South-Central Regional Retreat: Bruceville, TX
About 350 members of the South-Central Region of SSSIO – USA came together for a spiritual retreat during the Labor Day weekend amidst the lush green surroundings of the URJ Greene Family Camp. It kicked off with a rousing devotional session in the main hall where a beautiful altar had been set up.
Over the course of two and a half days, participants enjoyed an array of activities - workshops, speaker sessions and musical programs. Separate tracks were planned to cater to each age group - Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children, young adults (YAs) and adults. Participants also engaged in service during each day of the retreat - adults and youth made blankets for distribution to the homeless in various cities while children painted fences and built a raised bed garden.
Two speaker sessions were held - one in the morning and one in the evening. The distinguished speakers for the event were Dr. Jonathan Roof and Mr. Aravind Balasubramanya, both of whom spoke eloquently from their own personal experiences about developing purity and the importance of seeing God in everyone and in everything. Ms. Prity Bhatt, the special speaker for the SSE track, engaged the children in a talk about faith and surrender.
Workshops covered a variety of topics such as Healthy Living and Parenting. The YAs presented an interactive workshop on Pausitivity to Positivity, during which participants through multiple activities reflected on how they could grow from pausing and taking time to contemplate and learn, and ride successfully through the storm. A special study circle was also conducted on the theme of the retreat, Love My Uncertainty.
In the evening, there was a special music program by Mr. Raviraj Nasery, who sang many popular Sai bhajans and devotional songs, many of which he had composed himself. On Sunday evening, the SSE children delighted the audience with several Sai Bhajans, which was followed by a musical drama by the YAs titled A Musical Tale from Tik Tokyo City. Each day, time was allocated for games and adventure sports such as zip lining, kayaking, archery and rock climbing. On the last day, the three wings (devotion, education and service) shared videos and presented on various activities carried out across the region and the nation.
Planning for the retreat started several months prior. Various teams managed different aspects of the retreat including registration and accommodation, marketing, food, supplies and signage, altar, library, audio/video, service, SSE and devotional activities. Altogether, volunteers clocked in more than 2000 hours in the planning and execution of this event.
Attendees were refreshed and rejuvenated at the end of the retreat, and felt grateful for Sri Sathya Sai’s immense grace in ensuring that all activities went smoothly.
Jwala Basani from San Antonio shared her experience of the retreat:
“The retreat recharged me. I have attended the retreat for over 20 years now and every time, there is something new to learn. I was eagerly awaiting this retreat since we were meeting for the first time after 3 years. I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Jonathan Roof, and that inspired us to read Pathways to God in our study circle. Brother Aravind Balasubramanyam with his amazing experiences helped me deepen my faith in Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I also had the fortune of assisting sister Prity Bhatt in the SSE Group 3 workshop where she turned "Preparing the Roti" into a spiritual experience. Loved seeing all my Sai brother and sisters from other centers and states. Loved the retreat site. A wonderful experience overall.”