12 March, 2018

Retreat musings

This year's theme: "Leaving a Lasting Legacy".
Though it's left me pondering whether thinking about
leaving a legacy might be the wrong tack to take, but rather following
Jesus to the max might be better and the legacy will take care of itself?
Before too much more time passes, I want to write about the retreat I went to last Wednesday to Friday. It's the ninth time I've been to this women-in-ministry retreat and I love it every time. It's a time to go away, be with friends, worship in English, and rest from work (although I usually come back tired, but not from work).

One of the friends who greeted me with a hug when we arrived.
It's part of my missionary-life survival kit. I especially love being with friends who know what this missionary lifestyle is about. No explanations are necessary. Though this time I did spend a lot of time answering the question, "How's your son settling in Australia?" That's what I get for blogging and putting my life up on social media!

But friends who've known you for a while in this mobile environment are worth their weight in gold. This was the 25th time this retreat has been held and as part of that they had photos from many of the past retreats, as well as videos from several ladies who've been a part of the leadership team in the past, but are no longer in Japan. It was bittersweet to see these as they are friends who I can no longer share sweet fellowship with.

"Red" sister fellowship.
However, keeping it positive, I enjoyed the friends who were there. One lady asked me, in a slight panic, on Facebook a few weeks ago if I'd be at the retreat. She saw me preparing to go to Australia and wondered if I'd be back in time. I was surprised that someone who I didn't know super well would be so concerned, but encouraged nonetheless. Missionary women go deep fast. Very often we know little about one another and don't have a lot in common (aside from where we work), but we can have deep, honest fellowship regardless. I don't fully understand it, except perhaps that we're bound together by our shared experience of living and serving outside our home culture and thus are more needy and willing to lean on others?

I felt very tired this time going into the retreat. (Maybe I've been overdoing it recently?) It was hard to stay awake during the first night's worship and teaching session. Sometimes I find it's easy to concentrate on the words of songs, but other times, like Wednesday night, worship is singing without engaging the brain very much at all and I've learnt that that's okay. It was great to praise God in English and I was glad for a nice mixture of old and newer songs that I knew as well as ones I didn't.

The retreat has an overabundance of slippers and
rules about where you wear them. They have dining room
slippers and toilet slippers, but also hallway slippers and
chapel slippers! To get from the main building to the chapel
 you change into outdoor shoes and then into slippers again!
The post I wrote at the retreat (here) contained some of the things gleaned from the speaker. I didn't take notes this year, simply trying to soak it in. Probably being so tired made me a little more grumpy and picky with this year's speaker than usual (I was getting grumpy at cliques and a little frustrated that she didn't spend more time in the Bible).
Retreat is usually a time that includes tears for me. Often during worship time, or during times of sharing personally with others. This retreat was no different. Obviously saying goodbye to our son was still quite raw, but the speaker's husband died a few years earlier, so she talked about grief and the loss of Christians in the prime of ministry also brought up tears. She also emphasised that we have a choice in how we react to painful situations: certainly we need to grieve, but beyond that we can choose our response to pain.

Thursday night was enjoyable, it was a celebration of the 25 years of Women in Ministry retreats. We heard from ladies who had gone before us and a little of the history of the retreat. We sang and prayed. We were entertained by a group who'd learnt a new song that day and a spoken piece by two sisters. And we laughed at two ladies who did a skit/song routine that showed the full span of a missionary lifetime, with tongue-in-cheek. Then we finished up with cheesecake (my favourite dessert).

I'm afraid that is a bit of a piece-meal review of the days away, sorry if it comes across like that. But I've come back to Tokyo refreshed in spirit and my love-tank full. I feel ready to deal with the challenges of life again (though I wasn't ready for being hit by a cold first day back at the "office"). I'm thankful that we're planning to be back from home assignment in time to go to the retreat again next year too (Lord willing)!

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