BY MITCHELL MCEVER
After feeling like life was moving at 100 miles per hour for the past three weeks, knowing that a long weekend headlined by a retreat with a couple hundred of my new classmates and friends was on its way gave me the energy to push through my classes. I was expecting campfires, games, and some fun at the lake, but the experience I enjoyed was far more than the canoeing and s’mores I anticipated.
Not too long after arriving, all the students made their way to the camp chapel for afternoon worship. Although I figured the worship session would be fairly standard, something about coming together with all new friends in a new place and singing our hearts out for Jesus made the experience even more impactful. I was surrounded by a few hundred people, most of whom I had not yet met, and yet I felt connected to all of them in our faith and love for worship. Because of this, worship quickly became a highlight of my weekend and something to look forward to when I glanced down at my schedule to make sure I wasn't missing a meal.
Even after worship, the feelings of community and fellowship that arose within me as we sang our hearts out together remained. From worship we moved to recreation and eventually the long-awaited campfire. As we gently toasted (or in my case, incinerated) marshmallows to make the perfect s’more, I learned the names and stories of a dozen or so more people and got to have some great conversations before the activities wrapped up for the night. Even though the bus had arrived a mere four hours earlier, I already felt at home with these new friends and in this fun and relaxing environment.
As the sun rose the next day, we rose with it to go to worship again. Though our eyes might've been a little droopy from the adventures the night before, we once again worshipped and listened to a great message to get us in the right mindset for the day. Breakout groups were available after worship for some added discussion on great topics for everyone, which was an excellent addition to the day.
Before we had to pack our things and ride back to Samford, we had two hours of free time. It didn't take long at all before the lake was flooded with canoes, swimmers, and people getting launched by a giant inflatable "blob". Though there was much fun to be had during lake time (and trust me, much fun was had), it was a great time for a little bit of reflection before the retreat ended and the rest of the weekend set in. It had been a blast getting to know so many more people that are a part of the Samford family, and I made many friendships that will last long beyond the short retreat. The retreat was a both a wonderful experience and a catalyst for an awesome weekend, and I long for the time that I get to experience worship alongside my Samford family again.
And here's the great part, the joy I felt worshipping alongside my new friends doesn't end at the retreat, because those same experiences are available practically every day at Samford. Nearly every night I can meet with a group to worship, study Scripture, or even just take the time to pray for one another. All of these things are so vital and important in growing spiritually, and they are all just a short walk from my dorm. The ability to live and grow in a place where spiritual growth and fellowship is not only encouraged, but available only a few steps outside my dorm, is truly invaluable. As for the spiritual retreat I am on right now, I will be here for about four more years, and I'd love to have you join me for a few of them.