Christian Challenge’s Surge retreat focuses on “Love in Action”

By Ellie Lambert, Photos by Christian Challenge | Mar 7, 2023

In order for us to act on God’s love, we must first be delivered from our love of darkness. Jesus delivers us, and his love propels us to love others. This was the all-encompassing theme of this year’s Surge.

Surge is Christian Challenge’s annual collegiate retreat, serving both as a catalyst for spiritual growth and a support to discipleship in the local church. Surge accomplishes this through the preaching of God’s Word, worship, small group discussions and connecting students to authentic community.

This year, more than 200 students from 13 different college campuses across Arizona gathered for Surge at Granite Hills Retreat and Conference Center in Prescott Feb. 17-19. At least two students made professions of faith in Christ during the weekend.

“Discipleship in my mind is never done until it has been replicated,” said Jeff Mashaw, Christian Challenge southern regional catalyst and leader of the discipleship team that plans Surge. “What motivates our team is to see students actually changed and have ministry on campus be dramatically furthered.”

Gary Derbyshire, senior pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, served as this year’s keynote speaker. He led students through what it looks like to “Love in Action” according to the letter of 1 John.

Derbyshire’s animated and gifted speaking helped students understand the importance of the Gospel through the lens of love while also delivering convicting truths. In a world where love is distorted to mean everything from tolerance to personal opinions, the time is ripe to learn what the Bible says about love and how Christians are to walk in God’s love for them and be that love to others.

“God’s love doesn’t just reach us where we are but also has the power to not let us stay there,” Derbyshire said while addressing the students.

Continuing the model Challenge adopted at last year’s Surge, campus missionaries directed various breakout sessions further exploring the topic of love in action.

These missionaries spoke on overcoming darkness from both a male and female perspective. Topics included: loving God with everything including our finances, fellowship while unmarried and how to navigate the topic of love, sex, and gender while living in this world and engaging with others.

Arizona State University campus missionary Isabel Han led a session on abiding in God. Her goal was to help students identify and grow in spiritual disciplines.

“A lot of students wrestle with living in the light versus the darkness, but I think especially college students,” Han said. “Everyone on campus is telling you the opposite of what God and the Bible is telling you.”

Han had students from various campuses in her session participate in a hands-on activity to discover what the Bible says about spiritual disciplines.

“We can easily try to see the spiritual disciplines as a checklist and I wanted to avoid that,” Han said.

According to Han, abiding in God through spiritual disciplines like fasting, Scripture memory and prayer is a way God can grow us and help us align our hearts with His.

For Harrison Fink, a freshman at Arizona State University, Surge was a practical step in continued obedience to Christ.

“I wanted to help improve my relationship with the Lord and thought Surge was a great next step.” Fink said.

Fink grew up in a Christian household and has been attending church all his life. Becoming a part of Christian community on campus and furthering his understanding of God through discipleship helped him to grow in ways he had never been able to before.

“I learned it’s great to have fellowship and have people hold you accountable to keep you from living in the darkness,” Fink said.

Various game rooms and recreational activities provided opportunities for campuses to intermingle and bond. Many students were also given the opportunity to explore downtown Prescott and engage in local hiking trails. On the last night of the retreat, students showcased their unique skills at the annual Challenge’s Got Talent show.

Surge challenges students to leave transformed and on mission for the Gospel. Student’s left inspired to love in action on their college campuses as a result of this year’s retreat.

Ellie Lambert is a Christian Challenge missionary serving at Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix.

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