New Student Retreat returns for class of 2025

Students+overnight+housing+at+Forest+Home+Ojai%2C+where+the+retreat+took+place.

Sofia Pela

Students’ overnight housing at Forest Home Ojai, where the retreat took place.

Kylie Dickinson, Staff Writer

This year’s new student retreat garnered enthusiasm from attendees, especially after the 2020 retreat was canceled due to COVID-19. The retreat, held on Sept. 10-11, provided the new class of 2025 and transfer students a chance to find community and make new friendships while enjoying camp-like activities.  

Last weekend, buses took about 80 students up the mountains to Forest Home’s Ojai Valley camp. Students were assigned to either cabins or tents for their stay. When asked to respond to the sleeping arrangements, first-year student Avery Schude said, “I slept in the tents; long story short, they really make you appreciate the dorms. There was no air conditioning; however, having a not ideal sleeping arrangement also made me leave my tent and talk to new people.” The students, after unpacking, enjoyed dinner outside on picnic tables with a view of the mountains. 

The retreat was run with the assistance of student leaders who shared the first-years’ excitement. Sophomore RA Bailey Hall described her reason for participating, saying, “I mostly wanted to come to connect with and meet as many new students as possible! But I would be lying if I didn’t say I also wanted to experience what a new student retreat is like since I didn’t get one last year.”  

Students engaged in an abundance of camp activities during the evening of the first day. They chose between stargazing, hiking and playing board games. S’mores and songs by the campfire finished off the night for the attendees. “Worship by the bonfire was my favorite part. It was a very surreal experience to be sitting under the stars and praising God with all of these people who you basically just met,” said Schude. 

An important element of the retreat centered around spiritual growth. Pastor Scott Lisea attended and gave a morning message to the students. When asked to comment on his lecture, he said, “There were no bumps in the road — but I did change my first message the night before! I felt led to do so.” The spiritual formation-based morning also included faith-building stations for students.

Pastor Lisea was particularly impressed with the new students’ intense passion for Christ and for others. He stated that his main takeaway from the trip is that “this class is hungry and enthusiastic.” 

Reminiscing on her experience, Hall commented, “I think it went really well! It was a short amount of time, but it was really packed full of activities and ways to get to know others. I especially loved sitting around the fire making s’mores and singing worship. Seeing Saturn through Dr. Kihlstrom’s telescope was also amazing! It was also cool to meet other student leaders that I hadn’t crossed paths with before.” 

To round off the trip, students spent five hours of free time hiking, playing sand volleyball, and relaxing in the pool. The brief trip ended just like it started, with everyone packed up and back on the bus, but students left Forest Home with new memories and new friends.

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