3 things that stood out from YA retreat 2018
55 people headed up to Johor Bahru over the Hari Raya weekend to spend time learning about heaven at the annual Young Adults retreat. The YA ministry has been holding these retreats annually since 2012, but 3 things made this retreat quite different:
(1) An unusual theme
The theme, “Homeward Bound” was meant to focus on the theme of heaven to help us see why heaven is attractive, desirable and given for our hope. With many misconceptions of what heaven is and what we will do there, Christians often struggle with the attractiveness of heaven: will we really be singing hymns 24/7 there? What exactly will we be doing? You mean I won’t have parents there? My spouse and I won’t be married? As we looked at Scripture through the sermons, devotions and presentations, we began to see that heaven is much, much more than we imagined.
The ultimate attractiveness of heaven is fellowship with the God who dwells in Heaven, the desire of all our longing hearts! Only dwelling in His presence does life make sense. There, worship is life and life is worship. There will be singing and dancing and work, and even the nations, and all their arts and culture will be present and flourishing. There, we will be finally free from sin and its destructive effects, and be able to image God as we were designed to do so - what a wonderful hope.
The various Bible passages that showed us more of God’s design and intentions for heaven also forced us to consider life this side of heaven. Christians live in an “already redeemed but not yet restored” state, and we live and struggle in a fallen world. The retreat workshops helped to focus on the Christian’s struggles with identity, work and personal Bible reading. Working practically through how to fight sin also increased our holy discontentment with life on earth, and deepened our longing for heaven.
Shawn Ong, one of the participants and group leaders shared that “the retreat was a much needed one, coming together to really see where we are in our walk with God. Having an idea of what heaven is like has encouraged me to set my eyes on the Hope of being with God, a place better than Earth with no pain, no sorrows, no anger, no sin, but all PERFECT. And I’m excited to be playing volleyball in heaven with no more pain!”
Emily Chan said, “From the retreat, I learnt a lot more about what heaven will be like. It wasn’t something that I thought of very often. One thing I learnt was the severity of sin and how every one of us is very prone to falling to temptation. We have to remember not to let our earthly desires overpower our longing for heaven where we will be with God and we will no longer be bound by sin.”
(2) More diverse participants
This retreat was particularly enjoyable because it was the largest and most diverse group we’ve had. 8 non-GBC friends came to spend the weekend with us. Some of our older GBC youths took time out of their studies to come. Elder Beh Soo Hee also joined us for the third year in a row and we enjoyed getting to know him over the course of the retreat. The diversity raised many questions, and allowed people of different backgrounds to share their lives.
This was Emily’s first retreat since she joined the YA ministry. She shared that she “enjoyed meeting new people at retreat, from GBC and some who came from other churches, and learning about God together with them”. Emily went on to say, “In my retreat small group, there was a lot of fruitful discussion from different perspectives that was very interesting and thought provoking. I am really encouraged that our group continues to be so eager to learn more about God and heaven and that our discussions still continue even though retreat is over.”
(3) Giving out good books
At every teaching session this retreat, good Christian literature was given to supplement the teaching done at retreat. Some books related directly to the topic of heaven (e.g. “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn), while others focused on knowing the God who awaits us in heaven (e.g. “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer or “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin). A good mix of classics (e.g. “Holiness” by J.C. Ryle) and contemporary writings (e.g. “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan) were given to expose our young adults to good Christian literature. It was heartening to see how the young adults went from being shy and apprehensive about the giveaways to becoming more and more excited.
We thank God for blessing the time with frutiful learning, and for keeping us safe throughout the 4 days. Please continue to pray for the young adults as they’ve returned to “life” and their respective struggles. Pray that the young adults will be able to set their minds on things above and not on things on this earth, for their lives are hidden with Christ in God (c.f. Col 3:2-3).