Picture summer camp: the cafeteria trays, the bunk beds, dirt roads and gorgeous mountain views.

I hadn’t attended summer camp in about 20 years, and had been looking forward to the weekend for months. More than anything, I was hopeful that there would be opportunities to have unhurried conversations with other women. And, the topic for the weekend was “Heart Transformation.” I could use a little heart transformation.

The retreat center was rustic, the weather was cool and the view of the mountains was beautiful. It TOTALLY felt like summer camp! Even though we were only two hours from home, the setting (and bad cell phone service!) really felt like an escape from the busyness of normal life.

Weekend activities included: a nature hike, a trip to town, an extremely lively game night and a dance party.

As I had hoped, there were lots of opportunities to connect. Mealtimes were a great time to get to know new women, and on Saturday afternoon, many of the women from my cabin piled onto a couple of bunk beds and the floor nearby, and talked. We laughed and ate Cheetos, talking about our best ever Halloween costumes and significant struggles and many things in between.

But the weekend wasn’t all fun and Cheetos. The teaching time from Jody Graham and Crystal Unrau was helpful and insightful. On Saturday morning, Jody shared about how God uses problems and pain to reveal what is in our hearts. We move through life with our own ideas and plans, but when we encounter problems, God reveals heart issues in ourselves that we couldn’t see. And, as we persevere through trouble, God shapes our values and forms our character. I was encouraged to remember that the challenges I face are one of the greatest opportunities I have to grow and be made more like Christ.

On Sunday morning, Crystal shared about the importance of being a good listener if we want to help others to change. Before we speak into a person’s life, we must choose to love them and spend time entering into their world. We must understand them enough to know what change is needed. Only then should we share truthful insights with them, and help them figure out how to take the next step.

The weekend passed quickly, and soon it was time to head home. I left the retreat center feeling encouraged, more deeply connected to my community, and motivated to go home and apply what I had learned. It truly was a wonderful weekend.

Written by Laura Hoover