This year’s annual GO Retreat, held Sept. 8-9, focused on finding God at the margins and aimed to create a community of those who have gone on missions or participated in ministry.
According to Ben Langford, director of center for global missions, this is GO Retreat’s seventh year in existence. Langford decides the theme and schedules speakers, while the officers of Outreach, a student led mission and service organization, recruit students and organize transportation.
“Really, it is a retreat where like-minded people are together, and we hope that you get to meet people and hear their stories,” Langford said. “It is a more organic way of speaking about mission and ministry experiences. Students want to talk about what they have done. That is the intent — that the GO Retreat is a formational experience. ”
The speakers of the retreat included Charles Kiser, Kevin Vance and former Oklahoma Christian University student Philip Kingsley, who work with the organization Mission Alive — a church-planting organization.
“They talked about their own experience of planting churches and not finding God in places they thought they would, but at the margins, amongst people who are underprivileged,” Langford said. “Vance was a president of a college in Canada, until he became convicted of the poor neighborhood he drove through on his way to work. He resigned so he and his wife could move into that neighborhood, made up of Native Americans, and start to plant a church.”
Angela Holmes, a senior human development and family science major, serves as historian for Outreach and attended the GO Retreat for the first time. She helped in the recruitment process by creating a Facebook page and Instagram account for Outreach.
“I went on a mission trip last spring break with Outreach,” Holmes said. “I fell in love with the people and the environment, and wanted to be a part of it.”
Holmes said, over the weekend, her expectations of finding God in the margins shifted as she listened to the speakers and their experiences planting churches.
“Everyone typically thinks that margins means the outside — somewhere you have to go,” Holmes said. “Through the speakers and getting to know other people, I found out that the margins wasn’t as far as I had thought. It’s always right there. This weekend I learned that I can look at my own life and see where God is, which is right next to me, and what He’s doing right there, and I can be a part of that. That’s a really powerful thing.”
Langford said a total of 61 faculty, staff and students attended the retreat, in downtown Oklahoma City at the Refuge.
“The students in particular this year were really passionate about not just a retreat, but this retreat,” Langford said. “We say this is for those who have gone and those who want to go on mission and ministry, so we had a lot of students who were pretty passionate about learning about God’s mission and participating in it and discerning their place in it.”
According to Langford, in addition to service projects and speakers, participants experience a “second helping lunch.” This lunch focuses on serving other people rather than serving oneself.
“The rule is, you can’t get anything for yourself, and you can’t ask for anything either,” Langford said. “You must wait until someone asks how they can serve you. You have to pay attention to what others need, and you experience the feeling of not having a voice and being marginalized and voiceless.Even though we are not really marginalized, you get the experience of not being heard or seen. It is good practice on both sides. There are always people in need, but are we paying attention or just feeding ourselves? It is kind of corny, but it’s memorable and I think a good practice.”
Holmes said she paired up with her best friend in the second helping lunch, which did not make the experience any easier.
“It was eye-opening to have to sit there and pay more attention to her,” Holmes said. “I’ve had a meal with her several times. But having a meal with her and paying attention to what she needs in those moments was really like, why don’t I do this more often? It’s really easy to sit down with your friends and focus on yourself, and what you need. But at this lunch I couldn’t do that. She had to ask me and I had to ask her. You learn a lot about another person. It’s a good teaching tool.”
The GO Retreat will continue to take place annually, giving ministry-minded people the opportunity to share what God’s doing, Langford said.
“I want to encourage anyone who has participated in ministry to come,” Langford. “We want to build a community of like-minded people. For those that went, it is a time of reflection — to see where God worked and to find what God is calling them to be and do.”