The course load of a full-time college student can be grueling. Because of the daily assignments, lengthy papers and heavily-weighted exams, it can be difficult for Northwestern students to find time to get away from the stress of the semester. However, NW staff provided students with opportunities to clear their minds during both the men’s and women’s retreats this semester. From Feb. 3-5, a group of men partook in a retreat at Lakeside Lutheran Camp in Okoboji, Iowa.
To put the event together, all the male resident directors partnered with Mark DeYounge, dean of Christian formation, and Marlon Haverdink, dean of residence life, to reserve the venue, plan the activities, order food and get the word out.
Once everyone arrived at Lakeside Lutheran, the men participated in a variety of activities. “We had a few large group sessions with some messages and some small group time to discuss,” Michael Simmelink, the resident director of Hospers Hall, said. “We also did a Q&A panel where Mark DeYounge, Brian Follett, Jason Katsma and myself took questions from the guys.”
The Q&A session had a positive influence on several of the students present, including junior Kyle Christy. “The wisdom shared by the resident directors and Mark surrounding habits, relationships and their own life experience was extremely valuable,” Christy said. “Hearing older men talk about what matters to them and how they have learned and grown in their own walk with Jesus is life-giving.”
The retreat had four main goals: fellowship, growth, challenge and snacks. Yes, snacks. Simmelink stated that everyone involved in the planning process wanted the men to create an authentic connection with guys from different dorms and grow in their confidence, faith and self-assurance. “This gave us opportunities to do things that are uncomfortable, to stretch ourselves as men and engage with difficult conversations,” Simmelink said. In addition, when the men were not engaging in tough conversations, they were eating what Simmelink described as “a lot of bad food.”
All jokes aside, the intention of the retreat was for everyone involved to walk away with a meaningful and impactful experience. “We wanted the retreat to be a transformational experience for the guys. Even if they were only 1% different, we value that,” Simmelink said. “It was never meant to be a Jesus high where guys cool off after the weekend and go back to their normal routine. Something had to be different.”
After it was all said and done, the retreat seemed to make progress toward the goal of spurring real transformation and not just a temporary high. “I grew in my appreciation and realization for how many guys have such good hearts and are chasing after Christ on this campus,” Christy said. “The retreat added to the fire in my heart to live life in a way that faithfully witnesses God and to be even more present in everyday activities and relationships.”