As I mentioned in my previous blog post, this summer, I attended a week long service retreat called Gospel Roads. A service retreat is different from a typical retreat in the sense that in addition to spiritually nourishing activities, we also go out and serve in the community. I have been meaning to write about it and here it is so yay! (I’m sorry it’s an essay, it is so long but it’s honest and sincere)
I will start this reflection by recounting an encounter between me and a friend Elias a few weeks ago, September 9th to be precise. I went to a job fair in West Vancouver and I was trying to catch a bus downtown to go to Crestwell (Opus Dei Centre) for the weekly meditations. As I was by the bus stop, a guy was asking people around for whoever could spare him 2 dollars and 50 cents. Prior to attending Gospel Roads, I would have just said ‘Sorry, I don’t have‘ without even checking my wallet, after all, I am always broke myself but I decided to check my wallet and lo and behold, I had a 2 dollar coin and I gave it to the man. He thanked me and asked the person beside me if they could spare 50 cents. I checked my wallet again and I gave him the 50 cents. He thanked me profusely and said that he’s really grateful. He was like, ‘After you gave me 2 dollars, I felt like it would be too much to ask for 50 cents also but I am really grateful for this money‘ and his eyes and smile showed that he was really sincere. At this point, he started to tell me about his day, he is a baker and trying to get back on his feet. He was actually just coming back from a job interview but he’s not sure how it went.
So I said “I will pray for you” and he was so surprised, then he asked “Are you in touch with God or something”
To that, I replied, “Well. Yeah, I am Catholic” and he smiled and gave me a hug saying “You’re my sister, I am Orthodox Christian” He also spoke about the openness of us Catholics nowadays (he referred to himself as a Catholic too!) which I will not dwell upon but I was really touched by that encounter. Unfortunately, my bus came so our conversation had to be cut short and he said I could find him on Facebook with his name Elias but despite my great stalking skills, I have not been able to find my friend and brother in Christ. So all I can do now is pray and hope that he’s doing great and has a good job 🙂
So back to Gospel Roads, I wasn’t really sure if I should attend or not but I was in need of a distraction from my life and I was tired of being responsible for my own cooking so I signed up for it (I kid you not). Shout out to my big sister Olamide who sponsored my retreat fees and my other expenses. You’re the best ❤
The day before the retreat, I woke up to find my right leg swollen and I saw the doctor that day but we couldn’t find anything wrong. I was really tempted to cancel due to health reasons but I also received some news which I didn’t like that day. So I said to myself, “you had better leave this room if you know what’s best for you if not you will just be here moping and crying over spilled milk”.
Also on the day before the retreat, I got a phone interview for a job that I really wanted and I was asked to come in for a group interview that Tuesday. I mentioned that I would be unavailable for the coming week and the person on the other end said that it was their hope to finish hiring in the following week so I might or might not get the chance again. I decided to take a leap of faith and still attend the retreat anyways but I wasn’t 100% sure of my decision.
So on Saturday afternoon, I packed (LOL) and carried myself to the venue, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Surrey.
When I got there, they were playing some icebreaker games and I halfheartedly took part in them because I really don’t like playing games (It sounds so weird, I know but if you want to know why ask me in person!). But the people were so nice and sincere so it was actually fun. Then we learned about the Salesians(Salesianity 101) and Gospel Roads in general. Then they told us that we should “Participate and not anticipate“ so no schedules would be given out. I was like are these people even prepared and are they just covering up with that statement. (LOL I am very sorry to the organizers, I cannot control my thoughts sometimes).
At night, we went to the chapel where we had a reflection/meditation. This meditation actually went straight for my heart. (It’s also the only one I wrote down)
This was the reflection song ‘Lead me to the cross’
This question was asked “What crosses do you have to carry?”
And the priest also said something along these lines
“If you feel like you are close to God,welcome, this retreat is for you”
“If you feel like you are distant from God, welcome, this retreat is for you”
“No matter where you are right now, welcome, this retreat is for you”
Look to Jesus and say : Jesus, I love you too.
Dang, my heart! That night, in my private Novena , I read this quote which tied in so well with our reflection
“Jesus suffers to carry out the will of the Father. And you, who also want to carry out the most holy Will of God, following the steps of the Master, can you complain if you meet suffering on your way?” The Way 213, St Josemaria
We slept in the convent for the week and I just want to mention that it has the best washroom I have been to on a retreat. There was an actual bathtub which I did not expect. and shout out to Lozel for getting the chair I requested even though I eventually didn’t need it and for all the sacrifices that she and Mitchel made. You are the real MVPs.
