By Justin Kipe
Director of Camping Ministries
One of the key benefits of holding a Christian retreat at Joy El is the time spent away from the routines and distractions in everyday life that keep us from connecting deeply with the Lord. We often hear from retreat leaders of the value their campers experienced in being away where they could slow down and spend quality time away from routines.
Several months ago, a group from Brooklyn, NY, held a retreat at Joy El. This group was made up of young adults from Haiti that had immigrated to the US. Most of them had pasts that were heavy with heartache, problems and violence. The group leaders chose our facility because it was a complete change of environment. I had an opportunity to engage with the youth and the leaders. What an amazing experience!
The leader carried a burden for these kids that was tangible. On the second day of their meetings, they had a camp fire. During that time, each youth gathered a twig or small branch and they named that twig with a sin or habit that was holding them back from experiencing God. They had an extended time of prayer and the spirit was moving as, one by one, they cast their branches into the fire with prayers of repentance and confession. Young people, tough and hardened by life, stood openly weeping. I was moved to tears. God’s presence was so strong that it seemed as if you could reach out and touch the Holy Spirit.
The next morning in a conversation with the leaders, I learned that they were overjoyed that young people in their group who had slipped away from God were now making huge turnarounds to come back to Him. The leaders expressed over and over again the amazing benefits of a retreat — how getting the group away from the distractions back home and into God’s creation here had helped them to experience God in new ways.
If you’d like to see this kind of life-change in your church group, I’d love to talk with you about scheduling a retreat!