Monday, May 25, 2015

Valley Of Blessing Family Retreat 2015

We were finally able to work it out to be able to go in the Family Retreat with VoB this year. We'd missed the last couple of years because of Rebecca's schedule, but this year, we planned ahead so she had the time off.
 We stayed at a center called Higher Ground Christian Retreat near Ararat, Virginia about 10 miles north of Fancy Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The center sits on a ridge that offers a spectacular view of Pilot Mountain and the surrounding area to the south. If you look carefully on a clear day, you can even see the tall buildings of downtown Winston-Salem.

The center had 3 different houses, some offering hotel-style rooms and one with several rooms with bunk beds. Despite the amenities, we took advantage of the stunningly good weather and camped out in our portable 3-room condo.
 Sunset was pretty the first night.
 There was a fun playground that reminded me that the kids might need tetanus boosters...;)
 We went up on Friday, a day earlier than most folks, to help get things set up and arranged. Since we were not at the community center for service with everyone else, we had a morning devotional/service with the few folks who were there. We read the Torah portion for that week and had a very lively and deep discussion about it.
 Once everyone else got there after lunch, the fun really started. We officially opened the retreat with a short service to go over the ground rules and the theme for this retreat which was Unity.

 On Sunday, we briefly celebrated Irene's birthday with some strawberry muffins with strawberry butter.
 We couldn't quite get her to put up two fingers, tho...
 Later that day, we rode out to a creek for Olivia's baptism. While our kids normally all flock to the water like ducks, Emma would have nothing to do with that icy cold creek.
The rest of them? Not so picky. It was freezing cold, but the other 4 got in without too much hesitation.

 That afternoon, we had a challenge where we had 5 minutes to get to know someone and then we had to present that person, speaking as if we were them. It was pretty difficult because we were't supposed to stick to the simple things: job, family, pets. Israel wanted us to figure out the person's passions and dreams from the stuff they told us in conversation and present that. 
To pair up, we had to make a chain. The way you attached to the chain was by announcing something that you enjoy (reading books, fishing, etc). Then a person from the crowd who shared that interest would come and link with you and then announce a different thing they liked. it went on until everyone was part of the chain, then we were paired up and sent off to talk. 

 One of the funniest pairings was Duncan, who is 13, with Nanny, who is 96! Duncan didn't glean much from the conversation, but Nanny displayed her spunk and clear mind by laying out a great presentation of Duncan.
 One of the teenagers, Ashlyn, entertained our littles while we did the activity.

 Sunset that evening was pretty as well.
 While we were off resting after dinner, some of the kids went and had a water balloon fight. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the balloons breaking and with who got targeted. Ezra came to us to express his disappointment in his most expressive fashion and I couldn't resist documenting his lament. :)
That evening, we had a bonfire and made smores! :)

It so happened that Sunday was the feast of Shavuot, which marks the time when G-d gave the Hebrews the Torah and when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples after Yeshua's resurrection and ascension. To mark the occasion, we blew the shofar just as G-d did on Mount Sinai on the day he gave the Torah.

The next morning at 5:45, we got the kids up and took them on a tractor ride around the grounds. At various places, there were meditation stations that had some of the things Yeshua referred to himself as in the Gospel of John, like I am the vine, I am the good shepherd, and I am the light of the world.
Byron, one of the folks that helps maintain the center, and Kevin, one of our VoB members, took turn talking about the various things Yeshua talked about and why.

The kids all had a great time, but it was very early for them to be up. :)

We are so glad we were able to go this year and hopefully we will be able to arrange it for future years, as well!

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