Celebrating Students

A Reflection on the INSTITUTE STudent Retreat 

The other day a friend of mine brought up the story of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32. She reflected on it as a reminder of the celebration evidenced when the lost son returns home. His father puts the “best” robe on him, places a ring on his finger, and celebrates the night away because his son has returned home to stay. In the same way, she reflected, we should be celebrating and making our friends feel valued, especially when they experience the revelation that comes from learning God’s Word and how it can transform their lives.

One of the highlights of the retreat was a catered dinner and theater performance by some Institute staff and graduates. 

One of the highlights of the retreat was a catered dinner and theater performance by some Institute staff and graduates. 

I can think of no better illustration of this taking place than how it has been exemplified and poured out through the leadership here at the Institute. During this past Institute retreat, after a long semester of learning God’s word and being challenged to put it to practice through service, newer students at the Institute came together for a time of reflection and celebration. Little did we know that our leaders had prepared a remarkable few days of informative classes, reflection in the Word, an extraordinary dinner theatre, and various team building games and activities. It rocked my world. They made me feel truly honored (and dare I say all of us students) in more ways than one. 

Students engage in discussion about the history of the Institute and their own personal journeys of becoming disciples of Jesus. 

Students engage in discussion about the history of the Institute and their own personal journeys of becoming disciples of Jesus. 

We were included in several discussions that challenged us to reflect, not only on some of the amazing ways the Lord has grown and developed the Institute since it began, but also on how God has called us as individuals into this ministry. Our development as disciples is not an easy task, and we have to be willing to daily invest ourselves into this work of knowing the Lord and allow his word to heal us and equip us to be people who serve needs around us with excellence. 

Then, we were all told to run home, dress up, and come back to the school for a surprise. Little did we know that the most remarkable comedy dinner theatre was in store for us, complete with a professionally prepared dinner and dessert. Several Institute alumni made an appearance with old and new performances. I nearly busted a vein laughing. Mostly, though, I was overwhelmed with joy because of how honored I felt that so much time and effort was invested into welcoming all of us to this home. 

To say that I felt lost before I came to the institute might be a bit of an understatement. I was literally wandering. But I knew once I arrived that the Lord was calling me here to be a disciple of his Word. That calling, however, did not come without self-doubt and several moments of panic as I realized just how big of a responsibility serving him with my life is. Every step of the way, however, he is rooting for me — for us. He celebrates when his children return and find life in him. Not only does he celebrate, but the family I’ve found here who know him well literally celebrate too. What a profound joy to be at home. I feel so honored and so thankful, and I cannot wait to celebrate new students that come after me in the same way.