“for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” – Luke 17:21b (ESV)
Calling to the Kingdom. That was the title for the Well retreat in 2015. It was held over a four-day weekend from December 31 into the new year until January 3. The retreat was at a familiar place, the Faholo Conference Center, near Detroit, MI. This yearly retreat is usually tailored to college students but God’s grace knows no bounds. Many people outside of their college years were able to attend including several high school students from New York, St. Louis, and Chicago. There was also a good number of families and older people who graciously came to support the Well. We also had great representation from a few chapters in Canada. In total, about 140 people attended the retreat.
The Well retreat was designed to cover the calling to God’s kingdom through four sub-themes spread across the four days and through four Spirit-filled messages. The first night, Thursday, Pastor Kevin Albright from Chicago UBF spoke on the theme, “Calling to the Table”. He spoke on Matthew 22:1-13, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. His message focused on the initial calling from God to all of us to come to the wedding banquet for his son, Jesus. God calls us to His kingdom, but first, we must accept the invitation to come, accept, and follow Jesus. The second night, Dr Crystal Shannon-Morla from Triton UBF spoke on Hosea 2:14-20 for the next theme, “Calling to Intimacy”. She helped us focus on the next step after accepting the invitation to Jesus’ wedding banquet: growing in intimacy with God through a relationship full of love and trust. God desires that full personal relationship with each of us that we can be the son or daughter that was always meant for us. The third night, Paul Toh from Hyde Park UBF spoke on the third theme, “Calling to Community”. The accompanying passage was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. His message helped us see the wonderfully diverse body of Christ that God desires and designs in the church community. We were convicted of our own weaknesses in not wanting to worship and work with others in the church that had different styles or different “roles” in the body. On the final day, our guest speaker, George Koch from New Jerusalem Church on the west side of Chicago, was intended to give a message on the final sub-theme, “Calling to Love Others”. Unfortunately, his message was more on the holiness of God and Rabbi Jesus. Fortunately, though, it was still a powerful talk and we were convicted that we did not fully respect and fear the holiness of the Lord. We also learned how much God speaks to us through the Old Testament in support of the New. After George’s message, he led us in a moving liturgical communion.
At the retreat on Saturday, there were three workshops: Prayer, What is Worship, and On Fostering Loving Relationships Between the Church and LGBTQ Members. They were all well-attended and the moderators worked hard on preparing them with much prayer. These workshops helped us think more deeply about topics that we glanced over either because of their supposed familiarity or unfamiliarity. They also provided a start to the important conversations and can hopefully lead to future talks and workshops.
The retreat was also blessed with great prayer and worship, thoughtful Bible studies, times to silently reflect with God, group games and activities, and overall good fellowship with one another. It was definitely Spirit-led and executed successfully only though God’s grace. The retreat was the culmination of a lot of prayer and preparation from a wonderful, dedicated group of servants. It was encouraging to have so many young leaders (and new leaders) participating in the planning. And they came from all over the Chicagoland area such as Triton, West Loop, and Hyde Park. Monthly meetings were held at different Bible houses in different chapters. There were weekly group prayers on Sunday evenings. Smaller committees met frequently to work on the theme and sub-themes, program, registration, workshops, media and relationships among so many other parts that made up the Well retreat. There was also a strong team of senior advisors that provided practical prayer support. We’re especially thankful for Pastor Abraham Kim’s support for the Well.
The Well team is thankful for all of the chapters across North America that prayed for the retreat and tried their best to send attendees. Though 2015 is over, the team will start to pray for God’s direction on the next Well retreat soon. A blessed retreat is the largest goal but the raising of the next generation of leaders and disciples is just as important for it’s as much about the journey as it is the finish line. May the Lord grant the team new leaders and support from even more chapters across North America and may He give a grand vision for the next retreat and beyond.