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Fall 2022 Retreat Subcommittee Reflections

Fall 2022 Retreat Subcommittee (left to right): Cindy Er, Stephen Hwang, Rachel Leung, Jennifer Fone, Nicole Wang, and Ethan Yap

Retreat is a dearly loved ministry in CCF, having been a great source of encouragement to many. Despite this, much of the work that goes into planning and organizing retreat goes unnoticed. This year, we’ve asked the Fall 2022 retreat subcommittee to share a few of their reflections on retreat. We did this hoping to bring a deeper sense of gratitude for the blessings we have as a fellowship, as well as appreciation for those whom God used to bless us. Here’s some of what happened behind-the-scenes.

1. Why did you choose to serve on retreat subcomm? What was it like to plan/prepare for it? (Hours, efforts, sacrifices etc.)

Stephen

I’ve found that CCF retreats can, perhaps surprisingly, be a defining time in the lives of many attendees, especially those who are unsure about their faith and/or involvement in the fellowship. I wanted to serve on retreat subcomm largely because of this — I wanted to help create an environment where attendees could a) grow spiritually and b) form meaningful connections that will last their entire university careers, or perhaps even their entire lives. Additionally, it felt like an ideal way to stay connected to the fellowship while I was away for coop. There’s also a layer of nostalgia involved — retreat subcomm was one of the first ways that I served in CCF, and seeing that both Ethan and Rachel were serving again on it, I thought it’d be nice to join them.

Planning and preparing were at times rather relaxed, and at other times, quite stressful. My role on subcomm was quite limited, so most of my personal preparations involved completing relatively simple tasks that I enjoy doing on a somewhat lax deadline. However, the overall planning process was rather stressful. We spent many, many hours in meetings discussing how to overcome many obstacles and mishaps that we encountered along the way ⁠ — some of which had us questioning whether or not retreat would even happen. By the grace of God, everything worked out in the end though!

Ethan

Fall 2021 was my first term back in person after COVID. Coming back to CCF after an entire year of online fellowship, I wanted to be able to serve this community which had poured so much into me. I saw the sign-up form for retreat subcomm, and after getting a little push from a few upper years at the time, I decided to give it a go. I remembered the CCF retreats that I went to in my first year, and how impactful they were for my faith. I wanted to recreate that experience for the younger years coming into the fellowship, who had never been to a CCF retreat. Looking back, I really enjoyed my time serving on subcomm that Fall, and I felt very blessed to have been able to serve in that capacity. I guess now I’ve been “running it back” every term since then.

Jennifer

Fall 2021 was the first time I started to feel more integrated into the fellowship, as we slowly began having more in-person gatherings outside of Fridays (such as Frosh Subcomm). I was excited when the retreat dates came out, since I didn’t have any conflicts that weekend and it would be my first university retreat! I had attended and organised retreats in the past, and I knew from personal experience how fruitful retreats have been. I felt so loved by upper years during my first two years of university, that I wanted a way to give back and pour into the younger years. I met Rachel (AFM) for the first time in person at the Fall 2021 retreat and after connecting with her, I asked what her experience was like serving on subcomm. In the Winter of 2022, I prayerfully considered serving, believing that organising events was a way that I could use my skills for God’s glory. I learned so much from being on Winter 2022 subcomm and when I saw that Cindy, Ethan, Nicole, and Stephen signed up for retreat subcomm this term, I became even more excited as I had already served with them in past retreat or grad dinner subcomms.

2. What were your hopes/prayers for retreat and how did things turn out?

Ethan

This term, our hope for retreat was to get people to explore the meaning of fellowship. Fellowship not referring to CCF or other campus fellowships, but fellowship as in the term used to describe time spent together with other Christians. Fellowship comes from the Greek word “koinonia”, which can be translated to mean “sharing” or “participating”.

As Christians, what we all share in common is our personal relationship with the Triune God. Are your relationships centred around Christ? When we meet with fellow Christians, are we actively involved in their spiritual walks, whether that’s through encouragement, prayer, or even musical worship? Maybe before we even consider those questions, we should ask ourselves: “How is my relationship with Christ?” How can we centre our relationships around Christ if our own lives are not Christ-centred? These are the questions we wanted to tackle through our theme this term.

