Reflection and Retreat

By Abby Willms

IMG_2689The last two weeks have been full of reflection and connection. As we headed into the final two weeks of program, there was an interesting juxtaposition of sadness and excitement present in the group. Energy was running low for many of us, yet the week of reflection evoked an atmosphere of connection within the group. We started the second last week of the semester at River’s Edge Retreat Centre, where we embarked on a journey of debrief – one that will undoubtedly continue long after we arrive home. We were given a variety of ways to think about the potentially daunting word “debrief”.  This time of reflection was a true gift and uncovered many treasured moments and ideas from the semester – ones that may have been forgotten or left uncovered had we not spent this time together. We were encouraged to embrace each exercise with an open mind and heart, and be present to both ourselves and one another.

Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to think of reflection as not only pertaining to the past, but also pointing towards the future. We were given space to reflect both silently and aloud, and were encouraged to continue these conversations as we move forward as a group and as we head home. We explored what it might mean to reintegrate back into life at home with those we hold dear. We learned more about storytelling and how we can begin to share our experiences. We reflected on lessons from this semester and how we can translate them to more tangible goals. Finally, we were given the opportunity to share a five minute testimony with the group – sharing about our personal growth over the first semester. In addition to all the reflection that this week held, we enjoyed participating in a variety of activities together as a group, including high ropes and archery tag.

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The final week of the semester offered a chance to relax our bodies and minds after an emotional and busy week. Spending the week in Banff allowed us to process many of our thoughts and reflections. Upon arrival in Banff we embarked on a group hike – exploring the mountains as well as the local hoodoos. We were given free time to spend together exploring Banff – sightseeing and checking out local shops. On Wednesday, the group headed out for a ski day at Sunshine Ski Village. For many, this was a long anticipated day, and it certainly did not disappoint. The weather was beautiful and clear. Experienced and inexperienced skiers/snowboarders alike enjoyed the opportunity to challenge themselves and learn from one another – whether it be the art of falling or how to take on moguls.

We finished off our week in Banff with a trip to the hot springs, where all our 70’s vintage bathing suit dreams came true. The next morning, bright and early, we packed up the vans and headed to the Calgary airport where we said goodbye to six of our friends. From there we made our way back to the prairies as we continued our goodbyes. While the goodbyes were bitter sweet, we very much look forward to reconnecting as we head to Guatemala in the new year!

Confronting Our Idols

By Ryan Hopko and Elaina Wagenman

Hola friends and family! Greetings from Site 1 Guatemala! We finished off our church our weekend and arrived back at Camp Squeah very late Sunday evening. We were warmly welcomed back by the uber hospitable Squeah staff and were happy to be back someplace familiar. We went to sleep quite tired, but excited, and looking forward to the week to come!

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We kicked off Monday morning with J Janzen, who helped us debrief and reflect on the churches we had visited over the weekend. As a group, we discussed the differences and similarities between each denomination and their unique services. Together we compared each church to our previous experiences and the diverse places of worship we have attended in the past.

On Tuesday morning we split up into our small groups and spent time together either hiking the Othello tunnels, baking sugar cookies, or just hanging out and having some good chats at Squeah. Our speaker, Nathan Rieger, arrived that evening and we dove into learning about different types of idols, their presence in our lives, and the importance of separating ourselves from these idols.

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We continued to learn through Nathan’s riveting stories on Wednesday and Thursday. We challenged our Squeah staff friends to an intense soccer game on Wednesday evening, involving only minor injuries and so much fun. We finished off the week of sessions with an opportunity to share in community some personal stories about idols in our lives. It was an emotional afternoon, but we really grew closer as a group and learned more about each other.

Thursday evening we got dolled up and looking spiffy for a Christmas banquet. The amazing cooks at camp served us a surprisingly fancy Christmas dinner. Our evening was spent drinking eggnog, singing and dancing to carols, playing musical chairs, building gingerbread houses, and making paper snowflakes. To finish it off, we snuggled up like a bunch of bugs and watched Elf together.

Friday began with a continuation of the discussion Nathan began, led by our dear friend and leader Andrew Fawcett. He further explained and introduced a method for overcoming idols. Next we had a Knowing Yourself session led by Dave, who spoke about discerning God’s plan for our lives. We talked about the difference between our career and our calling, and identified some prominent values specific to ourselves. Late that night, an adventurous group of us hiked into the dark wilderness in search of a giant tree. The hike took much longer than we anticipated as the trail was not clearly marked, but eventually everyone made it out of the woods. The big tree we found was most definitely huge – the wingspan of at least 8 people. Incredible!IMG_4466

After a more relaxed morning, we headed into Hope Saturday afternoon to skate at the arena. It was so fun to hang out together. Then, we let loose in the evening by having a night of worship through dance, led by the krump queen – Brette.

We departed early Sunday morning on a long 13 hour drive towards River’s Edge Retreat Center near Cremona, Alberta. We stopped for some delicious pho for dinner and even took a break to explore Lake Louise. After arriving we went straight to sleep to prepare ourselves for a week of debrief and transitioning to go home for the holidays.

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Overall this week was an opportunity to self-reflect and to be vulnerable by sharing with the group. This vulnerability helped us to get to know each other on a deeper level and gave us a chance to encourage and support each other. Some of us who shared felt as if a weight had been lifted off our shoulders after addressing our idols; describing it as a freeing experience.