September 03, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

Michael Sanderson
Hometown: Rockford, Mich.
Year: Senior
Major(s): Elementary education, integrated science and mathematics

Where are you?

Glen, Montana.

Why are you there?

I am attending the Gainey Leadership Retreat with 32 other student athletes from Calvin College.

What’s your typical day like?

We start our day with personal devotions and then have a large group devotion, which is student-led, and then we have prayer right before breakfast. After breakfast each day we have a large group session learning about leadership, and what it means to be a leader. We have learned that through leadership comes great responsibility. This session usually goes until lunch and includes time for listening and time for discussion. In the afternoon we start off with an activity, whether that is hiking, softball or floating down the river. These activities are designed and planned to teach us something about ourselves, God’s creation and teamwork. Right before dinner we would have another lecture and discussion session with the large group. After dinner had passed we would gather with our small groups for discussions on topics addressed in the days' leadership sessions and to talk about how we can apply them to our lives. This would be followed by a time of worship where we sang songs and listened to the stories of various former student athletes who were also invited to attend. We ended the day with around the world ping-pong, Red Ball and a campfire.

What are you doing?

Representatives from each of the varsity sports teams at Calvin are chosen to attend the retreat out in Montana. This year was its tenth year and over 300 student-athletes have had the opportunity to attend. This is an opportunity to learn about you, your faith and relationship with Christ, to learn what it means to lead and to challenge yourself to become a better leader.

How has Calvin prepared you for this?

Throughout my years at Calvin I have learned to serve through service. Whether that is in the classroom, on the soccer field or through programs such as the Special Olympics and Street Fest. Calvin has had a strong emphasis on service and how important it is to be a servant leader. In the book of John, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By this act we have learned the great impact of servant leadership. Jesus has led by example and we should do the same.

What has surprised you so far?

Once we arrived in Montana we were completely shut off from the outside world. We had no Internet and no phones. It was really amazing to be able to slow down and spend some time getting to know other athletes without all of the distractions.

How do you see this shaping your future?

The leadership retreat has helped me understand how great of an impact actions can have and how leaders aren’t always the bold people, leaders can be behind the scenes as well. I hope that the Gainey Retreat will lead me to a life of servant leadership.

Best thing you’ve eaten?

Pretty much anything that Joyce and Taylor make is amazing. We definitely ate well. We owe so much thanks to these women for all the hard work and time that they put in to preparing food for 33 athletes and 12 leaders. It’s a lot of food.

Met anybody memorable?

There are many memorable people from this trip, first there were 32 other student athletes, I can’t imagine this trip without them. This year marked the 10th retreat, which means they wanted to make it a little different so they invited some of the alumni back who had been on the retreat before to share their stories on how it has shaped their lives and how this leadership retreat had helped them even beyond college. There were six alumni and five small groups so each small group had at lease one alumni leader. My group had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Peter Boumgarden, a former swimmer at Calvin.

We also had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with the Gaineys this week. They were such a joy to get to know and to interact with. Mrs. Gainey is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She is a true servant leader. She would spend her evenings serving us food and after dinner in the kitchen cleaning all of our dishes. And Mr. Gainey has an incredibly strong faith and he shared stories about how the Lord has provided for them and how they were called to start the retreat.

I don’t think we can talk about memorable people without mentioning Lyle. Lyle is the camp manager and if you needed anything, you called Lyle; whether that was being saved from a rattlesnake at midnight or hearing stories about hunting and fishing, not to mention he is extremely good at foosball.

Recent stories