As the air starts to get crisp and the leaves begin to change colors, some of the fondest memories that come to my mind are from the weekends that I spent at Fall Getaway, the annual retreat for my university’s CRU movement. When I decided to attend my very first retreat as a freshman, I initially failed to notice that it fell on the same weekend as an important event with my scholarship program that was scheduled to take place that same Friday evening. It wasn’t until after I’d already submitted my registration fee that I realized the conflict and, being the frugal college student that I was, I decided to make arrangements to arrive late for the retreat rather than let that small investment go to waste. Looking back now, I like to think that the Lord used my desperate need for a more effective planner to work out His perfect plan to bring me into one of the sweetest communities I have ever known.
Now, when I say that I arranged for a late arrival to the retreat, what I actually mean is that I sweet-talked my parents (who were accompanying me at the scholarship event) into driving nearly three hours round-trip with the promise that I would “definitely be able to find a ride back with someone.” Bless them. As we rambled down country backroads in the pitch-black dark, I started to grow nervous about showing up late to an event with people that I didn’t know all that well. Had they saved a bed for me? Did they even remember I was coming? What if everyone had already come best friends in the three hours I’d missed? Would I even get along with these people? With these kinds of thoughts running through my head, we arrived at the conference center and I suddenly realized that I had no idea where to go. The retreat was for students from CRU movements at several different universities, and the dim glow from cabin windows barely gave enough light to make unfamiliar faces of the students hanging around outside.
I picked up my phone to call one of the girls I’d met a few times at a CRU community group and tried to play it cool when she didn’t answer. Good thing I’d gotten phone numbers for a few other people who said they’d be there. I pulled up another contact, then another – no answer. Tempted to call my parents and ask them to come back and get me, I decided to just start walking and pray that I’d find someone I recognized. Just a few minutes later I walked to a group of girls whose voices sounded familiar and sent up silent prayers of relief when I was greeted by excited hugs and welcoming smiles. Apparently everyone had decided to turn their phones off for the weekend so they could be fully present and invested in what God had in store for all of us over the next couple of days. By Sunday afternoon I was laughing with these same girls over how worried I’d been that I wasn’t going to have any friends because no one had answered my phone calls that first night!
Four years later, I drove myself up to my final Fall Getaway late Friday night after attending the same annual event hosted by my scholarship program, and couldn’t help but marvel over how much had changed since that first weekend. God used my first fall retreat to form strong connections with people who have become lifelong friends that have impacted my walk with Christ more than they’ll ever know. He used one significant conversation on a particular bench in front of our cabin to spark a friendship that would lead to three years of partnering with my friend Courtneigh in ministry, co-leading a women’s Bible study that served as a launching pad for several girls to go on summer projects with CRU and several others to engage in their relationship with God in ways that they never thought possible. My involvement with CRU was the single most influential experience of my entire college career, and it really all started with that very first fall retreat.
Please join me in praying for college students across the country as they attend their own fall getaways – that God would move in mighty ways to build gospel-centered communities, iron-sharpening-iron kind of friendships, and that students would be open to the teaching they’ll receive! Some who will be attendance may not be believers yet, and some may be looking back on their first few weeks as a college student with despair or regret over the choices they’ve made – and I believe that we have an opportunity through prayer to participate in God radically changing the course of their college careers, their lives, and their eternities. I’m specifically praying for students from my alma mater, UNC Charlotte, and the University of Kentucky where my friend Courtneigh works as a full-time campus staff member.
The women of CRU at UNCC at my fourth and final Fall Getaway. These women continue to change my life and point me closer to Christ.
The bench where it all began. Grateful for our friendship and for the opportunity to partner with you in what God’s doing through your ministry, Court!