It’s that time of year again. For most of you, it’s the beginning of fall – that most wonderful season of all (the one I miss almost as much as my mother’s Party Chicken) – and for us, it’s Encounter – the week-long spiritual retreat for our students here in Ukarumpa.
This year’s trip was as wild and unruly as ever (how could it not be with over 70 teenagers in a confined space?), but also – in my estimation – more powerful than in years past.
Our speakers were David and Lyn Wake – an Australian couple who lost their eldest daughter to brain cancer several years back. You can read about their powerful story here: http://be-blessings.com/our-brown-eyed-beauty Their testimony of God’s redemptive work in the darkness of such a desperate situation did more than just uplift us – it did what the best stories do – it gave us a glimpse of the “messy glory” that makes life worth living.
One of the things they emphasized was that healing is not the same as “getting over it.” As Katherine Paterson says about her son’s recovery after the death of a friend:
He is not fully healed. Perhaps he will never be, and I am beginning to believe that this is right… Selfishly I want his pain to ease. But how can I say that I want him to “get over it,” as though having loved and been loved were some sort of disease? I want the joy of knowing Lisa [his friend] and the sorrow of losing her to be a part of him and to shape him into growing levels of caring and understanding, perhaps as an artist, but certainly as a person.
The Wakes helped up navigate this kind of healing.
Some other highlights…
We played about a dozen games that had no real rule book, and thus quickly degraded into chaos.
We had three baptisms, and two of the students requested that I stand with them in the water – a great honor.
My friend Leah and I introduced the various (and mostly absurd) acts of the talent show in full character (we were old-fashioned country-folk, also on the absurd end).
And back on the meaningful side, our small group discussion time was extremely rewarding. Amanda felt like she got closer to her girls than she’s ever been able to before, and my group decided to keep meeting with one another to discuss their faith and growth on a monthly basis.
(photos by Mike Matheson and Sarah Halferty)