I first heard about the Man Up Retreat over a year ago. We were still deciding whether to move to Ecuador, but were getting updates from Brent Becker (our former pastor and fellow AAI teacher) about a retreat that he was putting together for the 9-12th grade guys at Alliance. Even back then, I was really excited to hear about his vision for reaching young men at Alliance Academy and teaching them to be more godly men.
Fast forward a year.
It’s Friday after school and I’m sitting in the front seat of a school bus packed with 30 students from AAI. We’re slowly snaking our way through Quito’s rush hour, heading for a 320-acre retreat facility tucked into the foothills about 30 minutes north of the city. Everyone is excited for a weekend full of “guy stuff”, even though most of them don’t know what is in store.
After arriving, the students were broken up into 4 cabins by grade. I spent the weekend with the 9th graders. Turns out they were quite a lot of fun and I ended up getting more sleep than expected. It helped to wear them out with various games and activities before bedtime!
Throughout the weekend, Brent led four sessions on “anger” and how it can often be a negative force in our lives. After each session, we met in our cabins for discussion times. Our discussion times were excellent and I was able to share relevant stories along with many of the guys in my cabin. On Sunday morning, we had a final message and communion service that turned into a very special time of honoring Christ’s sacrifice for us and renewing our devotion to Him.
Of course, all of the sessions were interspersed with a lot of fun and games. We attempted several manly feats of strength: finger jousting, leg wrestling, and ripping a deck of cards in half. We played soccer, shot BB guns, and learned knife throwing. And, on Saturday night, we had a 5 hour race that had each team building their own climbing wall, navigating through miles of dense forest, and swimming through freezing cold ponds. To start everything off, we blindfolded each team, tied them to one another, and then tied them around a tree. It sounds intense (and it was), but it was well supervised and everyone had an absolute blast.
It was truly a great weekend and I’m so glad I set aside other things and made it a priority. As a teacher, it was great to engage with my students (many of whom are non-Christians) in a deeper way and helped to remind me of many of the reasons we are here.
Now for a few photos from the weekend:
April 21, 2013 Ecuador