I don't really remember the moment God laid it on my heart that I should plan a men's retreat at CFC. Honestly it feels a bit like I just woke up one day in the woods with 30 other guys from church, who were asking me what was on the agenda for the day. God can be funny that way, he commands, you obey, the path can sometimes be a bit of a blur.
About a year and a half ago I started asking around about why the women had retreats but the men never did. The common answer was “well, we've tried but have never been able to get one off the ground.” So I felt the challenge, and I started asking a few deacons and elders what they thought about having a retreat, and everyone seemed to be on board. It's funny to me how straight God will lay a path out for you when you obey Him in your life. The first 2 deacons I approached both pointed me to Mark Lindsey, and when I talked to Mark about it he immediately offered up his family farm for the retreat.
So now I had a handful of deacons on board and a location, the only thing I didn't have was a clue of how to proceed. Fortunately, God took control and through several meetings we managed to piece together what I believe was God's plan for a weekend full of fellowship and worship. The best part of the planning process was that I got to know the other men helping to plan the retreat better...my wife and I had made some incredible friends at CFC through bible studies and discipleship, but I had no idea he had more in store.
So the weekend of the retreat rushed upon us, it came so fast I don't think I ever looked at the forecast for the weekend. Friday was pretty nice for early October, 65 and sunny if I remember right. Then at about 2 pm the clouds rolled in and the temperature started to drop. The rain didn't start for a few hours, but when it did start it brought more cold with it. By the time we all settled in around the giant camp fire after dinner it was about 35 degrees and raining sideways. But we pushed on and continued with some damp worship all 30 of us trying to huddle into about 30 square feet of covered space. By the time I rolled into my tent for the night I was pretty wet, and cold...but not miserable. I think there was a sense of accomplishment for pushing through and still finding some joy in all of the chaos.
Saturday was a cold morning, still damp but the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the hot coffee was flowing during breakfast. The men in attendance didn't look miserable, everyone was smiling and enjoying fellowship time. Pastor Mike taught us a lesson on how to be a man in today's church and world. One of the guys gave up his fancy folding chair that had it's own umbrella so Pastor Mike could face us while he taught. That may have been the fanciest thing at the retreat. We moved on from there to some small group prayer and reflection, and then the days activities.
Most of our activities for the day consisted of shooting at targets, and the chili cookoff. But the thing that caught me off guard was that during all of this there were always ten to fifteen men back around the fire, enjoying conversation together. For some of the time I'd just play around on my guitar while the others were cooking chili. There's something about being out in the natural world God created for us to enjoy that we usually take for granted, but once in a while a moment rolls around when it clicks. Even soaked to the bone, cold and tired...you can find God there.
So where did I find God after all of this was over? Where did I seem him the clearest? As everyone was packing up on Sunday after our communion service and heading home, I was walking around asking everyone what they enjoyed and didn't enjoy (the weather) in order to prepare for this years retreat. I expected the answers to be “shooting was the best” or “the chili cookoff was great,” maybe even “I loved being outdoors and surviving this crazy weather.” But the common response, actually everyone's first response, was“Fellowship” and “worship.”
This is why we needed a retreat. This is why I pray the men's retreat continues and grows. God's sons need a place to go and get away with brothers for a time...just to share in fellowship and build relationships. Men are wired in such a way that they don't open up easily, especially to other men. But if they are close enough to another man, and can feel comfortable with him...they can open up about anything and grow in their faith. If one man every year finds a brother to trust like this, the retreat is a success.
Thank you to all who attended our first retreat. If you're interested in this years retreat please contact me and I'll get you all the information. This year's retreat will be September 23-25 and we will be at Mark Lindsey's farm in Kenton Oh.