Asburians attend WGM ski retreat, but leave their skis at home

By Kelsey Campbell
Contributing Writer

As I unpacked my small suitcase in our hotel room, one of my roommates asked me, “Why do you go on a ski retreat if you’re not going to ski?” My initial reaction was a pretty hippie-dippie response: “So I can hang out with everyone and love everyone.” 

As creepy or far out as that response may sound, it was honestly the truth. My 13 non-skiing cohorts and I had plenty to enjoy, between each others’ company and the worship services on Friday evening and Saturday morning. 

Friday evening was full of laughter, games, and, of course, a Global Cafe type of worship service. During the night, laughter boomed throughout the hotel’s conference room as students played board games, card games or catchphrase. Bryce Toole, World Gospel Mission (WGM) cabinet president, said his group could not stop laughing. “I laughed so hard I cried and drooled on myself. True story,” Toole explained. But the games and laughter continued as those who weren’t going to ski stayed inside the lodge. 

This year there was an increase in the number of people who attended ski retreat but decided not to ski. Last year 48 people went on ski retreat and only eight people decided not to ski. Percentage wise, that’s a jump from 17 to 32 percent of people on the trip not skiing. 

So what could cause this? Some non-skiers admitted that money was an issue. Either way, though, the retreat costs money, so people were still willing to shell out some cash to hang out and play games at the hotel and ski lodge. 

The increase in those only there to fellowship may have something to do with the mindset of the cabinet. According to WGM director, Jonathan Powers, there were questions about whether or not to have the ski retreat again this year. 

The Waggoners, past directors of the WGM center, had previously wondered if the purpose of the ski retreat had shifted. They thought it was possible that people were more interested in the ski aspect of the retreat rather having the focus being on fellowship, worship and missions. 

The WGM cabinet retreat at the beginning the school year prompted a discussion about all the events the WGM center hosts: ski retreat, goat roast, missionary kid events and others. The big question was whether or not the focus of these events was on the right thing. 

Jonathan Powers explained that everything was up for a revamp. Even goat roast took on some changes, such as the emphasis being on missions in Africa rather than it simply being a fall festival. 

Powers explained that nothing changed when it came to the schedule of the ski retreat; however, there was a change in how the retreat was advertised and how the cabinet talked about it to others. This year, the focus was more on the services and speakers than it had been in previous years. 

Looking at the numbers, it seemed to make a difference in people choosing to come on retreat for the fellowship and not just for the slopes. 

Mark and Eszti Landerholm, missionaries serving in Hungary, were the speakers for the weekend and shared about God’s work in their personal lives. Faith Powers, one of the WGM directors, noted the attendees’ response to the Landerholm’s message. 

“[The students] seemed receptive to the vulnerability of the speakers,” she commented. The Landerholms shared their hearts, and their transparancy seemed to truly resonate with the students. To some, it seemed that Friday evening was reason enough to travel up for the retreat.

For Caroline Veazey, skiing wasn’t possible due to an injury, but the retreat was still important to her. “I came to the retreat because I had such a great time last year,” Veazey said. She added that the skiing is only a small part of the experience. The true beauty, she said, is, “the ride to Florence with old and new friends, the sessions that refocus our hearts and the games that are played with laughter and joy Friday night that make it worth going even though I didn’t stay for skiing.”