Sunday, June 19, 2011

"You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also" (I Cor 16:15-18)

I just returned from Mission Resource Network's Missionary Renewal Retreat. We had a total of 18 missionaries attend, plus staff. We held the retreat at the Prothro Center on Lake Texoma. The surroundings were beautiful and the accommodations were comfortable. A young chef did his best to make the food tasty and his presentation of the food was attractive. I think everyone, but one disciplined woman who ate no bread and no desserts, put on a few pounds. We were the only group at the center, which made it nice. The Prothro Staff did what they could to make our week special.

Our group was able to worship at lakeside a couple of times in the early morning hours during the retreat. The center had an iron cross and benches near the beach and it was a perfect place to see the sun rise up over the lake. There were ducks and geese and wild turkeys and other wild life. Basil McClure, former missionary in Brazil and a trained spiritual director, led us in worship the entire week. He is an outstanding worship leader. His wife, Rachel, also has a beautiful voice and aided us women as we sang the female parts. We began each morning before breakfast with worship. We ended each day with worship. Lynn Anderson, Director of Hope Network, led us in study every morning. The afternoons were free until 4:00 p.m. Steve Allison, a Clinical Psychologist from ACU and active in missionary care and I offered counseling/coaching/mentoring/pastoral care sessions during the free time. Debriefing groups met from 4 to 6:00 p.m. We then gathered for our evening meal and afterwards spent time in worship. Evenings after worship were free. Some played games; some just sat around on the veranda and talked.

Lynn Anderson’s messages on Talking Back to God by Praying through the Psalms were excellent. He shared from the depths of his soul and all of us were deeply touched, both by his messages and by God’s messenger. I recommend his book by the same title to all of you.

For the debriefing sessions, I divided the participants into two groups for the men and two groups for the women. Each group was staff led. Bob Waldron, former missionary in Guatemala, and Lynn Anderson led a male group and Basil McClure and Steve Allison (a Clinical Psychologist from ACU) led the other male group. Rachel McClure and Gina Waldron led one female group and Carolynn Anderson and I led the other female group. Each person in the each of the groups got to tell his/her story, with special emphasis on the last three years of their lives. After the story teller told his/her story, the other members of the group wrote down the strengths they saw in that person on sticky notes and they pasted them on the story teller, after which the group prayed for the story teller. Because each group promised confidentiality, the groups became very safe places. There was a deep level of sharing and many tears. By Wednesday there was a growing camaraderie, lots of laughter and hugs and general comfortableness among the missionaries. Some great friendships were forged.

After everyone in each group had told his or her story (including staff), I led a debriefing about the debriefing. I did my best not to lecture, but to draw out the discussion from the missionaries and it turned out well. I worried a lot about this, but just two days before the retreat, I remembered how I used the Kolb model when I taught adults at the university. I used this model to lead the discussion and it helped me fill in the gaps by asking critical questions that led to more discussion. The debriefing of the debriefings, because of the wonderful missionary input, was rich and deep.

Among the missionaries, we had six Adult MKs present. Since there were many questions about how to help children with reentry, we put together an unplanned panel of the adult MKs, Steve Allison and myself and we had a great discussion. Good stuff!!!

Lynn Anderson said that this retreat was one of the best kept secrets in the brotherhood. He has become a real fan. It was evident so many times that God’s presence was among us. I am grateful to my Prayer Team, who labored in prayer for this retreat. They are the best!

If you missed this years retreat, God willing the retreat will be held this time next year and furloughing, returned and returned missionaries are invited. Allow us to be Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaichus to you and refresh your spirits.