Hello, my brothers! This is Alex from SoCal once again, here to share how this year’s YOBBERS retreat blessed me. Pull up a chair, get cozy, and allow me to tell you a story, my friends . . .

This year’s YOBBERS retreat was different for several reasons. For one, I was in a much healthier place mentally and emotionally going into this year’s retreat. Rather than going into this one from a place of desperation and escape, I was experiencing a profound amount of joy in my life. I also felt a great deal of excitement getting to meet several YOBBERS whom I’d not yet met, as well as being reunited with my brothers from last year’s retreat.

There was an air of eager anticipation as the days passed and the retreat fast approached.

With this year’s retreat happening in my home state of Georgia, my trip eastward was a homecoming in more ways than one. After spending some extra time visiting family and my alma mater, I headed up to North Georgia for the retreat. After many conversations, I brought my mom with me to meet some of my YOB brothers for our pre-retreat lunch. I’d been telling her about them for years now.

My mom had already met some of our community’s guys in SoCal, but this would be an opportunity for her to meet more of them. Upon meeting up with everyone in town, I experienced the collision of two worlds: some of the most important people in my life meeting for the first time.

Let’s just say that spending time with my brothers and seeing me with them really left an impression on my mom, an experience she would continue to process after dropping me off at the retreat center.

She may even have a blog post of those reflections coming soon to Your Other Brothers . . .

Hope at the Retreat

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was looking to get out of this retreat — other than God’s presence and the love of my brothers. The beautiful reunion, as well as the introduction to new brothers provided me with such deep joy and laughter. My heart grew warmer as my brothers and I settled into our time at the retreat center, whether playing games, connecting over shared experiences, or enjoying meals together.

The first night, we gathered to pick our tribal stones to determine our tribe (small group) for the weekend. After being volun-told to go first, I was curious if I would complete the hat trick of landing on the Kinship tribe for a third time. I dug deep into the basket, clutching a stone from the bottom and hiding it until it was time to reveal their painted-on symbols. Turning it over and opening my hand, I got something I wasn’t expecting.

A shining star.

It represents YOB’s value of hope, whose complete icon is a star hidden partially by a cloud. The Hope tribe’s value is paired with Psalm 42:11 —

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Hope? Really? Did I really need to be on this tribe? Did I really need hope?

It felt strange, because I didn’t feel like I was in any deficit of hope. Although I’d endured a tumultuous spring semester with school, and a summer of complete disconnection and adventure, I found myself this fall in a place of trusting the Lord one day at a time. My stress levels were considerably lower.

I wasn’t overly concerned about longterm plans for my life, though everything I’d previously assumed about my life had gone up in smoke this spring. I remained unsure of my next steps, both professionally and in ministry.

During our independent quiet time the next morning, we were given this prompt: “Why are you here?”

This question puzzled me. I knew I wanted to be here at the retreat with my brothers, but what was the reason why? What was God trying to say to me at that moment?

Then it hit me: I was feeling aimless. So often in my line of work, I’ve been asked by my colleagues if I’m going to be a full-time teacher. After the last school year, it became painfully clear that this may not be the profession for me, at least specifically as a middle school teacher. I earnestly believed I was meant to be a full-time teacher, but the pressures of the job with the behaviors of my students crushed my spirit, resulting in a complete reconsideration of my profession.

Despite this reconsideration, though, I actually love teaching, and I believe the skills of “teaching” are going to be part of my life in one way or another.

But how? How was all of this going to work out?

These leading questions, coupled with conversations during tribe times, revealed to me that I did in fact need hope. I likened this aimlessness to being set adrift at sea with nothing but the open ocean all around me and no markers to point me in the right direction. I can’t see where God wants me to go, and yet I wasn’t looking to His star of hope to guide me.

One of my dear brothers encouraged me by saying that perhaps I haven’t been set adrift in the sea but rather down a river, which has a destination. The river leads somewhere, not an aimless direction, but with an intentional flow downstream.

Rivers only move in one direction, and perhaps that’s where I was during this season of my life. This was a welcome and timely encouragement, helping me put into perspective what I was going through. I believe that if I hadn’t come to this retreat, I wouldn’t have found this perspective shift — especially with my brother’s encouragement.

Perhaps I did need to have my hope renewed. My time with my brothers that weekend would facilitate this renewal, refocusing our eyes on the source of our hope, our Lord Jesus Christ.

