Twenty years ago this fall, I first learned the value of retreats. There is no place better than a retreat for quickly building strong relationships.
As a first-year student at UVA, I was trying to find connections to Christian community. I went a few times to a fellowship group called FCA. Everyone was friendly enough, but each week, I would slip out of the large group meeting not knowing many people.
A few weeks into the school year, they started advertising the Fall Retreat. “Come to the retreat! You won’t regret it,” was the refrain from many upperclassmen.
No way, I thought. I barely know anyone. Why would I want to repeat the same uncomfortable experience over an entire weekend? I didn’t sign up.
On the Friday of the retreat weekend, I went out with friends and returned to my dorm room at 2 am to an enthusiastic voicemail from an older FCA student named Brad, who is one of my best friends to this day: “Daniel, you’re coming on this retreat! Tomorrow at 9, a girl named Katye is going to be outside your dorm to pick you up – get yourself up, you’re coming!”
Feeling no choice, I dragged myself out of bed the next morning and hopped a ride with Katye up to Camp Varsity in rural Virginia.
The retreat speaker was a former student named Brian Broadway. I don’t remember much about what he taught that weekend. What I do remember is playing hours of ultimate frisbee – getting into a ridiculously fun food fight – playing guitars around campfires – feeling close to God amidst the beauty of nature. Most of all, I remember good conversations with people I found myself really liking – many of whom remain friends to this day.
To my surprise, going on the retreat drew me into FCA. It became a home for the rest of my college experience and was pivotal in fostering my community and spiritual growth at UVA. Looking back, I’m so glad that Brad dragged me up there.
There is no place better than a retreat for quickly building strong relationships.
Fast forward to our first year at Restoration. Campbell and I were just trying to keep our heads above water with a super demanding job and more demanding young kids. Life felt really hard. I knew a few people at Restoration but wasn’t sure if it was worth it to give up a whole weekend for the fall retreat.
As soon as we got up to Massanetta Springs, I was reminded of how much I love retreats. I loved watching our girls dancing to Matt and Clay playing bluegrass music. I was able to take a breath and appreciate God’s goodness amidst the crazy. I struck up conversations with people who have become good friends – conversations that just aren’t possible when you only have a few minutes after church, trying to prevent a little one from running into Quincy Street! That retreat solidified our connection to Restoration.
You may find yourself on the fence about coming on this retreat. Perhaps you’re reticent to spend a whole weekend with people you may not know very well. Or maybe you’re unsure of whether it’s worth it to give up a whole weekend away when life is crazy busy.
I promise not to send someone to pick you up without your consent. But I do feel confident repeating the same truthful refrain that I first heard 20 years ago:
Come to the retreat!! You won’t regret it.
– Dan Vogel
SIGN UP for the Fall Retreat!