Students bond at FCA Retreat

Expressing life-long fears, hiking up a waterfall at the break of dawn, and finding a deeper connection with God are just some of the many experiences at last month’s Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) retreat, an adventure for several Upper School students. The trip was held at Enota Mountain Retreat in Hiawassee, GA, on Oct. 17 and 18 for a weekend filled with bonding activities, Bible studies, and inspiring speeches.

With many of the senior participants having attended the trip for four consecutive years, students agree that the trip held a special meaning. Many seniors treasured every moment to bond and appreciate their last moments on this FCA retreat.

During a break, senior FCA leader John Farley and his friends had the opportunity to explore the camp’s beauties.

“There was a pretty cool waterfall, and on Sunday morning at eight a few sophomores and I went up to the waterfall,” said Farley. “It was a great way to start our day.”

Senior Lily Morgan shared a similar memorable experience during the trip. The students were split into small Bible studies based on age and gender to discuss and strengthen their relationship with God and with each other. Morgan found incredible support and encouragement in her senior girls Bible study.

“We sat in a circle and everyone said their biggest insecurity and the person next to them gave that person a compliment,” said Morgan. “This opened my eyes up to what my peers were going through and it also made me appreciate that group of girls a lot more.”

Despite it being their first year on the trip, the freshman girls also became incredibly close thanks to the trip’s welcoming and faithful atmosphere.

“It was great to become friends with people that I never thought I would become friends with,” said freshman Virginia Harrison.

The freshman group of about 15 notes the friendships made during the retreat.

“I cried with people I thought I would never cry with before,” said Harrison.

Before the girls even grouped into their Bible studies, a guest speaker delivered a sermon and lesson to all students.

“He gives a talk in the morning on Saturday, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning, and we sang praise and worship songs with him before each talk,” said senior FCA leader Annabel Farley.

Students agree that these speeches and prayers gave meaning to all of the Bible study talks and waterfall hikes, and that the speaker connected how many of the students feel every day with a message from God.

“I learned a lot about how my faith in God is incorporated into my relationships with other people and everyday life,” said freshman Kate Carson. “The speaker helped me realize this.”

Both bonding and Christian connections are some of the reasons that seniors like Annabel Farley continue to attend the trip. The retreat also represents a time for the students to relax and take a step back from the school year. Students repeatedly come back because the trip is more than a one-time learning opportunity. Many learn something new each year.

“In the middle of October, [the retreat] is such a nice break from the school year,” said Annabel Farley. “I come back to strengthen my relationship with God and my friends but also to just have fun in nature!”

Annabel Farley, John Farley, and Morgan decided to invest even more and applied to be leaders of the trip for their senior year. They are part of an organization known as CLC, or Christian Life Committee, and plan events like Friday Morning Fellowship, Bible studies, mission trips, and the FCA retreat.

“I had so much fun participating since freshman year that I wanted to be more of a part of it,” said Morgan.

These seniors were hard at work planning and coordinating to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. They met to discuss the specific schedules and activities for the retreat. Specifically, they worked to ensure that the bonding activities address the interests of the students.

“We have been planning since the beginning of the year for the retreats,” said Morgan.

The leaders do not work alone. Faculty including Juliet Allan and Woodrow Barnes helped them lead the retreat activities, and most importantly, create the type of experience that students wish to attend time and time again.

According to Carson, the trip accomplished this goal because of the people, atmosphere, and learning experience.

“I would love to go back next year,” said Carson.“There is so much more I want to learn about myself and God.”

Students that were unable to participate on this retreat will have the opportunity to go in the spring. Senior Billy McGahan, among others, is looking forward to attending the retreat next semester.

Morgan thinks that the trip is something everyone should try at least once, and invites students to explore attending in the spring.

“Especially if you are a Christian, you will learn a lot from this trip,” said Morgan. “The leaders are still planning for the spring, but be on the lookout for information about the next retreat.”