‘Living as Exiles’ at the Surge discipleship retreat

By Elizabeth Schaible | Mar 8, 2022

A total of 217 people, including international students from 16 countries, came together from across the state for Christian Challenge’s annual collegiate Surge discipleship retreat. The event was held at United Christian Youth Camp in Prescott Feb. 18-20.

One of the students, from a country closed to the gospel, gave his life to Christ at the retreat.

Surge is “a catalyst for helping students connect to God through worship, Bible, teaching and community,” said Jeff Mashaw, Christian Challenge AZ southern regional catalyst and leader of the discipleship team that planned the retreat.

After last year’s virtual approach to the event due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, spirits were high as students once again experienced in-person fellowship while learning about the theme of the retreat, “Living as Exiles.”

Chad Murrell, keynote speaker of the event and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Scottsdale, emphasized that living as an exile on earth requires understanding that our primary “citizenship” does not belong to the world, but rather in heaven living with Christ.

While the world will inflict pain and suffering on us, there is always a cause for celebration because of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, Murrell said.

“There is no greater honor than to live like Jesus, even in our suffering,” Murrell said while addressing the students. “You must have the Holy Spirit working in and through you if you want to thrive as exiles.”

This year, the Surge discipleship team introduced breakout sessions for students, with topics ranging from managing finances to navigating singleness and dating as exiles.

The themes of each session were decided based on what college students and young adults typically struggle with, particularly living as an exile in this world, according to Andrew Marchbanks, campus missionary at Glendale Community College and leader of the “Spiritual Disciplines” breakout session.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the students and the questions they asked,” Marchbanks said. “I always enjoy challenging students and encouraging them in their walk with Christ, so I had a lot of fun with it.”

After the breakout sessions concluded, groups of students shared key takeaways with one another.

“I think the students felt like the sessions were useful,” Marchbanks said. “I also think it’s neat that they got to choose which ones they went to. The students resonate with having the option of where they get to go and what they get to learn about.”

Kyle Villa, a sophomore at Arizona State University, said his favorite parts of the retreat were the breakout and main sessions, while also getting to interact with his Challenge community.

”I decided to come to Surge to grow my relationships with people in Christian Challenge,” Villa said. “I feel like I already know a lot of people very well, but it allowed me to strengthen my relationships with people I don’t see very often.”

Various recreational activities, such as archery tag, zip lining and rock climbing, were open to students on the second day of the retreat. Many students used this as a chance to meet new people from other campuses.

“It’s definitely so cool getting to meet different people,” said Madelyn Carrillo, a student at Glendale Community College. “I think it makes a big difference gathering in person together.”

On the last night of the retreat, students had an opportunity to showcase their skills in a talent show, ultimately capping off the retreat with a night full of entertainment and fellowship.

“When we get together, there’s students from all the different campuses interacting, hanging out and seeing how God’s working across the state,” Mashaw said.

To learn more about Christian Challenge, visit challengeaz.com.

Elizabeth Schaible, a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, participates in Christian Challenge at the ASU Downtown Campus.

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