How did things turn out? Personally, I think that the way we presented the theme lacked focus. We had a bunch of different concepts such as fellowship, unity, love, and hope. But we did not really explain how they were all connected. For those of you who came to retreat, I hope that through the sermons and the activities you had a chance to reflect on your own relationship with God. Is your hope in Christ? Have you surrendered everything to him? If you have, then my challenge for you is to strive for true fellowship with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t settle for superficial relationships. After all, what connects us more than anything else is our beautiful Saviour who loved us first.

Cindy

Going into this term, I was a little concerned about the theme and how we would be able to make it meaningful, especially when so many people resonated with the Winter 2022 theme (The Need for Solitude) and found it memorable. I think due to the stress of all our usual venues being fully booked, and bus companies not returning emails, our discussions were more focused on the logistics side of planning and trying to get everything done in time so much so that we forgot to focus all the activities we were planning on the theme. Overall, I think this term’s retreat was fun, but our theme wasn’t as obvious through the planning.

Rachel

When we decided on the theme for retreat, we wanted to focus everyone’s attention on the meaning of unity with God and the fact that we are only able to fellowship because of God’s great love which prompts us to live out the Gospel and serve one another. Perhaps the topic of unity was simply too broad or there were too many messages we wanted to convey during the short weekend of retreat, but not enough emphasis was placed on the theme at certain points. My one hope is that retreat won’t just be a spiritual high for those who attended, but that they’ll continue finding quiet time to pray and reflect, seeking out the Lord and be encouraged to serve one another in love.

Stephen

I hoped that retreat would be an uplifting time for everyone who attended. First and foremost, I prayed that everything would go smoothly as we were quite jumbled in the days leading up to retreat. Overall, I hoped that those who went to retreat would be glad that they attended. I hoped that all the attendees would leave being closer to God and to their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jennifer

Even though we put more emphasis on trying to have the theme be present throughout the sessions of retreat, I think we could have made it more specific. Our theme of “Unity with Christ” was vague and adding in the element of “True Fellowship” may have made it confusing. My prayer for retreat was to have some sort of revival on the meaning of fellowship. My intentions when brainstorming theme ideas was to strive for fellowship (verb) to mean a body of believers gathering and worshipping Christ as one. The word “fellowship” had been misunderstood as the name of our para-church ministry. In the end, I do think that learning about Christ’s love and hope and how that differs from worldly views connected with the theme nicely.

3. How did you see God working through retreat or the planning process?

Ethan

During planning this term, there were many things that were uncertain. The biggest uncertainty was the venue. For most of September, we were lacking a venue that was available on a suitable weekend for us and that also offered catering. All the venues where we usually hold retreats were fully booked for this Fall. We considered sorting out our own catering, but the options were either very expensive or not logistically feasible. At some point Tim told us to consider calling it quits and focus on planning next term’s retreat instead.

However, at the end of the month, God pulled through and we were able to find a suitable venue with catering. I’m always reminded that if it is God’s will for retreat to happen this term, then He will make it happen. That is why we can trust in the Lord even when we’re not sure what the future holds. As for retreat itself, I’m always amazed by how God works in the lives of those who attend. I saw people grow closer to Christ even though their faith had been stagnant. I witnessed people grow deeper in their relationships with one another. In the end, we as subcomm don’t have direct control over these things. God is the one who is able to change the heart, and He is faithful to do so. Praise the Lord!

Cindy

When trying to find a venue, there was only one that replied saying they weren’t booked for the weekends we were looking for. However, they didn’t offer catering >.<. While we were still trying to reach out to other venues, seeing if there were any other options, and also looking for ways we could feed 147 people by ourselves ⁠ — be it with Costco food or ordering take-out ⁠ — by the power of God, the lady at the venue reached back saying that one of the staff there was willing to cater for us. This was her very first-time catering so many people, and she was already on leave as it was off-season for the venue. God really was on our side in the whole planning process, but this one incident shows His presence and guidance so clearly.

Nicole

With events like these and on this scale, it takes a lot of time, people, and coordination to make it happen. Between subcomm, comm, worship team, Pastor Allan, and SG leaders, I witnessed so many individuals give their time and effort without reserve. I saw thoughtfulness, engaged reflection, and passion for the Lord and His grace. There were also others not part of these teams that offered or agreed to help very willingly, by volunteering their cars, their resources, and their energy, to serve during meals, or to help out with anything they could during the retreat.

