Saturday, June 21, 2008

Student Leadership Retreat Report

JUNE 11-13, 2008


“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:15,16)

Thank you for your prayers over this retreat. We were all blessed during the time we had and God showed himself to us and challenged us in many different ways. It was a success because the Lord had his hand upon us.

“Taking Another Step” was the theme of our retreat this year. Taking another step closer to God in our relationship with Him, taking another step in our leadership by being trustworthy, and taking another step by not believing the lies of the opposition. We spent three days being challenged in leadership and our relationship with God. We also had some time to debrief the past year in areas that we “won” in and talking about other areas where we can do better.
(Discussion Time on the Roof)

This continues to be the most fun time for me as the Student Ministry Director because everyone is blessed during this time by being challenged to “Take Another Step”.

This year, we reviewed Nehemiah spending some time looking at how devoted to God he was and the way that he faced opposition. We included some studies of Moses that show how dedicated he was to God as well; a leader who loved God with all his heart who was hesitant at times, but other times he took charge and “went for it.” We also spent some time talking about being trustworthy to God, His Word, and to each other.
(Breakfast at Pura Vida Restaurant)
(Trust Fall Game)

One of the most exciting things we did was watching the movie, Facing the Giants. This was not only for entertainment, but it was with great intent in order to apply many of the messages this movie has for us in our spiritual life and our leadership as well. Everyone enjoyed it; one student was so into it that he got excited enough and fell off of the bed he was sitting on! If you have not seen the movie, do it and ponder on the messages it has for you and me.

In all, during these three days, our team was able to grow closer to God and to one another. We spent the last afternoon at a water park in Mazatlán before going back to Cofradía. Everyone enjoyed the relaxation and the opportunity to let loose and just have fun. The students arrived home energized and excited about what the Lord had done during our three-day retreat as well as prepared to take the next step in “preparing our fields” for the Lord’s future harvest among our youth and in this entire area of Mexico!

The Lord has been good to us and He has kept us under his gracious hand. We praise Him for his work during the retreat, and we look to Him with expectancy for what He is going to continue to do as we hit the ground running with renewed vision and passion.

Here is a little information on the five students we invited and what they had to say about how God spoke to them individually:

Jesús Hernández is in his second year as a Student Leader and will be with us only for the summer. He plans to attend a Bible School in Oaxaca, Mexico starting in the end of August. Jesús has grown from an influential, quietly-rebellious leader to an influential ministry leader as a positive role model for the younger guys. Students would flock to him and do anything he did, although usually it wasn’t what was asked of him; he had his own agenda and did what he wanted. But that was three years ago. Since then, after attending a discipleship course, he received the Lord into his heart as his personal Savior, was baptized some time later, went on a short-term mission trip to Tijuana, and began meeting with an adult mentor to help him become more responsible and disciplined. He has been doing great and is our lead brick-layer for the new church project as well. His heart’s desire is to serve the Lord with all his heart and see young people give their lives over to Jesus Christ. He would like to be a youth pastor and is taking steps toward that vision. Here is what he had to say about the retreat:

This was a chance for me to get to know the other leaders better and I could see other areas of my life that need to improve, especially the area of believing God. There are various things that the Lord has given me – dreams or goals – but I believe I was a little indecisive, maybe a little fearful, about pursuing them. But during the retreat the Lord put those things on my heart once again, and I know that He is going to be with me and that nothing is impossible for Him.

During this time God responded to a prayer request that I had been praying. I had been praying for quite a while to have a better relationship with Him and to be able to spend more time in prayer and in reading my Bible. During this time, He motivated me to do so, and I feel a greater need to seek God more and to be more committed to Him.

One night during the retreat, I was alone and the phrase “in love with God” came to my mind. I believe that what God is asking of me is that I fall in love with Him. So, I started thinking about what it means to be in love with God, and I could see what it would be like: it would be the inability to be far from Him, in every moment to be with Him, sharing everything with Him, what I do as well as my dreams, to trust completely in Him and to be willing to do whatever for Him and leave everything for Him.

Martín Garzón is in his second year as a Student Leader and will be with us only for the summer. He plans to attend a Bible School in Oaxaca, Mexico starting in the end of August. Martín attended this Bible School a couple of years ago, but the school did not offer the second year, so he stayed here and began to work with the youth. He has been a huge influence in the young men of his town, Arrayanes. He has dedicated his time to reaching out to new students, taking them on camp-outs at the river, and going fishing, hunting, climbing, all the while teaching them about Jesus Christ. He would like to be a missionary to the un-reached tribes of the Cora Indians who live in the mountains at our back door. By going to this school, which has focuses especially preparing for work with indigenous groups; he is taking steps toward that vision. Here’s what he had to say about what God is doing in his life:

God ultimately has shown me that it is time to give up more of my life in certain ways as His disciple and to continue growing as a co-laborer in His work in order to share with others by grace that which the Lord has by grace given to me.

God has shown me strategies to truly and actively continue to link my life in with that of the Lord’s. The primary one is to go out from here to receive training and equip myself to go live and work with the Cora Indians in the remote areas of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

I thank the Lord for the things that unsettle the life of man because it’s that unsettledness that moves us to extend our limits until they completely disappear….because God has no limits.

Sandra Garzón is in her second year as a Student Leader. She has been a great role-model for the younger girls in the youth group and is stretching herself to reach out to new students. She has been part of our youth group for a number of years and has been taking steps towards maturity in Christ by meeting with an adult mentor each week, doing bible studies together and spending time with the younger girls. In her testimony, you’ll see that she is very transparent about her relationship with God and how he spoke to her during the three days.

