The first National Service Retreat (NSR) of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) – USA was held on Saturday, October 23, 2021, in observance of Avatar Declaration Day – a day Sri Sathya Sai Baba announced and embarked on His divine Mission, and a day when His followers worldwide reflect on their innate Divinity. The theme for the retreat was “Living a Life of Loving Service”. Amazingly, the NSR was planned within a three-week period, with several SSSIO members from all over the United States enthusiastically involved in both its planning and implementation. The NSR was the brainchild of the National Service Coordinator and was viewed as being much needed and long overdue by many SSSIO members. The NSR was designed and structured to promote creativity, inspire devotees, and foster a deep inquiry into the transformative power of selfless service as espoused by Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

The entire NSR took place virtually with over 400 devotees in attendance. The NSR began with a round-robin live cast of service projects by respective regions around the country. Service projects were live streamed from locations all over the nation for a two-hour timeframe. A few were pre-recorded because of the difference in time zones for those regions that made it inconvenient to watch the projects in real time. Many different types of projects were highlighted. This novel approach of seeing service projects done in real time elicited an enthusiastic response from the participants!

Next, there were prayers and singing, with Young Adults from Region 7 leading the session with zeal and joy! The devotional session was followed by two inspiring speakers, Doug Gaum and Dr Geetha Govindarajan. Doug spoke about the deeper, inner significance of engaging in selfless service, and how accessing the reservoir of love in each of us leads to unmitigated joy as we live out Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings of Love All Serve All and Help Ever Hurt Never. Dr. Govindarajan spoke about her path of transformation through local/global efforts in healthcare.

Pre-recorded and interactive exhibits followed, with each breakout room featuring service projects in the areas of Sociocare, Medicare, Envirocare, and Disaster Relief, as well as service projects generated from the National Women’s Mini Retreat. Retreat attendees were able to drop in virtually into the respective exhibits to observe and learn from various presentations.

Finally, there were three interactive workshops: Yoga of Service; Launching a Service Project that Focuses on the Real Needs of the Community; and Sustainability as Service. The first workshop focused on the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba about what it means to provide service selflessly and service as a way of life. The second workshop covered strategies and components necessary for meeting the needs of communities. The third workshop focused on sustainable environmental service projects, why they are a priority to plan and implement, and strategies to do so.

After ending a day completely immersed in thoughtful discussions about service and being inspired by all they heard and observed, participants felt that the event had fostered a great sense of unity and instilled in them a new resolve to be engaged in service as much as possible.