The next day was Sunday, we had early morning mass. God knows when last I was awake at that time on a Sunday(I go to 1pm mass, lol) Then we went to Amazing Race. Ah Amazing Race! Honestly, if I had gone to a school frosh or something and they mentioned amazing race, I wouldn’t even dream of showing up but since it was Gospel Roads, I was like, I might as well participate and not anticipate. The riddles were so much fun. My goodness, I loved the riddles so much! The first couple of places were fun to get to but after a while, I got really tired and my right leg actually started to hurt. I was really impressed with my group members #TeamRua for being so considerate and taking the bus even when they could walk. We went to all the places 🙂 but we were super late in getting to the meeting point 😦 We wore our gospel roads shirt as we were running around Vancouver which brought some attention, people were asking what we were part of etc generally good attention but unfortunately, while we were close to Insite, some guy swore at us. Also, when we were on the bus, there was a surprise check by Translink officials, still don’t know if it was because of the shirts or not. LOL
Photos belong to Mariel C.
The last place was the laughing statues but I was too worn out to think of pictures. Thankfully, I had panadol and my iron pills which I refused to take earlier in my bag so Elizabeth got water for me from Jasmin and I took them & felt much better. That was when Elizabeth told me the Blessed Micheal Rua joke because she was in TeamRua in Toronto if I am not mistaken. Shout out to Mitchel for convincing me that a cab was part of their budget and getting me one back to the sky-train station and to JI and James for keeping me company. I don’t remember what else we did on Sunday but I think it might have involved a talk and the daily reflection/meditation.
On Monday, my group Team Rua went to Salvation Army and we helped prepare lunch and ate with the clients. [I will not share the stories of my encounter there because I know we signed long forms which I did not read and I don’t want to break the rules] They gave us lunch so my group took our previously packed lunches and gave them out. There was this nice old guy who said “Do you think I will turn down food” and told us how he is waiting until Thursday for his pension so he really appreciated the lunch. We met the Missionaries of Charity and they gave us Blessed Mother Teresa medals and great resources.
Photos belong to Mariel C
After that, we went all the way to Abbotsford for a pro-life training session and we did a life chain and clipboarded after. Life chain is holding up signs that show the value and joy of choosing life. Clip boarding is holding a clipboard and asking people what they think about abortion laws. Hint: Canada has no abortion laws. Most of the responses were pro-life views and I think that has to do with the neighborhood. Most of the people we met are young families and so on. That’s just my opinion 🙂 Then back to Surrey and evening events as usual.
On Tuesday, my group went to the monastery in Mission. Apparently, we were supposed to do some environmental cleanup but something prevented that from happening last minute. I personally was so glad that we got to go to the abbey 🙂 We reflected on creation and what are we doing to safeguard God’s creatures and we did a scavenger hunt like thing. Shout out to James
Last three pictures belong to Mariel C
I also think Wednesday night was the night that we had a vocations panel. We had a married couple, a single missionary, two priests and two missionaries of charities sisters talk to us about vocations.
Photo 1 belongs to Mariel C and Photo 2 belongs to Mitchel R
On Thursday, we went to Surrey Food Bank. We helped sort out the food and we also helped to distribute. It broke my heart when a couple came in to ask if there was a birthday cake they could have for their son. Some things we take for granted mean a lot to someone else. The Foodbank people said that our group was the best. Haha, I hope they didn’t tell everyone the same thing. Anyways to celebrate, my team had a bit of bonding time in the park.
On Thursday evening, we had adoration and confession/chatting/spiritual direction with priests. This was a very precious time for me and all I was saying in my head was “I shall not cry”. It was very reflective, personal, sad, joyful, so many feelings rolled up in my little heart during this time. My life as I knew it fell apart on August 20th 2014 and the past year has been trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild it to something that follows God’s will, something that will bring me true and lasting joy. My heart has actually been very very numb the past months because it is just too painful for me to feel things so I trained myself to be numb. I didn’t feel pain, or joy or whatever. To top it all, in the time earlier this year that I felt joy and happiness, my health, one of my strongest points, fell apart. For these excuses and so-called reasons, I ran from God and decided not to reflect…Hence my lack of posts on this blog. I constantly filled myself with goals and distractions(Going to the retreat was actually a means of distraction). However, that Thursday night, I could run no more, I had to give in to Christ and from that night till I left all I wanted to do was just sit down and have a good cry but as I said, my motto was “I shall not cry” That night, I reflected on the events of the past year and I was really grateful for all what God has done for me and I was filled with a renewed sense of hope.
