We are praising God for making this year’s retreat the biggest yet! That’s 1,735 students who heard the gospel, experienced prayers answered, and were exposed to the incredible body of Christ here in College Station. We can’t believe it has been three months since we saw the freshman walk up to Olsen with their bags in hand. For the staff, there is nothing like that sight! For most of the freshman, there was a simlar feeling of excitement.
On the other hand, there was a level of almost uncontrollable enthusiasm from every tutu wearing, colored hair, face-painted staffer on that day! This zealous uninhibited emotion comes from countless months of prayer, preparation and eagerness to love on each of the freshman and show them the Church. Looking back, we see the Lord’s continued faithfulness to Impact and constantly stand in awe as He blows away any expectations we set before ourselves. God did an incredible work on those ten consecutive days of retreat and continues to answer prayers and move incredibly as we press on toward Impact Retreat 2018!
SPOILER ALERT: GOD IS MOVING!
Did I mention we are ALL about freshman? Meet Joelle Carrington, Class of 2021 at Blinn College and Kellen Schuessler class of 2021 at Texas A&M University. They both had a lot to say about how God has been working in their life through this chapter we call “Freshman Year.”
As a senior in high school, Kellen was most nervous about living up to the responsibility of having all this new freedom while managing classes and life in general. The impression was that “everything now is on your shoulders” which can bring increased anxiety. Kellen said, “that same freedom could lead me into making unwise decisions; [potentially] walking away from God. The freedom that can be found in college can be used for his glory or against it.”
On a similar spectrum, Joelle feared the unknown, as well as making friends accompanied by the risk of being lonely. She said, “I feared being independent and on my own, coming away from home and having to rely on myself to do my own things while coming into something new.” This along with not truly knowing anyone coming into college, which is so common for many entering freshmen, heightens the importance of solid support. It is for this reason that we aren’t surprised that Impact Retreat affected Kellen and Joelle in a profound way that brought out words like “community” and “meaningful” when describing their experience.
“God used Impact to show me that the body of Christ is active at A&M. There are people who have not just gone before me but are in my same “station” that love God and want to pursue things of God and chase after Him. And to find that is truly something”, said Kellen.
“Everything about it meant so much to me. Meeting my counselors who were complete strangers to me for the first time and having them embrace me with open arms, loving me and knowing that they’ve been praying for me and my camp for the past year is mind blowing! Who does that?! Overall the experience was just incredible and meaningful to me”, said Joelle.
Isn’t it cool what God can do in just four days? If that wasn’t amazing enough, we fast forward to today. SPOILER ALERT: God had a plan to intercede over Kellen and Joelle’s fears and anxieties. Kellen realized that finding freedom in Christ isn’t as hard as he first thought, and absolutely worth it. “God has made Himself known to me even more than before. In every day moments, God has filled my life with so much joy just chasing Him.”
Joelle has had an amazing time finding community in Church, and making new friends through organizations. She says, “I definitely have learned to put myself out there a little more because I’m at Blinn and not completely centered in the Aggie environment. But it’s been so awesome to have a friend to go to church with me! I was super nervous about going alone.”
To know that Joelle and Kellen are connected shines a light on the beating heart of this ministry. And this is just a small glimpse at what God does and is doing in the lives of freshman in College Station through Impact. We as a staff strive to mimic biblical community at retreat with each camp being a unified and diverse group. If we can show freshman what being a follower in community looks like and the necessity of the body of Christ, maybe they too would seek to be plugged into a local church and strive for biblical community.
GO TO CHURCH. BE THE CHURCH.
You might wonder why we use the words and phrases like “Body of Christ,” “Church” and “Community” over and over. These are the focal points we desire both staff and freshman to ultimately pursue and grown in. The “camps” at Impact Retreat do not become the community for these freshmen. Rather they serve as a glimpse and a way for freshman to seek and find their own. Christian community is not just a “good thing” but a necessity in the life of a follower of Christ; we are not called to be alone. For this reason we tirelessly aim at our mission being clear and direct. We are about the local church and have an amazing staff of 550 student volunteers who carry this mission. They are genuine, passionate and have an overwhelming desire to see freshman experience the Gospel, find community and grow in Christ. Without our staff already “being the church”, much of our mission would be off. But thanks to the power of God’s guidance and the provision of influential leaders, we praise Him over and over for where we are heading. We truly believe our best days are ahead of us!