Written by: Robert Yorks, Junior at Old Dominion University
Over the weekend of March 20th to March 22nd, I had the pleasure of attending the Encounter with Christ Retreat #178. Reflecting on it now, I don’t think they could have named the retreat anything better because for me it was truly an encounter. When you look up the definition of the word “encounter,” it is described as an unexpected meeting (but an experience nonetheless). Leading up to EWC, I felt that the retreat had become overhyped and there was no way it could live up to the grand expectations I had developed for it. That’s when I had the most unexpected meeting of my life.
When we finally arrived at Goshen, VA after about a four hour car ride through all sorts of weather, landscapes, and cows, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. There was a gorgeous mountain range with clouds wrapping around it making my first sights Grace Bible Camp one of the most photogenic things I had ever seen in my life. However, despite all of its beauty, none of it could really compare to the beauty of God’s love shown to all the participants on this retreat.
While on this retreat, I experienced talks that impacted me in ways I could have never imagined. Ranging from personal spiritual endeavors to serving the community, each talk had a profound effect that I had not expected. But it wasn’t just the talks that impacted me. Tt was the entire atmosphere of people who went. Whether it was in small groups or exploring “Narnia” with fellow participants, this atmosphere never changed. Throughout the entire weekend there was a feeling of kindness and genuine appreciation for one another from everyone who was on the retreat. This was something truly unexpected. Going in, I expected good talks, but heard some of most well-written and perfected talks I have ever heard. I expected to meet cool people, but I got to meet people that I cannot wait to see again. The whole weekend blindsided me, but it was in a phenomenal and profound way since I had not been expecting it at all.
The theme for the entire weekend was “…like clay in the hands of the potter, so you are in my hand, O house of Israel,” (Jeremiah 18:6) and this was always applicable at EWC. While I experienced the unexpected in so many ways, I was always open to it because of advice from friends who had been on the retreat before. Allowing God to mold my weekend in whatever way He saw fit was what made this truly a spectacular event. Whether this was from a talk, praying Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, or even from just hanging out with people, this retreat showed me how to let God in. Not only that, it showed me how to share God’s love with others.
One quote that was brought up over and over again on this retreat was “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words,” by St. Francis of Assisi. Whether or not the leaders tried to this, they captured this idea perfectly. Words, while they helped, weren’t necessary because everyone’s actions reflected God’s love and created an environment and a family like no other. Encounter with Christ #178 was truly an amazing retreat that not only opened me up to God’s love, but now allows me to share it with others which is, quite honestly, an even better feeling.