Holsby Winter Retreat 2017
At the moment, snow covers the ground here in Holsby and it is giving everything a wonderful wintery feel! The snow could not have come at a better time as we had our annual winter retreat last weekend with all the students. The winter retreat is a day set aside to spend time together in community, doing activities and being outdoors. We were planning on going ahead even if the weather wasn’t top notch, but a dumping of snow a few days before made it even better!
The day started after breakfast, with our students being shuttled out to the nearby village of Skirö. Table tennis, billiards and clearing an area for broomball on the lake followed as we waited for everyone to arrive. Chaos ensued as 70 people attempted to put on jackets and boots ready for our hike!
The hike took us through the forest, and the snow on the trees added beauty to our surroundings. Of course, snow on the ground meant many a snowball ambush was made as we went along, and you always had to be on the alert just in case someone jumped you with a pile of snow in their hands!
After our sack lunches, we split off into different activities in the afternoon. Some braved the cold to play ice hockey and broomball on the village’s frozen lake. Others opted to stay inside and were kept busy playing table tennis, chess or spending time chatting and fellowshipping with one another. A group also baked chocolate balls and cookies, which quickly disappeared when our mid-afternoon fika time came around!
As the afternoon progressed, the sun came out from behind the clouds and lit up a spectacular sunset. It was a privilege to be in the midst of God’s beautiful creation, watching the sun go down and making footprints in the snow.
Dinner was brought to us and we ate until our stomachs were full! What is it about the outdoors that always makes you so hungry?!
The schedule for the day was non-stop, as after dinner we heard a student testimony and prepared to play group games – family group competing against family group. Noise, laughter and true competitive spirit came out as we passed candy from person to person using raw spaghetti, did relay races and tried desperately to find that piece of information in the newspaper!
My personal highlight of the day came after the games, when we got wrapped back up again and stepped out into the moonlit night. The stars twinkled as we walked to a nearby lake, each family group holding a flaming torch to light our way (we are torchbearers, after all!). The lake was frozen, covered in snow and surrounded by forest. We stood in a circle, holding hands and singing ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Bless the Lord, My Soul’, before splitting into our family groups and lighting Chinese lanterns. Stood there together, in unity, watching our lanterns rise, was a memory to cherish. We watched as they floated up and became the size of the stars (at least, most of them floated up. My family group’s lantern rose, then promptly caught fire and descended quickly). But being stood there, each family group together with one another, was just special.
Those who have been in Holsby often comment on the community that is felt here. And on a day to day basis, our community is strong and together. But there are also the moments when you really stop and thank God that you are here, in this moment, with His people. And that night was one of them. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!’ Psalm 133:1