It was a special time; I believe God had reserved it just so. The truth is that for some weeks now, my mind was in chaos, my spirit was agonizing, it was dying and I really didn’t know what to do. I knew we would go on this retreat, but I wasn’t aware of what would happen there. It was just normal for me to go on that trip. And once we were finally there, yes, I was having fun, but there was a moment in which I reacted and started asking myself these questions: “What am I doing here? What is the purpose of it?’

So, I started praying to the Lord saying these words: “God, do you really think that what we haven’t been able to fix for all this time, we can fix in these 1 or 2 days??” I was really mad at Him. I didn’t want to know anything about anything anymore, and I found myself getting carried away, saying that if He wanted to do something with me, okay. There I was. And if not, then that was fine with me too.

That same day in the afternoon we went to hike up to the lighthouse, and that’s where it all started. The higher we climbed the more convinced I became of the greatness of God and of how small I was in this world. I was also able to hear God saying to me that just as He could take my life with one breath from His mouth, He could also give me that life, and that was a sign to me that something was going to happen. That night we had a time of worshiping God, and His Spirit was with and in each one of us working out the purpose for which He had brought us there. It was in that moment that everything happened. God gave me His breath of Life, and He showed me His great love and mercy. I felt like a renewed person as much physically as spiritually, but at the same time I didn’t know what to do. So I just prostrated myself before the feet of Jesus and I surrendered myself, giving myself completely to Him. When it was all done, I had a spirit of freedom and a spirit convinced of wanting to live and serve the Lord.

The next day in the morning, I got up to have my devotional time, and something incredible happened. The Lord spoke to me through various scriptures. First, he showed me the prayer that I had prayed. It is found in Psalm 39:2-13. I had prayed that prayer without any knowledge that it was found in the Bible, and when I read it, the truth is it left me speechless and tears started to fall out of gratitude to God. I also asked Him what He wanted me to do, and He responded in Psalm 50:14-15. And that’s where I just laugh because my understanding doesn’t begin to comprehend the greatness of God’s love (Job 37:5). And well, after seeing, feeling, and listening to God in this way, I could finally escape the traps and lies in which the enemy had me. “Thanks to the great mercy and goodness of God.”

And well, today I am here in my daily life, and believe me that it is no longer the same, even if I do go through the same motions. God has put in my heart and on my face the happiness that I had lost and that I needed, causing life to be more enjoyable and especially with people I love most. And for that reason it has become infinitely richer.
(Hiking up to the Lighthouse)
(Taking a Break)
("Overcoming The Enemy"[Neh. 4-6])
(Martin and Luis Listening to the Study)

José Soto joins us as a Student Leader this year. Last March he was recognized in the youth group for setting an example as a servant. Whenever there is something that needs to be done, he’s right there to help. Many times, you don’t have to ask him, he’ll just do whatever needs to be done. This past year he has taken huge steps of growth in his relationship with the Lord. He rejoined our worship band playing the drums and at the end of April started helping out with our sound equipment and setting up for services. José is a shy but fun person to be around. God is molding a fine jewel out of him. This is what he has to say about what God showed him:

While on the retreat, God touched my heart and told me how, or in what way, I can be with Him. He also showed me some things that I need to give up and how to talk to people about Him.

I have never felt that way before: that God had called me.

Liliana Garzón joins us as a Student Leader this year. She has been part of the youth group and worship team for many years and has played a huge role in leadership. She just turned 18 and is attending the local high school that started this year in Cofradía. Liliana, or “Mily” as she prefers to be called, is a very energetic person who has a contagious smile and a great attitude. She was recognized a couple of years ago for taking huge steps in her relationship with God and leadership by leading worship while no one else was available. In the past year, she has taken more steps in her maturity with the Lord and is excited about being part of the student leadership team. Here’s what she had to say about what God spoke to her about during the retreat:

God spoke to me and touched me like I’ve never experienced before. He touched my life in a way that just thinking about it makes me marvel at how amazing He really is.

Well, at the beginning I was so excited about the idea of going to Mazatlan, the beach, the hotel, etc. But in my mind I never imagined what God was about to do. Upon arriving at our hotel, yes I was very content, but then as we got into the retreat, I started thinking, “What am I doing here?” Maybe we were all wondering the same thing. Anyway, I said to God, “God, the truth is I have no idea what’s up with me. In the first place, I don’t know what Your purpose is for me, and I think that without purpose, this is going to be rather difficult, don’t You think? So, show me what Your purpose is. If there is a purpose for everyone else, there has to be one for me too.”

And that’s how I spent the first day. But the second day was when God touched me with power. It was then that the light bulb finally went on in my head. Honestly, I was thinking, “Ohhhh!” But that night God told me, “Hey, hold on a sec and relax. For starters, I already showed you my purpose for you. The thing is, you haven’t known how see it or hear it. The fact that you are here is not coincidence. I have brought you with a purpose. Now, listen very attentively every time you pray and you’ll see that my answers are instantaneous.” That was when I realized that He really does listen to me, but it’s we who don’t listen to Him. We are so distracted with other things that we neglect our relationship with Him, our prayer time and reading the Word.

For me, the simple ability to have experienced all of that marvelousness, well there is nothing with which to compare it because now I know that there really is Someone on whom I can depend and that I am important to Him. The simple fact that we are able to feel His Spirit flow over each one of us demonstrates to us that there is nothing impossible for Him and that He can do whatever it takes to make sure I know He loves me.

Now I feel a great peace, responsibility, and, above all, the great privilege of knowing that my Father God is the one who really understands and loves me.

Thanks again for your prayers and those of you who made donations to the retreat. God is receiving the glory!

(Worship Time was Awesome!)

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