This weekend was my first (but definitely not my last) Salt Company Fall Retreat. While I was nervous about being the only freshman from my community group attending, I am actually so grateful that this was the case because I was pushed to meet tons of new people. The fact that over 830 college students from Iowa State University attended this retreat to learn about and worship the same God is amazing, inspiring, and powerful.
We left ISU on Friday night and arrived at Hidden Acres Christian Center just a little while later. The drive there was filled with loud singing to catchy songs and wonderful views of rolling corn fields, gravel roads, and the sun starting to set. Our group of 7 freshman girls and 3 sophomore leaders settled into our cozy room in "The Inn" before heading over to the gym where all of the sessions would take place. The Salt staff had warned us to bring t-shirts and tank tops because it would get warm with all of us in there. They weren't kidding! The gym's air conditioning was definitely not capable of supporting the heat, especially with that many bodies in it.
The whole weekend was focused on four different Encounters with Jesus. I learned so much from each session. Session One was about Following Jesus (Luke 18:18-20). The major question was "What would you 'give up' to follow Jesus?". Some key things I learned from this session were that I want to and meet to be ALL IN for Jesus. Anything less than all in is rejecting him. Also, following the rules ≠ following Jesus. Following Jesus is investing in a deep, committed relationship with him. This is the only way that we can inherit eternal life. The speaker left us with this question, "What would happen if you trusted him?" And this truly resonated with me. The kinds of things that I could do, see, and be a part of if I whole-heartedly trusted in him are far beyond my capability as an individual.
Following this session, we had our first small group discussion and it was awesome to unpack what we had just learned and to get to know each other through this. We laughed and talked before heading out to the large group bonfire. The retreat was so large that there had to be two bonfires going and less than halfway through the night we had already gone through all the marshmallows (thanks to all you marshmallow hoarders who prevented me from having a s'more... If you happen to be reading this, I forgive you).
After filing up on an amazing breakfast, we headed back to the warm gym for our second session. This session focused on Fear (Mark 4:35-41) and was again very relatable and moving. The major question we considered was "What would it look like to trust Jesus?". The main things I took away from this talk were the idea that fear according to God is a faith problem, fear about other things is cowardliness but fear of god is awe/wonder/amazement, and we need a mega-amazement of God in order to combat mega-fear. All of these things I need to work on continuously recognizing and acting upon in my life.
During a freshman breakout session that followed, we heard a talk that related specifically to us as freshman and we also got hyped up for the class tournaments. We were given tips on the 3 things to build freshman year including: 1. real relationships with people who do not know Jesus, 2. real relationships with people who do know Jesus, and 3. real habits of Godly character. One of my favorite parts was a calling to have a desperate faith and a creative heart. We quickly transitioned to building a team of 5 talented girls and 5 skilled guys to represent the freshman class in a volleyball tournament. I'd like to think that my participation in the cheering section was what took our team over the edge and helped us beat the seniors. While we lost to the sophomores (thus taking second place), it was so much fun and I look forward to winning next year!
Session three was about Worshipping God (Mark 14:1-11). "What would extravagant worship look like in your life?" was the main question covered. There were many points that made me really think. Some of my favorites were: there is a difference between valuing God and associating with him, and an extravagant response to God is right and necessary. The worship accompanying this session was one of the most amazing worship experiences I have ever had. The music, the lyrics, and the presence of 830+ people all worshipping the same God, left me awestruck. I was able to see an example of an extravagant response showing true value of him. We had another small group and then began getting ready for the 80s themed dance.
Despite the fact that the gym was still extremely sweaty, this dance was easily one of the most fun ones I've been too. Everyone was crazily dressed up and going hard to fun music. Between volleyball, the dance, and worship all weekend I got very near to loosing my voice!
The last day of the retreat, Sunday, was complete with breakfast and our last session. The final session centered around Love (Luke 10:25-37) and the question "Are you aware of your need for radical love?". This session reminded me that I must see others → have compassion → and act. Also that we see love as much more radical when we are the ones in need of it, and that knowing how you're loved shapes how you love. These points brought to light a different side of the Good Samaritan story that I hadn't considered before.
The Salt Company Fall Retreat 2016 taught me so much about myself, about my faith, and about the many places where I need growth. I returned to ISU knowing the ways that I need to improve and with a renewed perspective of Jesus. I am so thankful for this opportunity and for all the amazing things I got to do and people I got to meet. I absolutely cannot wait for next year!