“I’ll tell you about it on the testimony retreat.” “Just wait for the testimony retreat, I’ll explain more.” “I don’t want to explain this before the testimony retreat.” These phrases peppered our casual conversations, as we tip-toed around, attempting to get to know one another before we knew where we came from. We had been told to prepare to tell our stories three weeks into the program, on a weekend called “Testimony Retreat.” I knew that this would be a sweet time of learning each other’s stories, and attempting to have a better grasp on how to enter into one’s own story. However, I am not one for small talk--so cutting real conversations short with the excuse of “you’ll hear about it on the testimony retreat” was getting somewhat old.
In the days leading up to this retreat, there was much conversation about how to share our stories. The Fellows spanned across the spectrum of confident to scared, knowing the reality of the intimacy of becoming known. In my opinion, some of the conversations before the retreat were just as crucial as the actual retreat. Times of question, intentional thought behind one’s own story, and careful consideration of how to portray a lifetime of moments in 20 short minutes caused each Fellow to think individually about where they had been and where they are going. The great intentionality behind this retreat was evident in the way that Fellows thoughtfully considered their lives before declaring their story in front of a group of people.
The actual time of hearing each other's stories was incredibly rich, as each Fellow individually portrayed what they felt like were the most important parts of their being. We sat for hours on end, looking through pictures, laughing, crying, and praying for one another as these God-given stories unfolded before us. There was a sense of relief, at least for me, in feeling known. A threshold was broken as each story was told.
This retreat was merely a platform for the rest of these 9 months together. As we continue to journey towards whom God has created each of us to be, this retreat will serve as a backdrop to love, care, and understand each other better. It was an undeniably meaningful and beautiful weekend of sorting through where the great God of this universe has blessed us, taught us, and most importantly rescued us.
And in deep relief, I will never have to hear the phrase “you’ll hear about it on the testimony retreat,” again.
--Katie Randazzo (Fellows '15)