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March 30, 2022

CU Caritas Refreshed from Leadership Retreat

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

Firefall is a natural phenomenon that occurs in a brief window of time each winter at Yosemite National Park in Northern California. From mid to late February, the water cascading down Horseshoe Falls takes on the appearance of orange fire for about ten minutes during sunset.

On President’s Day weekend of 2022, Christian Union Caritas was blessed to experience Firefall on the ministry’s leadership retreat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Justin Woyak, Christian Union’s ministry director at Stanford, and student leaders were likewise encouraged to bask in the presence of the Lord and Holy Spirit fire that warms and re-energizes the soul.

1 A Caritas Mountains

“We saw Firefall on El Capitan, hiked together, and meditated on the power and beauty of God’s Word and our need to encourage and be encouraged by one another in Christ daily,” said Woyak. “We prayed, spent time alone with God, and enjoyed great food. We are thankful for the refreshment and refocusing we experienced."

Claire Neely Muscat ’22 commented on how times of reflection and meditating on Scripture in the sereness of the mountains made quite an impact.

“The retreat had so many wonderful moments, but I think the highlight for me happened on Sunday morning. After we had a time of worship, Justin gave a short exhortation from Hebrews 3, and we were encouraged to spend time individually with the Lord,” she said. “I often struggle with taking time to be still, be in the presence of the Lord, and prayerfully consider His Word on my own.”

“It was so refreshing to have time to go outside and just sit, read [the Bible], and be intentional and attentive to what the Lord might be trying to communicate to me. The Lord was so gracious to meet me and remind me of the importance of making time to sit and be still and know.”

Rachel Stutz ’22 also appreciated the times of reflection on the retreat and how the Holy Spirit can speak through Scripture. For her, the highlight of the trip was witnessing a beautiful sunset on the drive back to campus.

“We had just left the retreat house and were winding down into the valley as the sun was setting, and the view was so breathtaking that we stopped our car to admire the view,” she said. “One of the students in our car started singing a worship song, and soon we all joined in, praising God for the glory that we were witnessing in His creation. It was probably the most beautiful sunset I've seen in my life, and I was able to stand and watch it while audibly praising God with my friends around me.”

Once they returned to campus, students with CU Caritas resumed the normal rhythms of academic life, Christian Union Bible courses, corporate prayer times, and the desire to be salt and light on campus.

“I'm so grateful for CU Caritas and look forward to diving deeper into Scripture alongside some of my dearest friends as we seek to know the Lord and share His gospel on our campus,” said Muscat, a Computer Science and Bio-computation major from Tujunga, California.

Additionally, Muscat has appreciated the one-on-one mentoring from Woyak and Ministry Fellow Susan Brown, the rigorous, thought-provoking CU Bible courses, and Rooted, a morning prayer gathering hosted by Caritas.

“Rooted is a wonderful way to start the day by reading a passage and then sharing requests and coming before the Lord in prayer,” she said. “It has allowed me to know what is going on in the lives of my brothers and sisters and has given me a space to be  intentional about praying for my campus.”

Stutz, an Engineering Physics major from Leawood, Kansas, noted how CU Caritas has been “incredibly instrumental” in her spiritual growth and leadership development over the last few years. Whether it’s the recent retreat at Yosemite or daily life at Stanford, the vibrant Christian community of CU Caritas has made a significant difference in her life.

“From the first time I attended a CU event, I have felt embraced by the community, and having the support and encouragement of other Christians has really empowered me to seek God more,” Stutz said. “I have been able to see strong examples of others living out their faith on Stanford's campus, and they have inspired me to be bolder in living out my own faith. I would not be the Christian I am today without many of the people I've met through CU Caritas.”

RELATED: Want to go deeper in your faith? Click here to receive a free download of Christian Union’s "Seeking God Lifestyle” Bible Course Manual.