Picture belongs to Mariel C
Friday we did a backpack run.Team Savio and Team Ruvio were together so we became team Ruvio. Lol. We made about 200 sandwiches of various kinds and took it to people who needed it downtown. Everything was gone in less than 40 minutes. We also had very very interesting conversations and unfortunately, we met some people after all our food had finished. One thing that really inspired me was how the people we were serving kept saying “God bless” and how most people just wanted to talk. It just really warmed my heart. I asked someone “Would you like a sandwich’ and she started telling me about how she was waiting for a friend whose mum had just passed away and her own mum passed away last year too and she basically narrated her life story. I enjoyed simply listening and being present to her. She just wanted to talk but didn’t have who to speak to.
I think Photos belong to Mariel C.
We went back home and had reflections at the house, prayed the rosary outside and they had a bonfire and slept outside in solidarity with the homeless. I didn’t go because everything got to me and my heart finally gave way, For the first time in forever, I cried. I don’t even know how to explain my tears because I do not know if they were out of joy or sadness or whatever. I had earlier checked the news that I had been dreading all week long and I didn’t even know if the result should make me cry or laugh, it was something different from what I expected but I wasn’t sure how to react. The only way I could react was to cry.
Saturday was the end of the retreat, we had mass and shared our thoughts about the past week. Lol I wanted to skip my turn because I really hate opening up and being vulnerable and I really didn’t know where to start but Jobelle wouldn’t let me skip. hahaha but it’s all good. We signed each other’s books and Camille and her dad gave me a ride to the Skytrain Thanks a lot Camille! (This was the day of the power outage but that is a story for another day)
I would say one thing about this group, they are an expression of God’s love. I went to Gospel Roads with no expectations and as I said I needed a distraction. I was not there to make friends or have fun or whatever, I just went to distract myself from my chaotic life. However, the people there were so loving and so genuine and just wouldn’t leave me alone, in a good way 🙂 I was the worst conversationalist most of the time because I just wanted them to get bored and leave but they didn’t. Someone said, “I hope you were able to see Christ in this experience”. Believe me, as I reflect on this now, “I do”. No matter what I do to Jesus, he always pursues me relentlessly and that is similar to my experiences with everyone at Gospel Roads especially Jasmine. Lol, if I were in her shoes, I would have given up a long long long time ago but she kept trying to get to know me. When she saw that I hated the games, she brought out cards and although I was so horrible and she was so good, it was a fun game with her and Gelai. Jasmin and Mitchel also drew pictures of my little sister when I mentioned that it was her birthday. The adults who also helped out from the parish were really awesome, I can’t believe that I forgot most of their names but I had really good conversations with them.
Also, as I said previously, I went because I didn’t feel like cooking for a while but I did not expect the food to be so good and so much. We were indeed spoiled with good food.
Lol, I had to take a picture of the spaghetti because it tasted just like Jollof Spaghetti which I ate in Louisville(Secondary school back in Nigeria) but I was told that it is Filipino Spaghetti and I just found it so amusing how we are from various ends of the earth but have the same “special dishes”
And for the first time in a long while, I was able to reflect, cry and journal which to me was very rare. My heart had slowly started to heal.
Also the music was THE BEST!!!!! I usually write song names down and look them up later but somehow, I forgot to do this at Gospel Roads but I will never forget “Why“, “None but Jesus“, “Heaven“, “You are Holy(Prince of peace)” and many many more awesome songs. Gail, Jamin and Mitchel you guys are so talented!
