For the first time in our winter retreat history, we had a power outage that wasn’t just isolated to Muskoka Woods but affected about 10,000 people in the Muskoka area. With guests waking up to no power, texts started to fly my way. So our team went into action.
We had a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time. Here are some of the steps we took in discerning where God might take us in this adventure:
- What facilities were available to us? The dining hall had a generator and was able to provide enough power to prepare meals.
- When was the power expected to resume? Estimates ranged from 11:00am to 4:00pm that day. Then we started to plan beyond that in case the estimates were off. (We even considered options if power was not restored by nightfall.)
- How do we ensure the health and safety of our guests? Through each step, we had to ensure our guests were taken care of. We modified our morning team competitions because many of our guests woke up to cold cabins and needed to warm up.
- While a small group of us were planning modifications to our retreat as a whole, we provided the wider staff with information in chunks–one chunk at a time–so they could focus on their roles in each part of the plan. They did this well, and implementation went smoothly.
- We kept our guests informed about what to expect from one meal time to the next (e.g. at breakfast, we told them what the revised program would be until lunch).
- We kept our primary purpose in mind. After ensuring participants’ health and safety, the main purpose of Avalanche is to provide space for faith formation as students and leaders (hopefully) encounter God. We aimed our revised program at ensuring this purpose would be met. At one point, if the power had remained off in the morning and the Hangar was not available for our session, we planned to set up three simultaneous sessions in each dining hall and the Underground with 3 worship teams and 3 speakers. God had other plans, thankfully, and the power was restored by 10:00 am, enabling us to continue with most of our original program in tact.
This experience reminded me of several thoughts:
- Don’t panic. If you as the leader panic, everyone else panics.
- Have a team that works both in the modification and implementation of the plans. I’m so grateful we had a staff that knew their roles and were able to support our guests appropriately.
- Remember the core purpose(s) of the event. While you can change things to fill time, remember that God still has a purpose for this experience; it just may not happen the way you originally intended.
While it may have caused some chaos at the time, it’ll be an Avalanche most of us won’t forget.