I was overjoyed to see God compel so many to help and serve so genuinely and intentionally.

Stephen

We encountered a lot of issues, many of which seemed cripplingly insurmountable at the time. However, one by one, those obstacles seemed to melt away. By the grace of God, we were able to have a retreat with things we previously took for granted (e.g., a venue, transportation, food, etc.).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to mingle and talk with others during the retreat. Almost all the conversations I did have were quite encouraging though ⁠ — it was really a blessing to hear how God has been working in everyone’s lives. It was also really uplifting to see the sheer number of people that came out to retreat, and the new friendships that formed.

Jennifer

Every time I serve in any capacity, it never ceases to amaze me how many individuals and ministries pour their hearts out making a program, gathering, or retreat a success. With an event of this size, it always takes a huge amount of time, (wo)man power and effort, regardless of experience. Comm, the AV/musical worship ministry, small group leaders, Pastor Allan and our many drivers did so much behind the scenes. It had been almost three years since the last retreat with over 100 students. Normally, the logistics of finding a venue, food, and transportation is either taken care of by our admin coordinator (shoutout to Grace Xu!) or finalised within the first few weeks of planning. All the venues we normally looked at were completely booked out, way out of our budget, too far or had no catering. We initially looked at catering companies but quickly saw how unattainable that would be. We looked for other options such as shopping at Costco, hiring brother Sime, or ordering shawarma.

Praise God for providing our venue with a new caterer who offered to do a trial run of catering for a group. I was sort of the liaison with Grace when it came to communicating with Kim (office manager of our venue) and Crystal (food service coordinator). Crystal was literally hired mid-season and had not planned on fulfilling any camp caterings. Kim and Crystal were amazing in trying to accommodate all of our requests. I am grateful for Crystal taking on the challenge of making meals for almost 150 people for a whole weekend, having officially started only two weeks prior. With only a kitchen staff of four others, I believe she did an excellent job.

Similarly to the rest of subcomm, I felt that I did not have as much time to meet and “attend” retreat myself. I did catch myself smiling whenever seeing pairs or groups praying, singing praises and having fun. I love seeing how God is working in the hearts of those who came out to retreat. Despite the busyness of the weekend, I was able to have meaningful discussions and even learned how to pray through a Psalm! I am so thankful for God surrounding me with such loving and caring individuals, and giving me the opportunity to serve Him alongside others.

4. Any behind the scenes stories that you’re comfortable with sharing! Or any final thoughts/encouragement for next term’s retreat subcomm?

Nicole

Although it seems daunting, and you may wonder if it will really come together well in the end, continue to work hard. Continue to be intentional and continue to show up.

Pray for God’s guidance and support. Think about the theme intentionally, and pray to glorify Him and please Him. At the end of the day, you are planning an opportunity for more connection and more understanding with the Lord. Thankfully, the attendees are all people who want to pursue God. So how bad can it really be, when those who are gathered desire to seek God? In truth, we do not need much. And I guarantee that when you see everyone at retreat, talking, praying, and praising God, all the work and hours of worry you put in just melt away.

Do not forget, you are not alone; you have Him on your side, as well as your subcomm team 😄

I recommend you try to meet with your team in person. I think our team felt a lot closer after our in-person meetings. It made planning more fun, and when the big weekend comes, you’ll be grateful you have them there with you to sort out all the on-the-spot woes and changes that inevitably come with any event. Praise God that we are not alone, that we have one another, and that we are blessed with His endless love!

Rachel

It was joyful and humbling to see God working in those in our fellowship throughout the retreat. One thing I did learn from serving on retreat subcomm, which I would like next term’s subcomm members to keep in mind, is that burnouts are very real. Yes, the show must go on and it is important for activities to run smoothly, but take time to breathe and reflect during retreat as well. Try not to stress or worry too much about the logistics (although I was guilty of this at times), but instead trust that God will work in the hearts of those attending retreat in His own way and time. Also, remember to pray! God cares and is always listening, so praise Him for His goodness and cast your burdens onto Him.

