I will honestly confess now, for those of you reading this, I never would have imagined, nor could possibly anticipate what was planned for the next few days. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this year’s retreat and have gained an experience, something never-before, during the three-day period.
Within the three days on Friday 7th to Sunday 9th of April, Thanh Nien held its 70th retreat at Bringelly, with the topic focussing on, “The Greatest Love”.
From Day 1 to Day 2, the atmosphere was filled with fun, excitement and comfort, where new friendships were created and bonds were further deepened. This was made simple with introductions held early. Individuals were put into random groups, and with the help of team leaders, tensions were eased out and barriers were broken down, allowing everyone to express and understand further about themselves and others.
Many activities were incorporated through the three days. Challenges were introduced to test the bonds that had been formed over time. Through these activities, I certainly (and many others) have created memories that will never be forgotten.
I remember having a series of games where groups (Team 1 vs Team 2) competed to see who could win the most matches which included ultimate frisbee, dodgeball, cup flipping (no you’re not reading this wrong), and many others. However, the most memorable game for me was “rock paper scissors” (only because I single handily took out five members of the opposite team, who are now probably rolling their eyes if they’re reading this now).
One challenge imposed on each team was discovering the “spy”, who was to sabotage our chances of winning in three of the included games, both teams never guessed why and you should contact them if you want to know why. Be warned, your stomach will be in pain.
I greatly enjoyed and would love to have spent more time with my new family.
Aside from the games, the retreat also incorporated a spiritual essence, where we delved into the focus and notion of “The Greatest Love”. Activities ranged from group discussions to having a “Great Debate”, challenging our creativity (we needed to role play, dance, sing or perform a poem) and our views to answer questions such as:
- What Is The Greatest Love?
- Is My Faith Strong Enough To Earn God’s Love?
- How Has God Love Brought Me To Where I Am Today?
Through these activities, it has deepened my understanding of life’s simple questions, providing me with enriched answers and points of views where troubles were comforted, cluelessness is filled with insight and knowledge of the unknown came to light.
One activity that was held, really tugged at my emotions. Yes, I cried. We had our own special “Circle of Trust” with a spectacular candlelight shining in the middle of the circle on the cross, where individuals volunteered to share their stories. To me, I felt a sense of belonging and partnership with each person, as they are openly shared their stories (both good and bad) with me. I cannot share those stories with you, but believe me when I say this. It was truly a great honour to have been then and there with these individuals. It was a delightful change from the discussions and physical activities. An experience I have never been through before.
With the help of our guest speaker, Cha Tuyet, we all gained a wonderful and enriched experience, revolving around the questions listed above. He helped break down the questions and provided us with an in-depth explanation and even further expanded on our collective answers during the discussions. Cha Tuyet lead wonderful masses throughout the retreat and felt unique in the sense that it didn’t feel like individuals coming together for mass, but a family who are closely bonded and together, and when you have spent the amount of time I have with my fellow brothers and sisters, you too will understand.
Cooking day-to-day meals came from our very own special chefs, some mothers. They say that mum’s cooking is one of the best and was clearly displayed during the retreat. We were never hungry and our stomachs were always growing due to the delicious food, which catered to everyone’s needs (I think I gained a few kilograms…).
Over the course of the three days, spending time with my fellow brothers and sisters, I have gained invaluable experience and at the same time and greatly enjoyed my time with the Thanh Nien group, getting to know each, and every individual at a personal level. Leaving was a little upsetting, but I know that I, as well as many others, have created new bonds, whilst strengthening others. Spending time with my fellow brothers and sisters have provided me with an enrichment to my life and I have learnt so many new things about life, especially Love. The love of god, the love of others and how I, as a person, can show my love. The enjoyment of games, food and being with each other, has made this a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
Cuong Nguyen – Retreat 70 – 2017