“What Is Your Story?” was the theme of the 2019 NCS National Retreat held March 1-3 at the Omni Orlando Resort in Champions Gate, Fla. If anyone had second thoughts about the bi-annual event leaving Washington D.C., those evaporated upon arrival. While D.C. was suffering a wintry blast, it felt downright tropical at the resort.
NCS Winston-Salem sent 59 men to the retreat, the most in attendance by a single chapter. Arriving by “planes, trains and automobiles,” 542 men from across the country began trickling in early Friday for a weekend of inspiring teaching from a diverse group of inspirational speakers, praise and worship, as well as fellowship with NCS brothers from different chapters.
EMCEE Roy Clark from NCS Naples was entertaining and inspiring, and James Anderson, NCS executive partner, did a fantastic job heading it up. The schedule was filled to the brim with multi-media presentations and fascinating headline speakers on the main event stage. There were breakout sessions to choose from as well— vocational, ministerial, motivational or healing. If there were any regrets to be had, there wasn’t enough time to take it all in. It was that good!
The back story to “What Is Your Story” was, as one of the main stage speakers quipped, “…and what are you going to do about it?” The main event ballroom fell silent as several men, including Todd Chase of WS-NCS, shared their life stories in videotaped interviews. They were selflessly the lead-in for the greater messaging of the retreat to help men understand how the telling of their personal story is key to greater freedom and growth in Christ.
Throughout the weekend, men were encouraged and challenged to crystallize their story through thought-provoking questions: “Can you separate your story from your history? Can you identify the most influential moments in your story? Do you believe that you can change your story? Do you believe your story is too dark or too vanilla to be told?” Award-winning screenwriter Todd Komarnicki of the movie “Sully” challenged the audience: “Are you willing to let God write your story?” Some local NSC brothers shared how they were impacted:
“The most impactful part to me,” said Rich Payne, “was seeing Jesus reflected in the other men—real men. They shared themselves with candor and vulnerability, and encouraged me to do the same.”
“The two things that impacted me most,” said Bud Midkiff, “was when the speaker asked, ‘Who are you and when are you going to let God do something about it.’ And, ‘You’ve been resurrected from the dead. Who noticed it?’”
Stan Senft said he found it all very encouraging. “The emphasis being on stories, and hearing guys’ stories, I found very helpful.”
From sunup to sundown the buzz of activities never stopped. Outdoor social events began with the Welcome Reception and Dinner on the beautiful Osceola Lawn Friday evening, followed by a ballroom dinner and a stand-up comic Saturday night. Enjoying drinks and cigars over fellowship was a popular late-night attraction.
There was also time set aside for play, an important aspect of balanced living we learned, as shared by speaker Charlie Hoehn, the author of “Play It Away” and “Play for a Living.” With a championship golf course and water park on the resort premises that sage advice was taken to heart by many during the Saturday afternoon break. Others took a nap, read a book, or wandered into town. Floating on an inner tube down the long and winding Lazy River with NCS brothers was a blast.
“An easy take away for me was hearing men need to play more,” Stan said. “I’ve never heard any preacher say that to me. I liked the speaker’s phrase, ‘Men grow old because they stop playing.’” He said when he arrived home, he shared the teaching with his wife. “I haven't given her the full implications yet, but we need to get a backboard for the goalpost in our backyard and a volleyball or badminton net. So when our grandkids come, we can all go out and play!”
“All good relationships…all loving relationships, start with play,” said Ron Pegram. “They don't start with prayer—they start with play. ‘I'm going to have fun with this person.’ So, the speaker who talked about the importance of play really impacted me. I came home a with the idea that I've got to actually take one day, or at least a half a day, to play.”
WS-NCS Bill McClain, joined by others from other chapters, led a Racial Reconciliation Panel on Saturday. The men discussed ideas as well as actions they’re taking to break down racial barriers in their communities. The discussion paired easily with other messages throughout the weekend about godly men sharing life together for strength and healing.
“The fellowship and speakers were great, and the praise and worship group was great. But, overall, it was about fellowship and building and renewing relationships,” Guy Morgan said. “When men learn more about each other and appreciate that everyone brings a different gift to the table, coming together we're a lot stronger. It’s all about relationships.”
“The biggest thing I took away from the retreat is the fact that we need each other,” said Roger Trimble. “Men like to be alone; they like to think they can do it on their own. But the more we live, the more we experience, we find out we need each other, and we need each other desperately.” Roger said Jesus sent the disciples out in two’s. “Showing up for the wingman, and showing up with somebody that can have your back and speak into your life is the most important thing. Iron sharpens iron. This is what came back to me through the retreat.”
A good friend of NCS WS, Frank Harrison (CEO of Coca Cola Consolidated) was also one of the key note speakers at the retreat. Frank shared the importance of building corporate culture around servant leadership and how that can impact not only the bottom line but more importantly families and communities. Frank encouraged attendees to see the workplace as the mission field and of the importance of finishing strong and being a good steward of the resources given to us.
On a very somber, yet highly inspirational note, many were affected by the testimony of Rev. Anthony Thompson, pastor of AME Church in Charleston—the same church where his wife, Myra, and eight other of his friends were shot and killed by a lone gunman in June 2015. Many who watched it unfold on television that day were stunned when they saw Rev. Thompson and other suffering families immediately forgive the assassin. In his sermon for the closing session Sunday, Rev. Thompson walked the hushed audience through that fateful day, explaining how he had been given a “word of obedience, not an option of forgiveness.” Afterwards, he led communion. Many chose his line to receive the ceremonial bread and wine, spending a tender moment with him, some tearfully, embracing and thanking him for his profound and faithful witness.
“…That was the most powerful thing to me,” said Rick King. “The pastor’s wife and eight others were murdered in that shooting. He said, basically, that you can't seek revenge. It has to start with forgiveness. The most powerful thing for him to do was to be able to forgive the man who shot those he loved. That, to me, was the highlight of the meeting. If he can forgive, anyone can forgive.”
As a high note to the closing of the weekend program a little after noon, James Anderson announced that NCS Winston-Salem’s chapter leader, Jay Helvey, has been appointed Managing Partner and Chairman of the national NCS Board of Directors.
Winston-Salem is on the move; to God be the glory! We have much to do before the 2021 retreat!
by Ralf Walters