Stephen

I won’t go into specifics, but at times my attitude while serving on retreat subcomm was not the best. God convicted me later though, and after examining my heart, I experienced a pretty large shift in attitude, one that made serving quite a joyful experience. For anyone experiencing similar difficulties in their service, I would encourage you to pray and think things through. Hopefully your service will also be joyful!

Ethan

If there’s anyone reading this who might be interested in serving on retreat or grad dinner subcomm in the future and have any questions about the role, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any previous members of subcomm. We would be happy to answer your questions! As for the advice that I can give, my challenge for future retreat subcomms is to plan with purpose and intention. Don’t simply plan activities because we’ve had them in the past. Start your planning process by considering questions like, “What do we want people to get out of retreat this term?” and, “Why should people come?”. The answers to these questions should help to build the theme for retreat. Then, everything else you plan will be done with the purpose and the theme as the foundation. There are a lot of logistics to consider during retreat planning, but don’t neglect the spiritual aspect.

Jennifer

One noticeable difference about this retreat, from my point of view, was that we were in much more communication with the guest pastor than in previous years. We met and discussed with Pastor Allan multiple times before the big weekend. While we were initially still ironing out the details of the theme, Pastor Allan requested to meet with us all. He was in Waterloo that week and it gave us a great opportunity to meet everyone in person (as we only met online). We talked from mid-afternoon until dinner time, with John Gu even joining in! I could tell from the moment we met that he truly cared about our fellowship, way more than just a speaker gig. He would continuously “interview” or ask us personal questions on our spiritual walks, what we thought the fellowship was in need of, and what we REALLY intended the retreat’s purpose to be. Pastor Allan’s questions really challenged me to think deeper about why we plan specific activities and how to articulate them in a manner that our fellowship would benefit from. Walking away from the meeting, I had more clarity on our theme of unity with Christ, but was still pondering over how that can be tangibly applied to our fellowship.

Pastor Allan also took the time to schedule a call and meet with all the small group leaders to go over the discussion questions. Reading the questions alone at first was a bit confusing and I was lost on most of them. Pastor Allan was able to give us more background context and explain how he intended to highlight certain aspects of the theme through our morning devotionals and group discussions. I really appreciated Pastor Allan’s above-and-beyond efforts in planning materials for this retreat; he showed how much he truly cared for the fellowship’s wellbeing. So much so, that he was adamant on meeting all 144 of us! Praise God for us being connected with such a genuine and kind-hearted person!

Serving on retreat subcomm was such a humbling and rewarding experience! I am so blessed to have been able to serve with all the members, getting to know them better and having a team that had my back throughout all the hiccups and stressful meetings. It brings me more joy than I can describe serving the LORD and seeing how God is working in my fellow brother and sisters lives. This is my third retreat and second one on subcomm, and every term has been a unique experience!

I recommended trying to meet in person as our discussions were more productive when doing so. In-person chats made our meetings seem less stressful, and more of a gathering of believers joyfully serving together. We were having conversations with one another, and not just another work stand-up meeting. We could exchange ideas more freely, bonded more (impromptu McDonald’s runs) and talked over each other less :))

Communication is SO important! I can’t stress how easy it is to just ask for help if you need clarification on something. Make sure everyone is in the know about changes, no matter how big or small. This ensures that no one on the team feels neglected when making decisions. Another tip is to know your strengths and weaknesses, and have awareness of your skills. Delegating tasks lets each team member focus on a few chunks of work. It allows them to not feel overwhelmed and not spread too thinly.

PRAYER IS POWERFUL!!!!!!

Without God, there is no reason for us meeting or having CCF; it just wouldn’t be possible.

Praise God for allowing us to have so many people attend. It certainly brought up some unexpected challenges with just the sheer amount of attendees but it worked out well in the end!

Praying for guidance and wisdom allowed us to make sure God was in the forefront of all our planning ⁠ — from logistics and carpool assignments to printing out sheets of shapes.

Please make sure to have intentionality with everything you’re doing.

Think: What’s the purpose of each activity? Why are we doing it? What do we want out of discussion?

I have much more to share, feel free to message me or anyone on subcomm if you have any questions or are interested in retreat (or serving on a subcomm) in general!!

You are so loved! ❤️

We hope that these personal insights and glimpses into the planning process has allowed you to see what it is like serving on retreat subcomm.

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:10

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