As part of the University of Toronto Chinese Christian Fellowship’s extensive history, the vision for a winter retreat is built upon and centered around satisfying two key aims – to offer a weekend of rest amidst a taxing time of year as well as to encourage our fellowship (give or take 100 people) to further develop consistent, supportive, and long-lasting relationships. From transportation, lodging, and headcounts having to be finalized to the training of new leaders for small groups, games, and musical worship, planning for the retreat required organization, accountability, and harmony within the leadership committee as well as between the committee and the rest of the fellowship. In hindsight, the effort put into the conception and execution of the retreat only acts as a platform. The beauty of the retreat stems from small organic occurrences throughout – in which love and care rooted in Christ can be witnessed.
In my four years at UTCCF, I have witnessed leaders come and go – each having led the fellowship with different leadership styles. Subsequently, I have seen the fellowship develop and further itself each year. As a first year, I used to wonder, “What makes it worth it?” – pertaining to the time and effort spent on planning for what seemed like nothing more than just social events for an extracurricular club. After having since then scaled up in my commitments within the fellowship and even now serving on its committee, I can say that without a doubt, this fellowship is more than just a club. Through my experiences within CCF, I have been able to mentor as well as be mentored, learned to give and receive love in ways and situations that were new to me, and also appreciate both my strengths and weaknesses. As my time at CCF comes to a close, my only regrets are the times when I withheld part of myself from the fellowship, its opportunities, and its people – because I know it has never withheld from me.
So, going back to winter retreat, this year’s theme was “Family Feels.” Through our sessions, small groups, and games, we sought to enforce the idea of building a community that loves selflessly and supports consistently. Over the course of the retreat, I remember being taken aback by the love that was so apparent in our fellowship. With countless people coming to the aid of one that had severely injured herself, tending to her needs as well as helping her get to and from different places of the retreat; vulnerability and the willingness to share their lives to unfamiliar people; tears being shed while hearing the struggles of others; reconciliation in relationships that once seemed hopeless; etc., there is beauty to be found in our community.
So what makes leadership worth it? It is these moments – moments when you realize that your efforts are amounting to something greater. To see situations that seem impersonal on paper take root and transform into something more meaningful is part of the joy of serving. The sooner you realize that these endeavors are changing people’s university experiences for the better and understand the joys of offering community to someone who has been yearning for belonging, the sooner you will come to love what you do. As part of a 50-year legacy, UTCCF depends on people who because they were first shown love and care, feel the need to give back to the fellowship and thus, continue the cycle. So if you are a leader or if leadership is something that you are thinking about, I am sure I speak for my whole committee when I say that it is an extremely rewarding experience. You will be pushed and pulled in every direction and there will be many challenges, but you will come out of leadership having made close friends, confidence in your capabilities, and appreciation for the entire process.
So, if you are on the fence regarding leadership in any capacity, DO IT! Or if you are just feeling inclined to join an on-campus group or fellowship, take the leap! Allow yourself to be loved. You won’t regret it
WRITTEN BY: Ivanne Cheng, University of Toronto Chinese Christian Fellowship (UTCCF)