During the weekend of Friday October 21st through Sunday October 23rd, members of Launch Campus Ministry at Purdue University were blessed with the opportunity to attend our annual Fall Retreat at Highland Lake Baptist Camp. Under the Direction of Will & Risha Evans, Launch members were given the chance to study together, pray, and bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. Friday began with a welcome session from two of our leaders Will & Risha Evans in which every Launch member who attended gave themselves a fun nickname matching the first letter of their first name. A few classics like “Rowdy Rick” returned along with quite a few new additions, and despite an abundance of people with last names beginning with the letter “J,” everyone in that category picked a unique name ranging from “Joyous” to “Jubilant” to “Jovial” to “Jazzy.”

Saturday’s session began with our first lesson in S.O.A.P. journaling, a method of studying God’s word which involves the steps of Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. The first step, Scripture, involves reading the Bible and asking for the Holy Spirit to teach us. Observation and Application involve highlighting major details of the passage which stick out to us and we recognize as spiritual improvements we can make in our daily lives. The final step involves Prayer, in which we thank Jesus for this time to allow the Holy Spirit to move through our hearts and adjust our ways to practice these lessons in both our own lives and the interactions we share with our fellow believers.

Another teaching we were blessed with was exploring the process of Spiritual Formation. Throughout this lesson, we learned that Jesus offers an invitation to enter another kind of life.

As John 10:10 states, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”

We learned that our path to spiritual formation begins by gaining the vision of the life that our creator has invited us into. Once we have that vision, it creates a desire within us that impacts our intentions, which ultimately leads us to engage with our means, or spiritual disciplines that enable us in this new life we’ve found. As we begin to enter into our new life of spiritual formation, we also begin to understand that throughout this journey, what it truly means to follow Jesus is to live how he would live our life if he were us.

We learned a new acronym which provided an expansion to one we all know, WWJDIHWM, “What would Jesus do if he were me.”

Philippians 1:9-11 states “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ- to the glory and praise of God”

Spiritual formation involves being before doing, and assisting us with how to know goodness in our hearts beyond just doing goods in our actions. We are grateful that God is with us as we make this journey and through his guidance we obtain our ultimate goal of spiritual formation, which is for us to grow deeply in love with him and those around us. To further practice spiritual formation, we were given sets of disciplines that we can use to apply spiritual formation to our everyday lives.

Disciplines of Abstinence include Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Simplicity, Chastity, Secrecy, Sacrifice and Sabbath. As we use these practices to avoid distractions from God, we practice our devotion to him through Study, Worship, Celebration, Service, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, and Submission

After our lessons, we were invited to explore solitude with God, in which each of us were invited to find a spot in the campsite away from everyone else where we had the personal freedom to be alone with God and appreciate his beautiful creation. We were highly encouraged to not bring anything with us that could possibly provide a distraction. Everyone took part in this, students and staff alike. While each of us had our own personal experiences as we were alone with God, we grew closer together as a group through our sharing of these moments.

Following this, we enjoyed a little recreational time as some chose to collect garbage around the campsite while others chose to help tear down the camp water slide and put it away for the winter. Thankfully nobody fell in the water, but a few of us had some fun out on the canoes. As the evening began to set in, we played a few rounds of “Hide the Bible,” an alternate form of cops and robbers in a sense where one team of people was in charge of hiding a Bible somewhere in the campsite, while the other team was tasked with finding it. After we finished our game, we all sat around the campfire and joined together in worship through music. Those who brought guitars played them while others complimented with makeshift percussion formed from sticks and rocks.

Before leaving on Sunday, we had one lesson in practicing silence with God, in which we were requested to spend one hour alone with our creator. We learned that Silence opens the door to God’s presence, it provides clarity, and it challenges us. It involves the inner act of letting go of ourselves and truly letting God take control of our own existences. After returning from our time alone with our maker, we prayed together one final time before heading back to campus, closer as brothers and sisters and renewed in our understanding of The Lord.

Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”