More Experience Tucson responses. Today is Amanda Davis-centric. We have Andy Coley’s interview with Ms. Davis, as well as her written words on how the weekend’s messages and activities built on each other in her head.
Going into Experience Tucson, I think a lot of the participants weren’t really sure what to expect. It was the first time the event had taken place and the first time any of us had been a part of something like this, and the first run-through of anything often has bugs to be worked out.
Taking it on faith, we went, we conquered (or served, in this case), and we Experienced. The retreat (I don’t really know what else to call it) went smoothly and we had a great time at the different activities. However, as pleasant as it was for the schedule to flow so well, and for us not to have to face any significant problems during the weekend, what struck me was how well the things I heard and learned, whether through specific teaching times or random conversations, fed into and built on each other to make the whole Experience meaningful.
Chad laid the foundation on Friday night. He presented us with some of the historical background of Tucson and general information about the city and then discussed how we could have a vision for and a major impact on it. With this in mind, we drove across town early the next morning to meet up with and spend most of the day with refugee kids, interacting with part of the large refugee population in Tucson that many of us had heard of through Second Mile but not actually encountered.
For the majority of our time with them we weren’t sure what the plan was—when we were picking up the kids, how we were to engage them, where we were stopping for lunch, what kind of organization there would be for transporting everyone, or when we were heading back. This forced us to depend on those in charge for direction and be open to what they told us because they had significantly more information and thus a larger picture and better plans than us. They knew what was supposed to happen and what the day would look like, and we were along for the ride. Our trust in them proved well-placed and the excursion succeeded.
It was an exciting time for us to both give of ourselves and receive from others, and I think it was rewarding for all of those affected. Those rewards have the capacity to pay dividends as we employ our new knowledge and continue to grow as individuals, as a college group, and as a church. Hopefully, we can actively engage and Experience Tucson regularly as a result of these few days, becoming more useful instruments as God continues his construction in the hearts of those around us.
After returning the kids to their respective homes and having dinner as a group, we heard from Angel. She talked about flexibility and being open to changes in our plans when God has something else in mind, which seemed very fitting considering the events in which we had all just taken part. We spent that whole day operating based on faith and trust that someone else knew better than us. It was an illustration of what Angel was saying, of what our lives might look like at some point in the future, and with such a fresh image to refer to, the message really made sense and took a better hold.
Also, seeing a different side of our city by personally encountering a foreign culture helped open our eyes and hearts to what else we might discover during the rest of the retreat, helping drive home Chad’s point from the previous night. Thus, both of the messages that we had heard so far had been emphasized and reaffirmed by the activity of the day; a few floors had been added to the construction God was working on in my heart.
On Sunday, we attended a bilingual church service in the morning—observing more of the diversity of Tucson—and Second Mile in the evening. Chad discussed investing in people and in relationships, which fit really well into one of the purposes of Experience Tucson. We were spending several days in a row with the same small group of people, so it presented a great opportunity to get to know the others around us, if we made the effort. We also had the privilege of staying with wonderful host families and experiencing the hospitality of small groups, all comprised of people we wouldn’t likely have interacted with otherwise. The sermon served as a reminder that spending time developing these relationships, both during and after the few days dedicated to this retreat, was important and helped encourage us to not allow the potential in these interactions to go to waste and the relationships themselves to fade away after the Experience ended.
The next morning’s prayer walking was the most impactful part of the Experience for me. After an explanation of prayer walking, we split up into groups of three and rode the bus to different parts of Tucson. My group went downtown. I had never ridden the bus in Tucson or been to that part of the city before, nor had I tried prayer walking prior to that time, so everything about the morning was new to me.
My group walked and prayed as we felt led for a while, but we were having some trouble with knowing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and with distractions from our busy surroundings. After a while, we decided to try just conversing, sharing previous experiences with God, times when we had seen Him working and moving.
Through this simple experience, God showed me so much. Being downtown let me see an entirely different side of Tucson, another aspect of what Chad had been relating to us on Friday. Not feeling like we knew exactly what we were doing forced us to be flexible like Angel had talked about, which was especially hard for me in that situation because I am often a rule-follower; I feel like I should follow directions explicitly, and the fact that we weren’t frustrated me a bit.
I had to make myself relax and be open to what God was doing in the other people in my group and also to what He was doing in me. Just spending time in deep discussion and sharing experiences was a great way for us to invest in each other and get to know each other better, like Chad had discussed on Sunday, and hearing the others’ stories really affected me and convicted me in some areas of my life and faith to which I might not otherwise have been open or receptive.
Besides driving the other points home, our prayer walking time helped me see how we can learn from each other, not only from direct, planned-out talks from pastors, but through our normal interactions with people, from the lessons they’ve learned and the wisdom they’ve gained on the paths where God has led them.
While this did not signal the end of the construction project for the trip, the largest part of the building had been completed. After prayer walking, we still got to serve at New Beginnings, hear great talks from Jonathan and Julie, and appreciate more time in community with each other, all of which continued to enlighten and instruct us and finish out God’s work in us for the time we were together.
Experience Tucson proved a great opportunity to get involved, go beyond the places we frequent in our daily activities, and branch out to see what more there is to this city we inhabit—our city. I’m very grateful that I got to be a part of it and greatly appreciate all those who were involved and contributed.