Shout-out to everyone at Gospel Roads: Norene(thanks for surprisingly being nice to me. JK, you’re always nice to me) , Camille (You’re so cool, let’s hang out sometime but you can’t stab me though. Lol. We can trade OR stories, you as a nursing student and me as a patient), Jasmin(Artist, Musician, World traveler, You’re so multi-talented and super patient, Oh, the place’s you’ll go, my friend), Dave(HAPPY BIRTHDAY. LOL, You’re awesome, See you around SFU), Andre(Your laughter OMG and I can never forget your reaction to 30 cows, 28 chicken, who didn’t? It was so epic!!! All the best with George Brown) , Elaine(My Goodness, you are always so full of energy ❤ and so upbeat and passionate about animals. All the best with engineering at UBC, Go take over the world ) , Lozel (we already know you are superwoman in disguise ❤ You’re the best!) , Bonita (I love you Bonita! ❤ I won’t deny my love for you anymore), Diego(you’re amazing, maybe we’ll see each other at Campus events), Ben( The quiet and famous Ben, I won’t be surprised if some people form a Fan club for you. haha You rock), JoBelle(I really enjoyed all our conversations, you’re awesome), Agnes (not Monica 😉 thanks for keeping up with my sass, hahaha) , Alison (You’re so beautiful, inside and out), Tito Edzel & Tita Lolet (Thanks for being so generous, selfless and all round awesome, I had never met you before yet you always treated me with such kindness and love), Jc (The coolest Escala, haha sorry for always calling you Lozel, Boyz to Boyz is so cool hahaha),JP( I know you didn’t officially do Gospel Roads but you’re too cool. Your faith and passion for God is so awesome, all the best with your discernment and I know that God will continue to do amazing things through you), JI(Even though I met you through CFC Youth Campus-based…you probably don’t remember but I gave you my camp form at the IFC…Anyways, this weekend really made me know you better and just how amazing you are, James(You are one of a kind, so patient and so smart and a great leader, I really enjoyed the final discussion that we had on Friday between You, Charlotte and I, I was able to learn more about you and the awesomeness that is James) , Brian(You’re a great person and very determined. I will never forget how you made a resolution during push ups and pull ups and you fulfilled it the very next day), Elizabeth(My gosh, you already know that I love you but I’ll say it again, I love you Elizabeth you’re so cool. Although it’s a struggle for you to pronounce my name. Hahaha Actually I didn’t even know how to pronounce my name before until my grandmother made sure I learnt the correct pronunciation so it’s okay :)), Lorrenz(I really love your sense of humor! You’re super fun to be with), Mitchel(Your patience and selflessness is out of this world, You’re the world’s busiest person yet you go out of your way to help everyone! You’re super amazing! Thanks for listening to my rants and helping me get my transcripts), Jermie(You’re sweet and soooo cute), Llib(I really enjoyed all you shared during our group discussions, you have a gift for telling good stories), Pocholo(You’re fantastic, I actually thought that you knew everyone way before gospel roads cause you were so cool with everyone but now, I know that you didn’t. You’re just awesome like that), Kaye(I met you on the first day and to be honest, meeting you actually made me have a good impression about Gospel Roads, You’re a wonderful person), Nathalie(aka Nia! You’re awesome, I love you, Thanks for trying very hard to pronounce my name and keeping up with me. God bless), Adrian(You’re so much fun! And so mature),Michael(Future saint Michael, patron saint of politeness!) Gail(Change your ways, Just kidding! It was so fun to tease you about your brother 😉 You’re so smart, funny and talented) , Charlotte(You’re awesome! I really really enjoyed all our time together all the time because you’re so much fun to talk to and you definitely know the most about my life and my ‘epic one liners’ no one else heard. LOL., Janica(You’re beautiful and your heart is so amazing & generous), Gelai(my dearest friend, you’re so considerate and you kept asking me to rate GR. Hahaha, I hope we see each other sometime and say hi to Fey) Brittany(Blueberry, haha I’m sorry that Mariel didn’t fall for your prank, lol. You’re one of the most fun people I’ve met and there’s never a dull moment with you. Keep being awesome) , Katrina(You’re so cute and so sweet! I really enjoyed being in you & Elaine’s discussion groups ) Fr Jim (You’re amazing!! Thank you for being a great father and your homilies and talks were always on point) Mariel (You’re the best! I really enjoyed all our conversations, your song collection and being on your team was great. Also, your prank on the girls was TOO EPIC. Maybe we’ll meet again through our Salesian or CCO fam, who knows :)), and all the Titos and Titas who helped out, you’re all living Christs and so awesome ❤
Philippians 1:3 ‘I thank my God every time I remember you’
Peace, Love & Joy,