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I was really tired and burned out after planning my church’s retreat last month. Two weeks after that, I had to go to another retreat! It was an honor to be the guest speaker and preach God’s Word to youth and college students at the 2019 Upstate New York Chinese Church Memorial Day Retreat (纽约上州华人教会国殇日退修会) held at LeTourneau Christian Center in Rushville, NY. This retreat was for some Chinese Christian Churches from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Geneva, Corning, and Albany. I found that it was much easier being a guest speaker than to be a leader organizing and facilitating a retreat. I was very glad I was able to relax that Memorial Day weekend and be refreshed. It was a pleasure to meet brothers and sisters from other churches I don’t usually fellowship with. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
The retreat theme I framed my sermons in was called “Tower of Spiritual Growth”. It is important for Christians to have consistent and flourishing spiritual growth in Jesus Christ. Our spiritual growth can be compared to building a tower. As we grow closer and closer in our relationship with Christ, our tower can grow taller and taller. Aspects of building a tower were used as an analogy to represent aspects of our spiritual growth in Christ. My sermons can be streamed or downloaded from my website here.
As I got a chance to spend time and talk with the youth and college students from these Chinese churches, I begin to realize how blessed CCCGA is to have an English Ministry. Some of these churches do not have an organized Youth/English Ministry or even a pastor for these American-Born Chinese. However, I praise God that He is working in the lives of these youth as they know the gospel and grow in faith. I can see it as they served. For example, the youth leading worship during the retreat definitely have the gift to do so. They spoke and directed the people during the services to focus on God as we worshiped. Since the worship team members were from different cities, they drove hours to meet together and rehearsed prior to the retreat. This requires a strong commitment to God.
During this retreat, I introduced a spiritual practice called a Prayse Fire on Sunday evening that I do with my youth during our CCCGA retreats. It is an open-mic time in the dark before a fire to share prayer requests and praises to God. I was surprised at how many people were open to share their burdens and struggles especially to others they may not know well. This brought the whole group close together, even though they were from different churches, as they prayed for one another. There was one person who came to the retreat just for that Sunday. He was not a Christian and spoke and dressed differently than the typical Chinese American. He did not feel much love or acceptance from family and others while growing up. But he was thankful that even though he was different, everyone at the retreat welcomed and loved him. This is part of what it means to show Christ’s love. I pray that this person will be connected to a church back at home and come to know God and find salvation through faith in Jesus.
Even though I came to this retreat as a guest speaker to preach and teach, I also learned a few things from God. First, it was very easy to compare churches and feel prideful. I thank God for helping me be humble and praise Him that there are strong brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed to serve and spread the gospel in their cities. Second, I learned to step back, trust God, and let others lead. At CCCGA, I am so used to being the one in the leadership role and organizing something down to the exact details. It felt weird for once to not know all of the exact details of what was happening during the retreat. So I trusted God and let others lead while I followed. Finally, I learned that I need to be more spontaneous and fun. While observing the youth during the retreat, I saw the camaraderie as they interacted with one another. They did some “in the spur of the moment” things such as dancing to music to hype everyone up before worship. In the future retreats I plan for CCCGA, I need to have even more fun activities and leave room for unplanned, spontaneous moments when everyone just wants to do something. I am very thankful that I had this opportunity to be a part of this Memorial Day Retreat.