I just returned from a wonderful long weekend at Port Dickson - from an occasion that can be considered `historic'
It's the first alumni retreat of the College and Career Fellowship (fondly known as CCF) of my church - the peer group I've joined for close to 15 years!
In the mid to late 90s, a group of swinging youngsters - then in their 20s and early 30s - not only came together on Friday night for Bible Studies but had built up deep friendship and fellowship between them. At those `hay years' of CCF, there were so many activities going on - from putting up evangelistic events like camps and variety shows to outstation trips, casual outings and gatherings.
Fast forward one-and-a-half decade on or so..
Many of the CCFers of those days had got married and started their family. So naturally, they had left our peer group and either set up or joined cell groups that are home-based. But most of them had never lost touch with their old friends, in fact, most of them are still in the same cell groups. And then there are also a fraction of us - the singles - who are still with CCF among the younger generation..
I know it's unfair to compare but the peer group today is unalike that of yesteryears'.. not only the numbers have depleted, but somehow it's not as close knit nor united, and besides the clock-work Friday meeting for Bible study, the social events of any kind are few and far in between.. In fact, we all who are still there have to face the fact that it's underdoing a crisis.. and we just have to pray for wisdom and ask God for wisdom..
But back to the retreat..
The idea of a reunion/alumni retreat had been suggested since early last year but no one cam out to organise it, until our dear former `first lady' and welfare coordinator Koots decided to spearhead this to reality. A few more people came on board to take various tasks and in two months or so, this alumni retreat was happening!
It was held at the Golden Sand Baptist Assembly - the familiar camp site of most of our church camps. Most of us went without any expectation.. but I dare to say each and everyone was truly blessed and happy to have gone!
We were honoured to have our former pastor Soo Inn, who also played apart in the formation of CCF in the early 1990s, as the speaker. And indeed what a great and charismatic speaker he is. He just recently turned 54.
It was a really fun, wonderful and unforgettable weekend. In just 48-hours or so, we did so much! The theme of the retreat was Abiding in the Vine and there were three sermon sessions, followed by group sharing. They were all very relevant and practical topics - trusting God in tough times, mariage and singleness and about work. Although many of us had heard these topics before but it was a fresh and timely reminder and there were new things I took home.
Yesterday afternoon was dedicated to personal sharing. So many came forward to attest of how CCF had became an intergral part of their spiritual life and many talked about the precious friendship formed here and how their life had been changed.
All of the sharing was interesting, encouraging and yes, nostalgic. Some of them were so funny (yes, we have a number of really humorous characters around) while a few were truly moving and caused me to have tears welded in my eyes.
The schedule was rather relaxing, understandably so as most of us are no longer young.. and also many parents brought their young kids. There were 25 kids in our midst! Our smart organiser even `imported' an experienced Sunday school teacher couple to help give the kids their own program during the talks.
The highlight of the retreat must be the fun variety show last night. True to the spirit of CCF where we had put up so many skits and shows in the past in our evangelism programs, last night's `show' was a blast!!
You know what, I bet I laughed more and harder last night than I did in a year!!
First we had the return of the Pantai Boys - and I was even `planted' to go for the audition but of course, I'm not a guy thus `lost'. But gosh, my `competitor' was really a riot with his dance that combined break-dancing and strip tease! I laughed till I could not even dance anymore.. Today, remaining members of the Pantai Boys, who are now much older men, were still in their elements and gave us a string of songs.
And then we re-staged a skit that CCF did in 1996 - which was totally unrehearsed. Somehow I also got roped in to play a small role. Basically it was acting out the creation story in Genesis 1&2. It was quite amazing that the main cast of were all there to re-enact their roles! We got to see the original version too on video but I think last night's version was even better - and funnier too!!
Finally, there was the award-presenation - of course it was just for a laugh. Imagine award titles like the `Best Nip and Tuck' , `The Drama Queen Award', `The Rojak Mixed Up' and many other long and hilarious titles!
But the night did not end there. A camper, also a keen party host, created his version of a game - ACTS - combining Articulate with Charades, Trivial and Serenade. Well, it became the battle of the sexes and finally the fairer sex won by two points! It was really a fun and quite challenging game indeed.
It was really great to see the former CCFers who are now dads and moms still so full of vigour and energy.. and after so many years, the bond between all of us are still strong. I didn't manage to talk to everyone but at least I caught up with a few especially my roommate Jenny who has immigrated to Australia for many years.
But like what Koots said, we did not come to this retreat for a feel-good time and to reminisce about the good old days.. rather, it is meant to encourage and spur us on to continue to walk with the Lord and serve Him and others which ever phase of life we're in.
Indeed, personally I have benefitted from the talks and encouraged tremendously by the sharings. Ithank God that I'm part of a family whereby I've grown in the Word, as a person, and also having good friends whom I can count on.
So, thanks Koots and all those who have put in much effort to make this retreat a reality. And thanks CCF for the fond memories!