Bluefield, VA – The college years are a time for students to develop their strengths and define their purpose. Dr. Drew Moser and Dr. Debby White aided Bluefield University students with that process during the Retreat on Calling at Camp Eagle on Thursday, March 31, and Friday, April 1.
“Overall, I thought the retreat was phenomenal!” shared BU student Mark Clary. “The food was good, the activities were exciting, the lessons were enlightening, and the fellowship was unmatched!”
Students participated in several group and breakout sessions with Dr. Moser and Dr. White throughout Thursday and Friday. The first group sessions of each day began with worship music led by Bluefield University students Mason West and Andre Souza.
Dr. Moser is the Director of Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Development (MAHE) Initiatives at Taylor University. At the retreat, he encouraged students to build their identity on a biblical foundation, consider present—not only future—applications for their strengths, and adopt a mindset that promotes growth.
“Identity, purpose, and direction are really the three pillars of vocation,” said Dr. Moser. “They are opportunities to explore life’s biggest questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?”
“Dr. Moser encouraged me to follow after God here and now with the areas of my influence,” student Kiri Gilbert said. “He outlined how we are all parts of different circles where our talents and gifts can be used by God daily.”
“I learned that, more often than not, calling is sometimes not as direct as we want it to be,” added Mark Clary. “He used the analogy of a road map versus a direct route given by one’s cell phone. In life, sometimes we have to follow the guidance of the Lord but plot out our own path as we go instead of relying on blatant signs of what we are supposed to do. Go with the basics, and the specifics will work out.”
Before the retreat, Bluefield University students completed the CliftonStrengths assessment, which uses Don Clifton’s research to determine what people naturally do well. These positive elements of human behavior are expressed in 34 themes categorized into four domains: Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing, and Executing.
Dr. White is a Gallup Professional Trainer for CliftonStrengths and the former Dean of the Vocation and Calling Center at Lee University. She detailed the 34 themes and encouraged Bluefield University students to develop and apply their strengths rather than focus on what others do better.
“Everyone has different strengths, and you can use each strength to work together and make a great group,” said student Andrew LaPan. “Each strength is a blessing.”
On Thursday afternoon, students engaged in outdoor activities, such as ziplining, basketball, and spike ball.
“One of my favorite parts of the retreat was when my group went ziplining, and as we were in the middle of the woods, a hailstorm came! We continued to zipline, though,” Abby Gasperson said. “After ziplining, we all wanted to get the full experience of the retreat, so we decided to go down the waterslide (fully clothed) into the creek that was freezing!”
Gilbert, who also ziplined in the hailstorm and went down the waterslide, described it as “one of the most exhilarating experiences of (her) life.”
Thursday’s activities concluded with a bonfire, fellowship time, and night paintball. At the bonfire, West and Souza led worship leading up to messages from Dr. Moser and Dr. Henry Clary, professor of Christian Studies at Bluefield University. Afterward, some students competed in paintball while other students played board games in the coffee shop.
After the sessions on Friday, students competed in the Amazing Race. They were assigned to teams and given various tasks to complete, such as starting a fire and getting water to boil, to earn points. The winning team received Camp Eagle mugs and stickers.
“I think that it was a great retreat,” shared student Gabrielle Courtney. “I think it calmed me down about my future (and) future plans.”
“I was motivated to attend the retreat because I was curious to see how God moves people during those times,” said Andrea Stinson, BU student and assistant basketball coach. “I had never gone on a retreat until last week. I was very moved by the messages that the speakers delivered.”
“It has been our hope that students have received affirmation for their God-gifted strengths and a deeper sense of vocational calling to a purposeful life as a servant leader,” said Dr. Marshall Flowers, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Bluefield University, before quoting Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
The retreat was made possible by the Council of Independent College’s Network for Vocation in Higher Education (NetVUE) grant initiative funded by the Eli Lilly Endowment Inc. The NetVUE team has invited Bluefield University to apply for the “Reframing the Institutional Saga” grant by August 2022.
“I’ve received personal feedback from several students indicating that the retreat helped them to begin to put things together in their minds regarding future vocational calling,” Dr. Clary said. “Given the positive feedback, it seems good to initiate a plan to host such an event every two years or so where we might invite especially juniors and seniors to come away for two to three days to think deeply and pray purposefully that the Lord guide their steps in life and vocation.”
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