Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We did it!

We're not sure how, but we survived our first ever fall retreat here for the students in Valencia!  It was not without it's random issues.  Where to start?

Well, we tried to leave early.  There were 2 cars leaving at 10:00am (we didn't leave until almost 11:00...Venezuelan time).  We were in the car with 2 Venezuelans and our kids.  It was a little tight and a somewhat rough ride.  Motion sickness galore for both of us, but the kids seemed fine and did really well.  It took us nearly 7 hours to get there with stopping for lunch.  Yes, you read that right.  Nearly 7 hours.  We were anticipating 3.  Whoops!  So we weren't in the best of spirits when we arrived and didn't have very much time to set up.  Luckily there wasn't much set-up to do.

So we set up a bit, ate dinner, set up some more, put the kids to bed and the bus full of students arrived. The students were a bit cranky, also not anticipating the longer drive (it actually only took them about 5.5 hours to get there on the bus).  But they pushed through.  The first meeting was still ago even though everything was already behind schedule.  That's ok.  We're in Venezuela.  The key word here is flexibility.

Bart did a great job giving talks.  Christian, one of the Venezuelan staff guys, translated for him for each of the 4 talks.  There were seminars for students to attend and lots of free time for people to swim and do other activities.  There were supposed to be horses to ride, but that never happened for some reason.  Leah was pretty bummed about that.

The retreat center was pretty interesting.  It was not a 5 star hotel or anything.  Bugs galore, really stinking hot (but sweet deal, all of the bedrooms were air conditioned), frogs wandering around the pool, dirty bug-infested pool, lots of areas for our kids to injure themselves.  Oh well.  But they loved wandering around.  They even had a little zoo area with a bunch of random animals.  Chickens, ducks, turtles, pig-type things, monkeys, some sort of little cheetah type cat, parrots.  It was pretty cool for the kids to get to see the animals and have something to entertain them.

 The kids had a good time, but got pretty restless.  Once they had done everything once or twice, they got a little bored.  You can only go down the slide so many times in the blinding sunlight before you don't want to do it anymore.  They loved the pool though.  Small downside to that was that it was right next to the meeting area so we could only swim during certain times so we didn't distract people.  That was a bummer, but worth it for the students to be able to focus.

One student, Alejandra, came and honestly no one knew if she had ever made a decision about Jesus before.  After this weekend, she came up to Bart and gave him a hug and thanked him for what he shared and said he presented things in a way she had never heard of or thought of before.  It was really cool to see God working in her life.  I think she is definitely wrestling through some hard stuff in her life, but I'm excited to see what happens as a result of the talks, community and just overall excitement from this weekend.

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 Students seemed to have a really good time.  So much so that they were going crazy on the bus drive home.  We decided to take the bus home to have more space and not have the motion sickness issue.  Boy was that a good decision, minus the chaos!  They were playing games, standing up, singing, dancing, you name it.  Ridiculous!  They wanted to have fun, and boy did they ever.  The kids were able to sleep for a little bit which was nice, but they really enjoyed getting to have more space and even sit with other people.  The bus only took a little over 4 hours to get home, so we were pretty darn excited about that.  We were so tired.

Speaking of tired....I went to bed at 8:15 last night.  Sooooo tired.  And I woke up when Noah woke me up this morning at 6:30.  It was glorious and I don't for a second regret that decision.  Sleep was hard at retreat.  Loud students, restless kids, crickets in bed with us, you name it.  At least I didn't come in contact with a cockroach.  Others, yes.  Not me, so I'm grateful.

How do I end this?  I'm not really sure.  I haven't done a very good job summing up this weekend, but overall it was really good.  We're really glad we started this tradition of having a retreat around this time every year.  Next year, we'll look into a place a little closer to home.  :)  And the support that our team raised for the retreat is almost all in, so that's exciting!  God has totally provided and we can't help but feel blessed! 
This picture has the sun setting and the moon in the middle left of the picture.  One of the guys that it was so cool that you could see the moon and the sun at the same time.  It was a really gorgeous sunset.

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