Auckland 2013




Last year’s Recharge men’s retreat was such a blessed experience for me that this year was not going to pass without me signing up again.  An added attraction was the advertised keynote speaker, Ian Grant. I have always been impressed with Ian’s perspective on family life and his views on the essential role played by fathers.  As a Dad to five children and a Grandad to three-and-a-half grandchildren, I sensed here was an opportunity to gain a few skills, or as the retreat’s theme suggested (God’s Toolbox for Men), pick up a few tools.

As with last year, my retreat started 4:00 pm Friday with my good mate Paul (Cheers Bro) picking me up and us heading north from Hamilton in his car.  We both admitted to looking forward to this time away from the dust of daily battle and spending time with other like-minded blokes worshiping our Lord.  There’s nowhere else that either of us could think of that provided this sort of space for us.

Dinner was a pie and coffee at the Bombay BP Connect Wild Bean coffee shop.  Mmmmm… Ladies, you will never understand the appeal of this man-food, so don’t try.  We cruised into Willow Park Christian Camp at Eastern Beach with the place bringing back a flood of memories… sleepless nights listening to the snorer’s chorus… lining up for seconds in the dining room… long chats about faith, family, friends and anything else that comes up.  It was a type of home-coming.

The band was warming up with a song as we entered the main hall and I found myself naturally slipping into the sacred space created whenever a crowd of men lift their voices in worship of Jesus.  The group was led ably again by Gerard Trip from Christchurch with backup from David Hall (Bass), David Jones (Keyboard) and little Bill Meehan making a big noise on the drums.  I learnt later that, as each of these guys were from different parts of the country, they had never played together before the Friday of the camp.  Amazing, as they sounded so tight you would have thought they had played together for years.

Ian Grant wasn’t scheduled to speak until Saturday so we were welcomed by our resident priest for the weekend, Father Denis O’Hagan SM from Wellington.  What a great opening address!  Father gave four steps to help us prepare for the weekend;

  1. What things do I need to lay aside.
  2. Picture an image of how my relationship with God looks.  Father Denis shared a wonderful memory where as a boy he helped a man do a job.  The man didn’t really need his help but he let him fumble along anyway, encouraging him all the way. That’s how he sees God relating to him.
  3. Renounce Satan and put aside idols clamouring for my attention and distracting me.
  4. Am I prepared to be weak and dependent, relying on God’s strength, not mine?

The evening session ended with Benediction and procession into the chapel for Adoration. The chapel is a powerhouse of prayer, with Jesus being exposed for the entire weekend.  He is never left alone due to heroic acts of devotion by some men, especially during the graveyard shift of 3:00 to 4:00 am.

I grabbed a bunk and snuggled down with a low expectation of gaining much sleep.  True to form, the “nocturnal prayer language” of blokes in dormitories either side of us (yes, the walls are that thin) rose up to the heavens.  In a strange way, I would have been more unsettled if there had been deathly silence.

7:15 am Mass kicked off Saturday in great fashion and after a hearty breakfast we were led straight into a time for Confession.  A bloke had shared with me the evening before how a well known Joshua priest, Father Ernie Milne, had been his first confessor prior to his Catholic conversion.  Bristling at the notion that a priest could forgive sins, he remembers entering the Confessional and blurting out to Fr. Ernie, “I dispute the idea that you have any authority to forgive my sins!”.  Fr. Ernie completely deflated him by smiling and saying, “That’s fine. Just ignore me and talk to Jesus”.  With this story in mind, I spent a wonderful time just talking with Jesus. Oh the power of this sacrament…

Ian Grant was in fine form, proving that being seventy-four is no reason for not being filled with the Holy Spirit and being on fire for Jesus. His delivery was punchy, humorous and challenging.  He stated New Zealand’s biggest social problem today is fatherless-ness, backing this with statistics such as:

  • 94% of prison inmates have issues with their fathers.
  • 82% of kids in trouble have dads who are not there for them.

Ian gave four talks, Man in the World, Man in the Home, Man in the Church and An Ideal Man.  He challenged us Dads to step up and drive the “family bus”.   When men step up, God steps up.  Fathers are God with skin on when we pour ourselves sacrificially into our families.  Ladies, you would have been weeping with joy hearing the challenge Ian gave us to rise up as Dad’s and husbands.  We were encouraged to think about what our legacy is for our families, what things of eternal value do we want to pass on to our children.

Ian’s talks had all the more impact for me as he backed up his life-lessons by sharing very openly about issues he has wrestled with, how they affected him and how he overcame them.  His transparency challenged me to be similarly open in the small group discussions that followed.

The Saturday evening session had us focusing on a wooden cross.  We were invited to place a brick at the foot of the cross, representing what I would do with the “tools” I had received from the retreat.  A powerful time of prayer ministry followed into the evening.  Men praying for other men is church in action.

Exhaustion ensured a slightly longer sleep that night, with Morning Prayer starting at 7:30 am Sunday.  The Morning Office was led by Deacon Nimo.  There’s something powerful in knowing you are joining the Universal Church in prayer.

A great wrap up session was led by David Schischka.  He pulled a series of power tools out of a box and had us thinking about the specific tool from God’s Toolbox that we would put into building the house back home.

A time for testimony was given.  One man stood up and shared how he was starting RCIA and that the weekend had shown him a welcoming face to the Church through the fellowship he had experienced.  Other guys shared how they had connected with other men and had overcome a loneliness they had been carrying. Wonderful fruit!

Mass was a celebration completing the retreat.  Father Denis told us that we often make God’s grace too complicated.  The free gift of Grace is simplified when we have an attitude of thankfulness.  Giving thanks completes the healing process, as was exemplified by Naaman and the leper in the scripture readings that day.  We were encouraged to adopt an attitude of thankfulness in our homes, to become more aware of the blessings around us.  A place to start is to thank our wives and children for the blessing they are to us.

The journey home was extended by a detour to Auckland airport as we dropped off three guys catching a flight back to Wellington. In the space of twenty minutes we each shared what tool from God’s Toolbox we were going to use at home.  By the sound of things the Lord was going to be building a few houses and guarding a few cities.  Was the retreat successful?  Going by that conversation I have to give an emphatic YES!

Mike Baird