Fall Retreat is always one of my favorite times of the year. And this trip was no different! We had the awesome opportunity to take 120 IGNITE students to Deerfield Beach for a time of spiritual refreshment… and beach volleyball, late night dinners at IHOP, and bubble wrap jousting. But most of all, it was incredible to witness God open eyes, transform hearts, and encourage his children through his Word! 

Our speaker for the weekend was Jim Murphy, an elder at Restoration Church, our Xpansion partner, in Buffalo, NY.  And as he spoke from 2 Corinthians 3-5, I was so encouraged and convicted! Over the course of the weekend, we studied the weight of the gospel, why this gospel is worth suffering for, how our future hope is anchored in the gospel, and finally, how we should live as missional ambassadors sharing the light of the gospel in the places where we live, work, and play. 

One way that we shine as lights in a dark world is by sharing our grace story, the story of God’s redemptive story in our own lives. As believers of Jesus, we don’t just believe that Christ can transform us, but since we’ve experienced his transforming power toward us, we believe that he can transform others too! We shine our light by knowing who we were before God wrecked our hearts, falling in love with Jesus through his Word, and living our lives in a way that the world sees that were different. In short, he has made us a new creation and we’re to live that way.


“Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!”

My favorite part of the weekend, though, were the baptisms! On Sunday morning, after the final session, 7 students were baptized. I was a crying mess the whole time, as they each shared the way God worked in their hearts to save them. Each of them pointed to God’s incredible love and his great grace in their redemption story. And to me, nothing can compare to hearing them proclaim on a public beach, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!”

My hope is that after this weekend of experiencing Christ in an intimate way, we walk back onto the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University with a different mindset. Yes, we’re here for an education, and yes, we’re here to make friendships; but most of all, God sent us to FGCU to proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Thank God that the light of the gospel gives our lives a purpose!

— Courtney Blackmer, IGNITE Intern