magnificent |magˈnifəsənt|adjective1 impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking : a dramatic landscape of magnificent mountains | the interior layout is magnificent.2 very good; excellent : she paid tribute to their magnificent efforts.
A word that comes to mind when I think about this weekend would have to be "magnificent". It seems to pop in and out of my life of late and it came this weekend in a moment I'll probably hold dear forever.
The retreat started off with me getting picked up at my house by a very sweet lady named Janis and her daughter Isa, whom go to my church. Janis was immediately warm and talkative, and it felt nice to talk to an adult in english after speaking spanish all afternoon with my friend Eduardo. It was interesting having to switch my brain over and not have to plan out all the things I wanted to say in spanish before talking. We were in the early arrivals group to help set up the center and man was it BEAUTIFUL. It was an open and airy red brick building that was made up of 3 connected squares with courtyards on the outer 2 and a chapel in the middle facing the main entrance. Very mission like with it's wide high ceilinged hallways. The grounds had plenty of space to wander (yet I didn't have much time for exploring) and I even had my own room tucked back in a quiet corner (close to the kid's classrooms of course). After helping Janis set out all the name tags grouped by first letter of last name, getting the briefing from Kathi for how kids sessions would be ran and in what rooms, and a few deep breath I prepared myself for the weekend to come.
As people were trickling in before the first evening activities, Bryan showed up guitar in hand (he'd be helping to lead worship), and we took a little walk around the compound to get to know the place (It was supposed to be us running around in the rain.... it stopped raining as we ran outside... bummer) On our way back to the center, house, whatever it was, we encountered an interesting sight. It looked like someone had an easter hug hunt but instead of easter eggs they had used red paper hearts. They were tucked in the grass, floating in the drain, taped to flowers, stuck up in trees. As Bryan and I started to collect some we realized, oh wait maybe these are for something.... and immediately abandoned our hunt and returned sheepishly inside. Come to find out Kathi had no idea what the hearts were and they must have been left over from the group before us.
Our first group activity was a get to know you game. We all were told to pick a picture that spoke to us from a bunch of pictures scattered about on tables (I had scattered these earlier so already had mine) We then stood in a group and shared what the picture meant to us. I had chosen a picture of a huge tree that looked like the valley oaks we have in Cali. It reminded me of my favorite tree in Humboldt that I pass every sunday on my way to church and of my childhood. We then played a bunch of name games. It was awesome to be in a group of all ages and mostly families after spending so much time with college aged peers all week. The really young kids were adorable and I so enjoyed creaking jokes with the older ones. The diversity was also really fun. In my church here, Santiago Community Church, there are people from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, etc. and kids that speak both spanish and english better than I. Haha kids with accents are so adorable, especially with names like Benjamin, Arthur, and all the sort of British influenced names. After the game we all gathered together for our first worship and it felt good to finally sing. I don't know many hymns but I make do and was quickly learning the songs familiar to my new church here. At dinner, the meals at the center were great, I got to know more of the older attends better and finally establish myself as a member of their church. I got to sit and have a chat with one of the oldest attends named Richard. Old guys and their stories are generally worth hearing. After dinner it was guitar strummin', twister playing, and drinking wine with the adults during a heated game of Taboo. I pretty much showed those older cats how it is done ;)
Now Saturday took off fast. After waffles, yes waffles!, I set right to work with the younger 2-4 year old kids. It always takes a little time to start up stuff because one must peel kids off parents and learn names but after the intro, and whipped away tears, we all sat down and talked about how we are all different but the same in God's eyes. How we are all an important part of God's body. We played a game where the kids got to stand up if I said something that applied to them and it is always cool to see a little kid get so excited about having blue eyes, or wearing a green shirt. We had them lay down and we traced their bodies so that they could color a life sized picture of themselves too! Now this is about the time that the kids get restless and we headed out for a walk. Little did I know just how handy those hearts would be! Scavenger hunt for hearts with a pack of kids = win. They had a blast.
