From my family to yours.
It's so important to get away from the everyday busy city life and to get into the outdoors. Being surrounded by nature only without any of the daily distractions is incredibly uplifting and necessary for our minds and bodies to be in full health. I was invited to attend the Fixed 2016 Retreat at Camp Jubilee in the beautiful setting of the Indian Arm in B.C., by the More than 12 Church.
I had attended one of their services prior to coming to the retreat and by the feeling and energy I felt from that one time I knew that I wanted to be around these love filled people especially in a natural setting.
This is not your average church that you would normally expect, these people have a passion within them that is infectious!
From the moment I was on the boat in beautiful Deep Cove, smelling the salty air and seeing the city life drift away on our way to Camp Jubilee, I felt a wonderful wave of peace come over me. I knew that this retreat was going to be an amazing experience for my family and everyone attending.
The organizers Karolyn Haze and pastor Terrence Richmond did an awesome job of putting together the trip with lots of fun activities for all ages and inviting some powerful speakers to renew our minds and spirits. They even accommodated special dietary needs which was a huge relief for my family since we are now gluten free eaters.
What I noticed right away was how warm and inviting everybody was with one another which is always a great way to start a trip with people you don't necessarily know. The first night there we enjoyed a lovely dinner meal after settling in, and then the Renewed Life youth group held their own activities. It was great because my son Romeo made some friends right away as he certainly isn't shy and his outgoing personality was in full bloom with them! It allowed for my mother and I to be able to relax more and to be fully present for the prayers and powerful talks given by all the pastors while he played his heart out with them.
After a good nights rest and a delicious lunch the next day, we were put into separate groups for canoeing and archery which I was so excited about because I have never done either! Romeo sat next to me in his cute little life jacket and his eyes were about to pop out of his head he was so excited! We canoed across the Indian Arm and back with our group. There's something so special and soothing about being in the middle of a calm body of water, just being present in that moment with the mountains before us and the ocean below. I'm so glad Romeo got to see and enjoy the environment he was in from that perspective. After a short break we did some archery which I think was Romeo's personal favourite activity of the day. He was so proud of himself to learn a skill like that. Since we returned I bought him a small archery set which he's been using everyday all day, its so awesome!
Our evening on Saturday was one of my personal highlights of the weekend as I listened to pastor Damien Giacchino speak profoundly about inviting and maintaining ourselves in the presence of God and what that actually means and what it looks like when it's done authentically without any personal selfish motives. My own perception on how to maintain oneself in that presence shifted greatly while listening to how well he articulated biblical passages in context to this, with a very realistic and practical way for everyday life. He was very honest about his own past that led him to ending up in Bay Area prisons and sharing openly about how being in the presence of God turned his life around. It was very clear to see and feel how much his life transformed through faith and how he continues to impact many people with his story. I was deeply inspired and my own faith was strongly renewed.We ended with all of us of us sharing in prayer for one another which was so healing on many levels to both give and receive that gift.
At the very end of the second night the youth group came back in from their evening activities and started celebrating and dancing in the main hall. Romeo rushed downstairs to participate and it was such a blast watching him dance to the hip hop music along with all of them. So much soul revival!
Music certainly played a wonderful role in uplifting and uniting everyone in this retreat...and others! It transcended age, sex, cultures and beliefs. Pastor Terrance and Jeff are certainly gifted in this area and they love to share it with everyone. While we sang out his hip hop song "That Love" during the closing service, Pastor Terrance had shared that he'd like for all of us to sing in love to the Yoga group just outside of the hall, who were also at the same camp for their own retreat. The song is full of just that-LOVE. So we did! While he rapped, we sang along and danced and it got so energetic that the ENTIRE Yoga group came inside to join us! It was so beautiful to see how Love and Joy can break boundaries and bring people together. Pastor Terrence asked them after the song if they'd let us pray for them, which they said yes to because it wasn't about religion or church or division, but just a gesture of love to them, because we are ALL God's children and we are all loved equally. It was so humbling and beautiful to tangibly witness and feel The Presence of God in that room with all of us.
True Love in action.
This past weekend meant so much to my family. We had so much fun, learned immensely from everyone and connected with incredible people who are unapologetic about their faith and committed to making a difference in the world.
I experienced what Jesus taught us and what He intended for us to do.
To love Him first and to always be in His presence is to to know how to love the self and unconditionally love others.
For God is love and when we personally and intimately know Him, we know what real love is. We are all called to be vessels of His Presence and love. I received my love fix and it was truly a retreat and renewal for me that I am going to continue to share and cultivate in my personal life and with my community.
Thank you to everyone from the Church of More than 12, Renewed Life Youth Group and Stacey and Damien Giacchino, you have all impacted me greatly and I will
never forget this experience.