
At the time of this writing not only do we have transportation for all 110 students going to fall retreat, we didn’t have to rent a SINGLE minivan, but did it all through generous students, generous alumni and generous friends, families and supporters. And generous Jon Warden as well.
I recognize this isn’t Moses parting the red sea or Jesus calming the storm. This was a few more cars that could drive one our to Kenosha. If it didn’t happen, we’d still be able to get students to the retreat, though it would have cost us a little bit to rent the vans. Yet, for me and for the students, I think this is more than just a casual coincidence of a minor logistical detail. This is, in my humble estimation, the wedding at Cana reported in John 3 (which we studied in our small groups a few weeks ago), a seemingly unnecessary miracle that is neither sexy nor high profile, but is designed to bring people together in celebrating things that matter. For those two millenia ago, it was the union of two souls in marital covenant. Jesus chose his first miracle to be throwing a party for a young couple stuck in a jam. For us, it is a weekend devoted to exploring our brokenness and basking in God’s abundant healing and forgiveness for those in Christ.
I think God was blowing us a kiss.
Its times like these that make so grateful to be in campus ministry. Experiencing God on the run– in the rush and hustle and bustle of ministry. Its knowing that what you’re doing is so aligned with God’s purposes and plans that its almost certain that he will see it through, even if the challenges are formidable. Its experiencing the extravagant grace of God when its not needed and certainly not deserved.
It is a privilege that we can have this kind of confident relationship and partnership with the living God. And I’m so thankful that I get to walk with students as they experience this kind of joy (and challenge) in ministry.
The big question for the weekend:
Will the students be able to rise to the challenge of exploring their own brokenness? We will really need the Holy Spirits help as Jon leads us into the murky waters of our brokenness. For many students I think this is one of the first they will be directly challenged with questions like, “How does your family brokenness affect you today? How does your unmet childhood needs prevent you from walking confidently with the Lord? Have you fully healed from this situation or that painful past experience?” There will be deep stuff explored. Here are some of the defense mechanisms I can see triggering:
- Indifference – Sometimes the best way to deal with tough experiences for some people is feigned or manipulated apathy.
- Humor – I think this is prominent with our men. When faced with personally hard truths, deflecting it with humor can defuse the tension, but also kill the potential for growth.
- Succumbing to physical tiredness – as we deal with increasingly tough topics of family, childhood and cultural brokenness, it wouldn’t suprise me if students start to realize just how tired they are from a long quarter.
In talking with Jon leading up to the retreat Jon gave me a real great piece of advice: “Honor the resistance.” Instead of denigrating students for immaturity if they have a hard time with this topic, I’ve since shifted my attitude to pray that 1) I would lovingly respect where they are at in their own personal issues and 2) Trust the Holy Spirit to open them up to God at the right time when they are ready to fully receive.
In invite you to join me in prayer as well…
- Pray for any remaining logistical details — Food, housing, budgeting, etc. That they would go smoothly over the weekend and that those students planning the retreat would not be over worked and worn by the logistics.
- Traveling mercies — We have 12 -15 cars and vans traveling up to Kenosha. Pray for SAFETY.
- Health — Pray for our speaker, Jon, to be of strength phyiscally as well as students who may have had late nights this past week, to be able to be physically and emotionally present.
- Openness — Pray that students would be open to the Gospel and the Lord’s healing work.
- Missional focus — Pray that the work God does this weekend does not end this weekend but continues back on campus. Pray that AAIV would be a community of wounded healers sent to proclaim the shalom that comes through Christ.