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RBF Retreat - Tuesday, August 2, 2022
This past weekend was our church retreat - the first in three years, retreat having been cancelled the previous two years due to the pandemic. It was our second time meeting at Sonoma State University, the last time being in 2019 for the all-church retreat.

The Chinese congregation didn't join this time due to COVID concerns. Regardless, there were a lot of people there because our church has gotten so big. Our program, which listed discussion group assignments, listed 200 names, not including children. 2019's program listed 186 names. There were probably around 100 children there this year, certainly more than last time because a lot of people at church have been having kids over the past few years.

The accommodations were mostly the same as last time. Each person had a room, typically shared with a roommate. Each room had its own bathroom and there were four rooms per suite. Dining and services were held at the student center a short walk away. The food was alright but I remember it being better last time. And I was bummed that the recreation center, which has a climbing wall and gym, was closed this time.

Overall, retreat was good but tiring. We ate with someone different for each meal, and we had more impromptu fellowship for an hour each night after the nighttime session. The schedule also kicked off early each morning. So it was hard to get sufficient sleep, and so during the free time hours on Saturday, Priscilla and I went back to our room and took a two hour nap.

Our guest speaker, Pastor Tranwei, covered the biblical narrative during each of the four sessions. It was cool how each message had the thematic consistency of God's work in the Garden of Eden, in Israel, in Christ, and finally in the new Heaven. Most of the material was pretty familiar, but there were some great nuggets of insight - for instance, in discussing how Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, Pastor Tranwei pointed out that it was because Jesus wants all the kingdoms of the world, that one day He will reign over them, and Satan was essentially telling Jesus to skip to the end and skip the cross. It's the same idea as in Matthew 16 when Jesus talks about being killed and raised to life, Peter rebukes Him and says that this shall not happen, and Jesus responds with "Get behind me, Satan".

The weekend was pretty busy and though we relished the opportunities to fellowship with a handful of people, we also felt a little overwhelmed being amidst so many unfamiliar faces. We feel that way at church as well. The English congregation was maybe 30 people when I first joined (I think that was in 2009), and we've become a somewhat large church over the years. I'm feeling like how I felt when I was attending GRX back in 2008 - i.e. only knowing a handful of people, mostly the people in my small groups, and feeling distant from the church body as a whole. Sometimes I don't see the point in corporate worship when I don't feel entirely part of the corporate body. But in those times, I have to remind myself that it's not about me, and that we are to be like Christ, who came to serve, not to be served.
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