Locura 2007 Youth Retreat

-Youth Retreat from Wednesday through Friday

January 10-12, 2007

Wednesday afternoon Shin and I left for youth retreat. We packed light assuming we were going to rough it like the retreats we were used to. On the most part we were right. The only thing we took special care to bring was extra bottled water, and crackers because of late or light dinners.

We were anxious about adjusting to yet another foreign place. We didn’t know if we would experience sickness with the food, or have communication problems, or get along with the people. The missionary’s daughter Michelle went but the Missionary was only going to speak that night and then we were on our own.

But as soon as we arrived we felt awe and tranquility. It was like a beautiful resort. Because it was a mountainside, the camp site was on different levels. The highest point was the chapel and dorms with a spectacular view of a lake and tree tops. The second level was the food chapel and a garden. There was one seating area with a canopy of vines and really fragrant white flowers. The third level was the volleyball and tennis court and then on the ground floor was a small stone stadium for viewing the futbol field. The soccer field with its fresh cut grass and white goal posts was beautiful in itself.

The chapel steps left side

The chapel steps right side

The view overlooking the lake

View of the church from the second level


The pool being cleaned and refilled

When we arrived the other students had just had a service in a cemetery and then gone hiking. Others were swimming. Shortly we prepared for worship. Pastor Freddy led the praise then Missionary Cho gave the sermon. He talked about the blood of Jesus being the true blessing and not the blessings of a Catholic Priest or a Pastor’s personal prayers. Benediciones=Blessing=Bleed=Sangre. Service ended around 9pm and we ate a pasta dinner with soda.

The chapel entrance

The chapel interior

The boys and girls dorms were separated by the chapel in the center. They were Korean military style. We slept on hardwood floors using foam mattresses and had personal storage cupboards. They had bathrooms and hot showers. Our first night we all slept with the windows wide open and fresh warm air coursing through.

The second day we had a lot of free time to swim, nap, or play sports. During lunch we found out that there was a “Partners dinner” in the evening. So all the single people were matched up with another by force, verbal bidding or popularity. Some were happy, others found ways to get out of the match and find other partners. Michelle, the missionary’s daughter is pretty quiet so she got the crowd going when she admitted, “Yes I have a date.” Then he asked, “What do you want to say to him” and she replied, “I’ll see you at dinner.”

Up till now, we were not part of any of the teams. So, after lunch, Shin joined the red team for games and I decided to help in the kitchen. There were three games set up. The first team game was a water balloon toss over the volleyball net using blankets. The second was futbol, of course, and the third one was a pool game where you have to swim across and grab something floating.(Unfortunately, one girl slipped and hit her chin on the concrete. It was pretty serious)

One of the six teams

In the meanwhile, I helped in the kitchen. This was a horrifying but good experience for me. Two women were preparing a fruit salad drink so first, I helped shave, and dice up Paraguay melons. But outwardly, the melons were severely gone bad. There were large black spots and white cotton mold growing on them. I asked in disbelief, “Are these okay?” They said yes. So I proceeded to wash and peel them. I tried using the cutting board instead of holding it so that my fingers wouldn’t go through the rotting areas. Inside was not as bad as I thought. And when they were bad I just cut out the bad pieces. I was also horrified that they kept the pieces in the stainless steel sink.

Next, the bananas. They are a smaller variety than the States and not bright yellow without blemishes. So I fished through a plastic bag of decent ones down to the bottom where they were forming water and were completely black in some areas. The smell of rotting bananas was revolting but I kept a natural face to be polite and opened them all nonetheles to take out the edible parts.

The cutting board I was using was once white but the surface had turned brown from time and other stuff. I diced up the bananas until they were mushy. Then all of it, the bananas, melons, and pineapples went in a big bowl to be chilled.

What a contrast to how I deal with food at home. I wouldn’t dare cut open a melon gone bad on the outside and I wouldn’t eat an apple that had rotted on one part. I questioned how the other food I had eaten here had been prepared. But against my expectations, there was an ease about cooking. Afterall, its the ripe fruits that go bad. Also, I didn’t get sick from retreat (Btw, I didn’t drink the fruit juice out of fear). If at all, pesticides probably harm the human body more than a little mold.

Then I went outside to help put whole chickens on the grill. They had been marinating in the fridge for several days in a delicious smelling marinade of basil, oregano, and garlic. The cook first cleaned and prepared the grill with lime juice. I was really excited to eat it.

After helping cook, the teams finished their game in the pool so Shin and I jumped in. While we were swimming in the early afternoon, it started to rain really hard and there was lightning but no thunder. The weather was still incredibly warm even though the skies turned gray and purple. Shin yelled over all the sound, “THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!”

Shin with newfound friends

We had service that evening with a guest band. Many students rededicated or came to Christ. The service lasted until about 10pm. Then all the men and women hurried back to their cabins. After spontaneously going swimming, All I had to wear was a sweater and pajama capris. Outside, young men in dress shirts were gathering flowers.

Shin and I walked into a nearly empty food hall and it was decorated with a romantic ambience. There were flower petals on the floors and candles on the tables. Each setting had a plate of with the chicken I described earlier and rice. We felt awkward so went back out to wait. We looked up the stairs to the chapel and saw a very interesting ritual.

The boys were all dressed up and standing in a pack. They started chanting a song that started out like this, “Oooh Leh Leh- Ooooh La La…” Then they would move closer to the girl’s cabin. It was funny to hear and watch. Then, finally they rushed to the girls dorms and all the lights in the girls cabin went black. Then, one by one, a young lady came out all dressed up to meet her partner. And down the stairs they came, arm in arm, the girl holding the bouquet she received. To my shame I was in my pj’s.

During dinner different couples were introduced and they would have to dance a few steps from a waltz or walk around the room as though in a formal dance competition. The MC would tell a boy to make some kind of profession to the girl he brought, like, “I’ve only known you for this long but I feel…” It was a very nice social activity that addressed relationships in a classy, respectful way. I also realized that the culture values women caring for their personal appearance. It’s really a discipline for a women to know how to do that. If Shin and I want to fit in, we will have to put aside our low maintenance life style.

Dinner lasted from after 10pm until 2AM and then there was a scavenger hunt by team. Afterwards they played Futbol at around 3 in the morning at which point, Shin & I each went back to our dorms.

Student Leadership group

It rained through the night up through Friday afternoon so the planned evangelism excursion to the children in the city was canceled. Instead we convened in the chapel and told jokes and did group skits. We didn’t understand any of the jokes. Then we played pair futbol.

Shin and I had to hold hands and run around but the girl had to score. Halfway through the game I realized that the black flying things weren’t dragon flies. They were swarms of black wasps. I started freaking out and couldn’t focus. They would just follow your every turn and I was so afraid they would all suddenly turn and sting. But apparently it’s normal. Shin was telling me, “Don’t run away or they’ll follow! But they only sting if you try to bat them away.

The steps leading to the soccer field

Soccer stadium

The soccer field

Finally it was time to come “home”. We actually missed it. Shin commented how leaving our house in the mission center and being among yet more strange places and peoples actually gave us a sense of security and a place to return to.

All this moving and being displaced is uncomfortable but it gets you thinking about our permanent, heavenly home.

Pictures from our psychedelic bus ride home:

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