That day Keith and Janet had arrived for the Saturday sessions and it was so nice to have them around once I handed kids back to parents and sighed a sigh of relief that we all made it through in one piece. Watching kids all day is great birth control, I think I'll stick to cool aunt for a long while thank you very much. A highlight of my weekend was the afternoon free time, the field was right at the base of the mountains and the view up to the snow capped peaks made me pause more than a few times in awe, where I got to run around tossing a frisbee with Keith and teach little girls how to throw a flick. They ended up falling in love with it! Seriously! Like ever time there was a spare minute they would ask, "Aubrey can we go throw the frisbee? You're coming right!?" I felt what it must feel like for a proud parents every time those girls had an especially nice flick or backhand. I'm fostering the next generation of frisbee players :D After yet another little spill, landing on the same places as last monday, I took it only a bit more easy. I was so exhausted by the time evening worship rolled around but I managed to get myself there and back out onto the field for MORE frisbee before dinner. Haha I loved the dinners. Bryan, Keith, Janet, and I were all so tired and so silly. We were creaking each other telling jokes and sharing stories.
Since I was with the kids for the majority of the retreat I missed a lot of what the other adults had been up to in the main sessions. I was feeling like I hadn't quite gotten the retreat part of the retreat yet. The part with the deeper sharing and talking about God. That part came, ever so awesomely, that night, when Keith went off to do whatever it is Keith does lol and Janet had checked in for the night. Bryan and myself found ourselves wandering the halls, him strumming on his guitar and me walking too fast, and soon ended up in the dark pews of the center chapel. We didn't, as a church, spend time in this part but I'm glad I did. We each took turns strumming on the guitar while the other shared their testimony and when the guitar strumming got old I went and grabbed my Nutella and saltines out of my room so we could have a delicious late night feast while lounging in the pews. I'm not sure how many rules we broke but I figured if Jesus were there he would want a saltine with Nutella too. Deep late night talks are always something to cherish and it's one I won't forget. Bryan probably said some of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me and I realized that even when I may be totally unaware that God is using me in the lives of the amazing people I have the privilege of spending my time with, he really is moving in my life. This is the time of the weekend where the word "magnificent" is used and I couldn't have picked a better one to describe it now. Thank you Bryan for reading the dictionary! I'm going to be sad to see him go when he leaves for his next assignment sometime in the next few weeks. We then stayed in the chapel pews past lights out, luckily my cell phone has a flashlight, and I think we both went to bed that night muy contentos.
Sunday morning was a bit more of a blur because I was pretty tired by this point of the weekend. After breakfast I had the kids again and we played a hilarious game I made up on the spot called "touch the tree." It turned into us making up easy obstacle courses for the kids to run and anything that helped them burn some energy was welcome. We also passed time coloring with chalk on the cement walkways outside our classroom. I just realized this probably took place on Saturday because by Sunday the kids were a bit more grumpy and fussy. A highlight of this morning was making a throughly big mess while making the communion bread for the final sunday service. Toaster ovens are so handy. In the later session we made cards for those who are sick in the church and learned about serving the church by picking up litter around the compound. This wrapped up my job as children's leader and the sunday outdoor service began with me yawning and feeling incredibly blessed. I got to get up with the kids and shared a bit of what we had been up to over the weekend, and after some verses and more worship we all took communion together with the bread my kids had made. After service we all gathered together for one last lunch before people started packing up cars and saying goodbye. Bryan, myself, and a lot of the kids (we had a pack, it was awesome) ended up back outside playing games, running military relays (Bryan is a US marine, and I got suckered into being a part of one of the relays... Bryan running while fireman carrying me on his back was actually quite uncomfortable....), and taking hilarious pictures of human pyramids, hanging kids, gangsta faced group shots, and all of us piled in a tree... was sad to see that afternoon end. But when I finally got home I was ready to shower and just relax (finally... haha) All in all I think my weekend at this retreat blew anything else I could have done out of the water (And it was free!). My life is really just too cool. I'm incredibly blessed!