Each year, we take the seniors on a four day Kairos retreat. We go up to Camp Pondo in Running Spring (near Big Bear), where students get to retreat not only spiritually and mentally, but physically as well. This year, our Kairos was Nov. 15 – 18.
Kairos is one of those experiences that is really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been on one themselves. If I were to try to describe what we do, it would probably sound boring or possibly even strange. However, our students continuously come back each year so grateful for the experience.
This year, our students were lucky enough to experience snow while we were there. The hail began shortly after they arrived – complete with thunder and lightning. The hail storm was pretty short-lived, though, giving way to a beautiful snow. By the time we woke up in the morning, the ground was covered. During free time, students were even able to go tubing (sliding down a hill in a blow-up inner tube). By the time the day was over, there were two snowmen on the camp’s grounds. And, of course, there were some pretty epic snowball fights!
Mixed in with all this fun, student and adult leaders gave open and honest talks, students shared and allowed themselves to become vulnerable with one another, and relationships with God and with one another were strengthened. Student leaders had been preparing for this retreat since June, and showed some true leadership skills while on the retreat. The “MC” for the weekend had the perfect balance of humor, seriousness, and prayer. He was able to quickly move students into the right mental and spiritual space for each activity, as well as keep them laughing during those times when it was needed and appropriate.
Even though, as the adult leader, this wasn’t “my” retreat, I still found myself both laughing and crying. It was a powerful four days. One student commented near the end of the retreat, “This was a life-changing experience.” I can only hope and pray that those sentiments continue. Our students were left with the challenge to “Live the fourth!” For those who have experienced a Kairos retreat, you know what this means. For those who haven’t, it is the challenge to our students to bring the retreat back home – to not leave behind all they learned on the mountain. It is a difficult challenge, but one I believe our students can meet head on.
As a final note, I want to mention our ride home on Wednesday evening. It turned into what could easily be seen as a bit of a disaster. That being said, it highlighted for me how incredibly amazing our faculty and staff are, as well as how exceedingly awesome our students are. The two buses were supposed to arrive at 4:00pm to pick up our students, hoping to arrive back at Verb about 6pm. The first bus didn’t arrive until 5:45pm, arriving at Verb at 8:15pm. The second bus didn’t arrive until 7pm, and then broke down coming down the mountain. Our students had to wait for a new bus to arrive, and did not get back to Verb until 11:30pm. They had not had dinner and had plenty of reason to complain. Instead, students told jokes and laughed, and even started dancing in the turnaround where Highway Patrol had them wait for the new bus. Those of us back at school made coffee and hot chocolate for waiting families, and put on cartoons for younger siblings. When the students finally arrived, they got off the bus with big smiles and started hugging everyone – parents, siblings, teachers, one another. Instead of complaining to me about their ordeal, they thanked me for the past four days. They also told me joyfully that they felt like President Obama with the Highway Patrol controlling traffic on the mountain to ensure their safety! As I mentioned earlier, what could have easily been seen as a disaster and ruined the retreat, became a blessing for me. It reminded me of why I work at Verb – and why it is not just a job. It is a gift and a blessing to be a part of the Verb family.