CHALLENGING STUDENTS TO UNPLUG
For nearly two decades,University Ministry has offered the biannual Search Retreat, which encourages students to grow in their relationship with their truest selves, with others, and with God. Taking place at Camp Wildwood in the idyllic rural hills of Ramona, Calif., the retreat includes student reflections, opportunities for quiet contemplation in a beautiful setting, small group discussions, free time and a variety of interactive community-building activities.
In a time when students are more and more connected technologically, the retreat offers a totally different way of engaging; in fact, mobile devices such as smart phones are not allowed during the weekend.
Student Coordinator Elizabeth Creech found her own Search deeply moving, and reflected on her experience upon returning to USD.
A DEEP CONNECTION
As I walked around campus this past week, I couldn’t help but notice many of my peers wearing their Search crosses around their necks. Searchers past and present wear these crosses as a physical reminder of their retreat experience, a symbol that they are part of a wide community of love and support. Every time I passed by a Searcher wearing their cross, I was greeted with a warm smile and felt deeply connected to my USD community.
Focused on the themes of prayer, witness, service and community, the Search Retreat gives students time and space to unplug from our busy everyday lives and take time to process big questions about identity and spirituality. Search is powerful because it creates the space for us students to be real with one another, to share our stories and to let others see our authentic selves. It forces us to think about who we are, what we believe and what we value.
As the student coordinator, I had the unique opportunity to watch Searchers participate in retreat activities. I was so humbled to journey alongside my peers as they experienced God’s love in tangible ways throughout the weekend.
WE ARE NEVER TRULY ALONE
While there are so many memorable moments from the retreat, one of my favorites was watching students read one another’s prayer requests by candlelight on Friday night. Modified to ensure anonymity and confidentiality, each of the 84 Searchers’ prayers were divided into categories by theme. A member of the Search leadership team would read a statement about one of those themes, and then Searchers were invited to take a prayer from the basket if that statement resonated with their prayer requests during the semester.
The only light in the room came from candles held by members of the Search leadership team. It was so wonderful to watch the experience of Searchers taking a prayer and walking by the light of a candle to then read and reflect on a total stranger’s prayer request.
The activity was a beautiful reminder that we are never alone in our struggles. Everyone is going through something, and it is easier to carry that load when you share it with others. It’s okay to not have it all together all the time; sharing our struggles with one another helps us to feel more whole.
While the world contains much darkness that comes from pain and suffering, there is also always light. Light that comes from one another, from community, from the Body of Christ. God’s love is so evident in the people around us; sometimes we just need a reminder to be able to see it.
REAL, TANGIBLE RESULTS
The Search Retreat is that perfect reminder; it allows students to experience God’s love for the first or the ten-thousandth time in real, tangible ways. It connects students to a community of support that extends far past the weekend experience. The Search community has given me some of my closest friends, countless memories of tears and laughter, and challenged me to live more authentically.
When I reflect back on my college career, my involvement with the Search Retreat will stand out as one of my favorite memories, providing a constant reminder that the best is always yet to come. — Elizabeth Creech ‘16