By Jane Quek
Treasure, a young adults’ encounter retreat organised by the Office for Young People (OYP), saw a record-breaking 130 participants in its eighth run, from 31 August to 3 September 2017.
Led by Father Jude David, the chaplain of OYP, Treasure 8 saw young working adults from past Treasures and OYP’s young adult communities ministering to participants in most aspects of the retreat, including the conduct of sessions, and in sharing powerful testimonies to complement God’s message of love at each session. Brandon Chin, 33, from the Seven Graces Community, shared how he was humbled by God’s grace while preparing himself for his session. “All He needed was my ‘Yes’ and allowing myself to be an instrument for God’s glory.” He said, “Following the lead of the Holy Spirit during the session was a leap of faith. However, from the testimonies at the end of the session, it was evident that many lives were healed and hearts set free by the Holy Spirit. I am in awe at the power and work of the Lord.”
Jaime Lye, 25, a Protestant participant, shared how she was more appreciative of her relationship with Jesus through listening to the testimonies, “God has challenged me to take my relationship with Him more seriously through Father Jude’s messages and the powerful testimonies shared by community members. I am also thankful for having experienced deep and genuine fellowship with my group members.”
The resurrection of Lazarus (John 11: 1 – 44) was the central scriptural message for Treasure 8. The passage speaks of faith in the absence of God and choosing to leave behind the vices that binds us to earthly desires. Community is also presented as an important component in overcoming sin as Jesus enlisted the help of others to free Lazarus: ‘So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”’ (John 11: 44).
Just as Lazarus emerged from the tomb after resurrection, Father Jude challenged the participants to visit the stench (sins) within their tombs, leave their binds (vices) behind, and follow God’s will. Father Jude reminded participants that God wants the whole of their being. Otherwise, “you are in the most dangerous place if your life is left in your hands”, he grimly warned. Kathleen David, 26, from the Holy Family Young Adults community in Church of the Holy Family, experienced this message profoundly, “I came into the retreat having certain preconceptions about what I needed to be healed from and how I needed to be healed. However, He knows me better than I know myself and showed me that the greatest danger is letting my life lie in my own hands instead of God’s. He is in command of my life, and my experience has inspired me to seek permanent transformation and conversion in my life.”
Samuel Bernadi, 26, from St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah), shared that it was hard to surrender but God was patient with His invitation, “The Lord kept calling me to give my all, my very being through the sessions, adoration, praying over. As difficult as it may be, the Lord is inviting me to trust him and to start cooperating with His Grace to make the right decisions at every point of my life. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
In one of the sessions, participants were challenged to reflect on their image of God and their desire for a personal encounter with Jesus. Desmond Seah, 32, from Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, recounted how God reached out to him through his experiences with ministry, “During one of the adoration sessions, I had surrendered previous hurts and weariness from serving in ministry, and felt a tremendous sense of relief and reassurance that I could trust in His Love. Such personal encounters with the Lord stirred my yearning to grow closer to God.”
As difficult as the challenges were, the fruits of the personal encounters were rewarding for the participants. “I came to this retreat feeling numb and indifferent.” said another participant from Church of St Mary of the Angels, Isabella Tay, 30. “(The retreat) allowed me to discover the most fundamental reason for my numbness in life and how I have lost the sense of joy in my life. During the praying session with the prayer team, sacrament of reconciliation and praying over, I gained the courage to surrender it to God and through the process, my heart for the first time, felt alive, light and peaceful.”
Priscilla Ng, 26, from the Holy Family Young Adults community in Church of the Holy Family, said the encounter left her desiring a deeper intimacy with God and to testify God’s love to others, “I have so much more desire to have a deeper relationship with God so that I can go on to spread His love to the people around me. It is only through encountering God with such intimacy can I tell people how wonderful my God is, and how beautiful His love is for all creations!”
These intimate and transformative experiences were not limited to participants. The service team members were also inspired in different ways. Esther Goh, 29, from Church of St Anthony, shared her powerful experience with the intercessory team, “Having served as a facilitator (previously), I thought that no other service team would allow me as powerful an experience as that. Yet, a single prayer is so much more powerful than any amount of human words. Intercessory made me feel so close to the other prayer warriors in the team, the participants and, most importantly, to God.”
Frances Gan, 31, from the Church of St Bernadette, strongly felt God’s love through serving her role as a facilitator, “I can say I am a witness to His love that can break down walls, heal hurts, (and) speak to souls. He also revealed my insecurities and walked me out of my inward-looking self, to see beyond, towards Him and His church.”
The next run of Treasure retreats will be in 2018, more details will be released towards the end of the year.