Originally written in October, 2009, for The Gothic Times but never published:
New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey–“It’s normal for hell to break loose in the life of the believer,” affirmed Dr. Eric Mason, the guest speaker at Overflow 09, a retreat attended by Campus Crusade for Christ’s Jersey division, Jersey Metro, a campus ministry.
Upwards of two hundred university students from over thirty campuses across the state (including NJCU and West Chester University) assembled on Long Beach Island, New Jersey in order to learn more about their faith, get to know one another, and have a memorable time.
“Fall Retreat was a spirit-filled weekend. As the flagship event of the fall season for Jersey Metro, this one was truly outstanding,” said Felix Rodriguez, a sophomore at NJCU.
The event was comprised of four main sessions, many minor seminars, free time, and a talent show. After registration, students eagerly made their way to the first session on Friday night, which commenced with a modern worship band playing songs with such titles as “Everlasting” and “Come Lord Jesus.”
Students sang along and seemed to worshipfully reflect on the melodies, while anticipating the sermon to be delivered.
Dr. Eric Mason, a spirited pastor from Philadelphia, centered his first message on the idea of brokenness. Mason asserted that God has personality types and prefers user-friendly people, as do many when choosing a significant other.
God’s type is the broken-hearted, who are easier to work with, he said; in order for God to change someone, his or her pride must cease. Mason carried on, saying it is normal believers to experience trials, for that state quells pride, causing the believer to depend more upon Jesus, who, these Christians believe, cares about every facet of life. He stated that God doesn’t deliver from all trouble, but, because of Jesus, believers can be sure God will walk them through.
In another sermon, Dr. Mason upheld that “the gospel applies to everything for believers, even sex…The gospel is God’s multi-vitamin pill.”
The gospel (or “good news” about Jesus), he argued, is not to simply be evangelized to non-believers, but it is to influence all areas of a believer’s life: what major to choose, whom to marry, how to dress, how to endure pain, etc.
He maintained, for example, that hardship is bearable because Jesus bore more suffering than anyone: the sins of humankind. His energetic and humorous talks stimulated the students, usually leaving them roused and pensive.
“The Fall Retreat was an extraordinary experience. [It] brought me closer to God because of the tremendous fellowship… the prayer sessions… and Pastor Mason’s heart-felt, candid, inspiring sermons!” said Daniel Gurry, an NJCU alumnus.
Students wisely used their free time between sessions, taking strolls along the beach, playing tackle football, attending men’s or women’s time, and engaging in worthwhile discussions. Friendships were born, and Facebook emails were exchanged. The meals were satisfactory, but mealtime provided a swell environment for conversation, which so often revolved around the renowned talent show.
Every year, the full-time staff of Campus Crusade for Christ not only organizes a retreat for its students, but a student-led talent show. Performances took the form of poetry and prose, rock and hip-hop, as well as athletic stunts and a humorous portrayal of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life.” Other talent included anime video, photography, and children’s songs.
Those on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ were, for the most part, involved with the organization as students and club leaders. After graduating with degrees in every which field, many of these former students immediately join “Cru.” Staff training occurs both in January and June and lasts about a month long, equipping new staff with sufficient knowledge and skills for their field of work.
Although it is not a church, Cru is the widest reaching Christian organization on the planet. Established in 1951 by Bill and Vonette Bright at UCLA, Cru is now in over 191 countries and boasts an impressive 25,000 on staff.
By focusing on the more central tenets of the faith, Cru is able to bring together believers from differing denominations. The varying ministries in the organization cover a wide spectrum, from social justice (Global Aid Network), to campus ministry, to athletics (Athletes in Action), all of which focus on one central mission: “launching spiritual movements by winning, building, and sending Christ-centered multiplying disciples.”
An informative and relaxing weekend, the retreat revealed a rather unique but passionate movement of college students who love their God and enjoy one another in faith. With school budget cuts surmounting and an ever-unstable economy, the lessons learned must certainly encourage these believers not to worry, for chaos, to them, can be spiritually encouraging.