Retreat and Renew
And he [Jacob} himself spent that night in the camp. The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved. (Genesis 32:21b-30)
This week is a week that my wife and I usually go to camp with our children to a national Hmong United Methodist Youth camp in Greenville, Missouri. Last year and this year were cancelled due to the pandemic. We usually have an average of 150 youth in attendance annually. One year, after returning home, I remembered asking my daughter, “How was camp?” She looked at me with a smile and said, “It was one of my best.” Not sure what she meant, but I think she learned a lot and the camp had had an impact in her maturity in the faith. She now serves as the treasurer of the group.
Christian Camp has always been an important part of our spiritual journey in Jesus Christ and the church. Often times, it is a life-changing experience—a total transformation. It is at camp that many people gave their life to Jesus Christ and followed him their life-long. Many church leaders and pastors came out of the youth Christian camp experience. For adults, this camping experience may be appropriately called, “retreat.” Looking back, I see myself as a product of youth Christian camp. It was at the camp that I desired strongly to know more about God and the Bible and was inspired to attend Bible College.
I believe Christian camp and retreat are important factors in the growth of our faith and church. As we grow, the church grows. In 2017 the Wisconsin Annual Conference adopted a resolution for camp promotion for this every reason. For Jacob, the retreat experience he had changed everything. He wrestled with God and God blessed him. His name was changed to Israel. He started to walk limping, yet with a greater courage to meet his brother. His life was renewed and transformed. Today we are concerned about the future of our declining churches. What would it take for many of our churches to thrive again? Perhaps, going back to the basics would be something to consider… camping and retreat. We can do it individually or as family… annually. We can also do it as a church… making the church a retreat center where everyone will experience God and be renewed.
O God, our God. Thank you for your church and all your people who serve you faithfully. I come before you in prayer that all may grow closer to you and be renewed. And may your divine presence come in the midst of our fear and uncertainty about our future… life and church. Strengthen us with your blessing and empower us for health and renewal, physically and spiritually, that we may boldly face the future. In Jesus name. Amen.