Man Up, Round 2

It was barely six months ago that I went on my first Man Up Retreat, a weekend retreat for high school guys at Alliance. The retreat was one of the highlights of our first year in Ecuador and I couldn’t wait for this year’s retreat to roll around. This year’s retreat was scheduled for October (rather than April) so that we’d have more time for followup throughout the rest of the school year. So far, that seems to have been a very good decision.

As a Christian school, we have some pretty unique opportunities at Alliance. Getting 40 high school guys (many of whom are non-Christians) away for a weekend to talk about Jesus doesn’t seem like something you could do at most schools, especially when it’s teachers and staff members organizing the retreat! Now, we do include a fair amount of games, free time, and other fun activities, but the real focus is on encouraging the guys to have stronger relationships with one another and with Christ.

This year’s theme was “Band of Brothers” (borrowed from the epic World War II mini-series of the same name…look it up, it’s incredible) and we did our best to carry the theme throughout the entire weekend. During our group sessions, 4 different men (teachers, administrators, and even one of the guys’ dads) shared personal stories from their lives, pointing out the importance of relying on God and on other men when facing difficult trials.

The Saturday night session is commonly the emotional high of most weekend retreats. This year was no different. We had a great group session and in our small groups afterward, many of the guys were vulnerable and willing to open up about their struggles. And, at least one of the students made a first-time commitment to Christ!

But, weekend retreats are also known for the let downs that come after returning home. Whatever decisions, commitments, and good intentions that arise over the weekend are often swept away within the first few days back at home. This year, we wanted to do our best to help the guys stay true to their commitments. Two weeks after the retreat, we had a “reunion” where we ate pizza (Domino’s!), showed a highlight video, and then asked them to indicate their interest in being held accountable. We were blown away at the response. Over half of the guys indicated a desire to meet either one-on-one with an adult or in a weekly accountability group! It’s been two weeks since that reunion and we now have several one-on-one meetings taken place. And, our accountability group (which I and two other adults are leading) will have it’s 3rd meeting on Wednesday. It’s exciting to see how God is already using this year’s retreat to reach deeper into the lives of these high schoolers and we’re eager to see what else He has in store this year!

This year’s highlight video (6 minutes):

As (unofficial) school photographer and yearbook advisor, it’s my job to document school life in general, including retreats like Man Up. Here are a few of my favorites from this year:

Manly Cooking

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I don’t typically make it into a lot of photos, but one of my students captured these photos of me, just to prove that I was actually there:

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doug November 18, 2013 Ecuador