Running the Race

2023 Fall Retreat

You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Greetings from Kent! I’ve been watching a lot of foot races lately, as Cor is coming up on the end of his junior year season with the high school Cross Country team. He’s having a really good season, consistently getting faster over the course of the season (his personal record, or “PR,” is now down to 17 minutes and 20 seconds for a 5-kilometer, or 3.1-mile, race!). And regardless of Cor’s performance, it’s just fun to be a part of the whole experience. When I first imagined what it would be like to be a Cross Country parent, I honestly thought it would be super-boring. Like, just one quick fly-by with maybe a total of maybe five or ten seconds of watching my kid do his thing — and then he runs out of sight. I’ve learned, however, that it’s usually realistic to get four or five viewings of each individual athlete, if one plans well and is willing to do a little bit of walking. I also enjoy the way that the meets usually take place in forested areas, which allows Cross Country spectating to include elements of hiking! There’s adrenaline involved. There are elements of surprise. And the whole thing just feels more active, more involved. Cross Country spectating feels like a sport in and of itself.

Dual Cross Country Meet: Kent Roosevelt at Barberton

Anyway, I’ve recently been thinking about the way that the first month and a half of outreach at Kent State University shares a lot of parallels with Cross Country. The dates match up almost identically. And it’s an invigorating experience, “running the race” myself — but also watching other “student-athletes” navigating the course. Our team with H2O Church at Kent State University has been especially strong this Fall! We just got back from our Fall Retreat, which took place September 29-30 (which maybe feels sort of like the Cross Country championships that Cor will be running in the next couple of weeks?). And we’re seeing a lot of growth and joy (along with some fatigue) at the end of this fast-paced season of the year. Things really couldn’t have gone much better with our Fall Retreat. We had perfect weather with no rain, highs in the mid-70s, and lows in the upper-50s… The fall foliage seemed to be further along than usual, making things even more picturesque than usual… Considering all the different moving pieces, things went remarkably smoothly. It’s everything we could have hoped for in a Fall Retreat.

H2O Fall Retreat Photos by Jana Ozanich

H2O spends the first six weeks of the school year pulling together a random assortment of young men and young women who come from all kinds of different backgrounds. We start weaving people together through weekly worship gatherings and Life Group Bible studies on campus… But something special happens when we all get off-campus together. We’re woven together. The fabric of our community starts to become more visible, more tangible. It’s really a joy and a privilege to behold.

2023 Fall Retreat

The theme for this year’s Fall Retreat was drawn from Matthew 5, with a specific focus on verse 48, delving into God’s definition of true greatness, true success. Rollin and Rachel Mayes, from Fellowship Church at Texas A&M, shed a lot of light on what Jesus meant when he said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Ultimately, we learned, success in God’s Kingdom is acknowledgement and emulation of God’s irresistible, unstoppable, relentless goodness. It’s about keeping our hearts soft towards God and towards others, even when the world tries to harden us and dehumanize us. And I really, truly believe that we got to experience this at the Fall Retreat this year.

2023 Fall Retreat

If you want to see more pictures and read more details about our Fall Retreat, you should check out the rest of my website. Scroll around and you can find a story about a recent “Pumpkins and Pizza” event for our Life Group — where I started out grumpy but ended up happy… and a special road trip to Ashtabula County… and all the latest facts and figures for Kent State University enrollment this school year. In any event, though, I just want to say thank you for your prayer and financial support allowing us to do this work. We’ll be in touch…

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