John and I are exhausted. And, maybe a little bummed - but exhausted and bummed for all of the right reasons. This afternoon we returned from the central Oregon coast where we spent Friday through today with 120 UofO college students. It was one of those experiences where you feel such fellowship and community, not to mention love for the Lord - that it's hard to come home from.
Winema (the name of the retreat center) holds very precious memories for us as it is the same retreat location where we used to go when we attended the college group. It's time now for a whole new set of memories......
As I've described before, this ministry is a total family effort. It's as if it was custom-designed to fit the Rileys. The kids will leave our side and run to one of the dozen (or more) comrades in mischief and hyperactivity they have within the group, while I'll be able to sit down among my security blanket friends and launch into conversation involving the others sitting around me, and soon make that much more "security blanket" amigas. John, of course, has no problem making friends - and we all have the opportunity to work off of each other to make that much more connections. When we attended the fall retreat, not knowing more than a couple of names, we wandered around- feeling pretty awkward and intimidated, almost like being the new (and out of place) kids at a new school. This time around, we started out "fitting in" and spring-boarded from there. Out of the 120 students attending, we probably know about half of them now (but don't ask me to prove it by having to recite names!).
Our accommodations were tiny, but cozy; offering a bed, a shower, a toilet and a heater- pretty much all the four of us needed. The food was fantastic, the speaker dynamic, the worship so inspiring, and of course, the energy level of 120 college students was quite unbelievable. (How are they possibly able to function after staying up until 3am talking and playing and then turning around to wake up at 7am - not to mention, several of them choosing to sleep on the actual sand of the coast?!)
The theme of the weekend was "Superhero Training Camp" - with celebrity superheroes hosting by the names of: "Blade Girl" (Rollerblades), "Commander Del Oso", and converted villian to hero "Dr. Devious". They were all such a hoot, and of course, entertained our kiddos tremendously with their antics at the beginning of each general session, and during the "training camp" that occurred (several beach/relay games) on Saturday afternoon. I think my only complaint would have been the weather. It was quite windy, a little drizzly, and pretty-darn cold. But, it certainly could have been worse.
This morning, a "first" occurred at Winema, as far as our college ministry's attendance there is concerned. The gal I hang with most often, "Kara" - asked Corey (the collegiate pastor) if he would consider baptizing her in the mini lake/pond on the retreat property. He agreed, and as it turned out a total of 7 college students "took the plunge" to outwardly demonstrate their walk of faith in Jesus Christ. It was incredible to witness and behold.
For me, the most pivotal moments of the weekend took place in those moments of intimacy with some of the friends I've made as well as intimacy with the Lord during the worship and speaker times. I was able to take a two hour walk with a very special lady early Saturday morning and laugh with a whole lot of new gals as I probably shared more than they ever expected to hear a 36 year old ramble on about....(I'm good at that!). Once again, it's one of those comfort level things - if I find myself having fun, knowing I've already made friends and have their support, it just kind of compounds from there.
As we drove away, it was hard to not feel like the weekend could have gone any better. The whole thing is such a win-win experience for us all - how thankful we are that this is a place we felt God calling us to - and said "Yes" to Him.