A major source of renewal was my time in worship and prayer with my brothers. A main difference between this retreat’s and last retreat’s worship was the inclusion of liturgies.

Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I never experienced spoken liturgies like these in our worship practices. Liturgy was something those other denominations did.

It was truly a breath of fresh air to worship in this way, with liturgies being part of our church history since the earliest days of our faith. The act of asking God to step into specific moments of our day, like the beginning of morning worship, really gave the day a fuller perspective. It reminded me that He was present in every aspect of our lives, whether we realize it or not.

Over the course of the weekend, I began to see and experience that reality and the tangibility of God’s presence through every moment and interaction with my brothers. Our morning prayer sessions were so powerful — the best way to start the day. Each of those mornings had a certain rhythm and cadence to them: waking up in a dark cabin, fumbling through my things to get my morning shower, then bundling up for the brief walk to the stone chapel in the cold morning air.

Those dark, sunless mornings were filled with the songs and prayers of my brothers as we brought forth our requests before the Lord. We worshipped, centered our hearts and minds in silence, and prayed for anything that was requested or otherwise on our hearts. We prayed for each other before closing and going to breakfast.

The morning liturgy and routine brought me such life in those few days. It showed me a glimpse of what life with my brothers will be like in the future.

The liturgies of our night worship sessions were so eye-opening. It was a cooperative effort, everyone lending their voices to a single call and response. I could feel the Spirit stirring within me as we read together the encouragement of scriptures and songs. It was a new way to practice worshiping my God, doing so in a way that also included others. I loved the idea behind this “Liturgy for Morning Coffee”: communicating how we should welcome the new day with thanksgiving, praising God and asking Him to be present with us as we leave yesterday behind.

By far my favorite part of our weekend together were those worship times. There truly is something different about worshipping with my Side B brothers, and with Side B community on the whole — that we all share a similar life experience and have chosen to give up our lives as a sacrifice for our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last year’s retreat was my first time worshipping with other “Side B” Christians, and it’s such an incredible blessing to worship with others on the same journey.

I can hear that sacrifice in the tones and melodies of their voices, the way the long-held breaths of apprehension are finally set free, bringing sweet and precious praise to our God. There’s a certain brand of fire and passion within them, rising up to give honor to the God who has saved us from ourselves.

I am beyond thankful for the ways our singing pointed me back toward my Father, my God, and my Creator. I am even more grateful for the recordings of our worship songs, allowing me to hear my brothers’ voices again, even now.

On the last day of retreat, as we gathered for affirmations and farewells, we sang one final song together: the Doxology. I cherish this hymn as one that gives glory and honor to God for who He is. The rising voices of my brothers all around me is one of the most beautiful sounds I can ever listen to. The song points me back to my Heavenly Father, renewing my perspective and my hope in the work that He is doing in my life.

As I remember the lesson that was shared the second night, the words of our brother ring true as I consider where I look for hope:

“Jesus is the vision.”

After being blessed by the liturgies of the weekend, I felt compelled to draft one up of my own. Its purpose is to remind these brothers of their Heavenly Father, who has gifted them to each other on this journey we call life. We are never alone, for our God is with us, and He has given us His church as our family . . .

A Liturgy for Brothers

Thank you Father for saying long ago
That it is not good for man to be alone
We ask you to encourage us along the way of life
With friends and brothers that we may hold tight
Those whom we share a meal and a smile
Whose warmth will carry us mile by mile
For it is beautiful for brothers to live in unity
Bound by forgiveness and grace through Christ’s divinity
So stir one another, to the good works of our Lord
To shoulder the burdens of others, our hearts unmoored
No matter the squall of life’s great storms
May we weather them together, until the coming, eternal morn
We lay down our lives in service and in love
In order to point our eyes to our Father above
May we encourage and challenge the brethren, reminding them of the Truth we hold
Though never forgetting the interweaving, behold of truth in love
A chosen people, a royal priesthood of yore
May we share the love of our God with the world like never before
May they praise our Father in the wake of brotherly love,
For us, your humble servants, embrace one another as beloved

Have you ever seen your hope shattered? How have you tried to renew your hope, and where has God restored your hope? Describe your experience with spoken liturgies: where has this communal practice brought you life?

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