On May 28, around 6:30 a.m., I embarked on a road trip from the comfort of my own home all the way to the upper peninsula of Michigan, specifically InterVarsity's Cedar Campus. During the extensive seven hours to the destination, I had the honor of experiencing the convivial impatience in an all-male van filled with complaints, anecdotes, numb butts, and sleep deprivation. Fortunately, these were some of the same people that I connected with all year through my university's undergraduate chapter of InterVarsity. And little did I know that all of us would end up growing closer to each other as a result of being together.
As soon as we arrived on campus, all of us were first greeted by hoards of mosquitoes (thank goodness we packed bug spray). Our isolated location provided barely any phone signal and no access to local WiFi. Somehow we had to force ourselves to socially interact with each other in a non-electronic way, but it really wasn't that difficult at all. There was a valid reason that we packed swimming trunks and board games.
In addition to all the fun and games, we spent a huge amount of time getting to know each other better by bonding as a chapter (hence the name of the event, Chapter Focus Week). Every night we would come together and share our activities and happenings for the day, oftentimes being vulnerable and sharing our testimonies with each other. Other times, special occasions like a campfire and a walk along the Narnia Trail would accompany our companionship.
But out of all these great things came the greatest part about being away from home for a while: fully experiencing God's presence. One of the most eye-opening moments for me during the week was the Retreat of Silence, which was an exhaustive two and a half hours of open meditation and bible study without saying a single word. It really wasn't necessary for us to open our mouths to speak anyway; in fact, all the silence was filled with a resounding presence, and our only requirement was simply to imbibe everything around us. Even walking around the campsite, the atmosphere felt filled with a sense of peace, reassurance, and tranquility: things that I hadn't felt since the weeks leading up to finals week.
Thankfully, that long period of silence was followed by a few more days of structure. There were two other schools from the midwest with us, so being in fellowship with people we didn't previously know not only was much easier than we expected but also became second-nature as the week progressed. I had the honor of being part of a group of other passionate and potential small group leaders for their respective campuses, and what came out of all the diligent note-taking and intense discussion resulted in a bond tighter than a pair of skinny jeans two sizes too small. Yes, that tight.
Oh, and I guess being Greek has its advantages as well.
Unfortunately, all good things on earth must come to an end. But the experience that I've taken away from Chapter Focus Week is already beginning to impact the year ahead of me. God has so many plans when I go back to school in the fall, and I consider myself humbled to be only an extremely minimal fraction of it.
So what's in it for you? Obviously you don't have to go attend Chapter Focus Week like I did (even though I highly encourage it!), but oftentimes the most amazing things in life aren't filled with lavishness and high-end quality. Roast some marshmallows. Play a few rounds of Uno. And cherish the friendships you've created.