“Never have I ever been to the Grand Canyon!” Shoes pounded as women who had been there made mad dashes from the chairs they were sitting in to an open chair. Laughter filled the air during our retreat kick off as they slid into a seat like they were stealing home in a baseball game. I wondered when the last time was that they had deep down, belly laughed like that and felt the permission to “let their hair down” and play games as adult women serving on the field.
Just a few moments before over dinner multiple women sitting around my table had shared, “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t signed up before everything that’s happened recently, when I didn’t know what these last couple months would be like.” It was a painful reminder that life for so many of them can change in the blink of an eye, and there is no gentle preparation for when their worlds can be flipped upside down or inside out.
Ask them to take in children devastated by the grips of human trafficking, and it’s second nature to welcome them into their home. Ask them to feed hundreds of refugees from their own kitchens as a flood tears through homes and rips apart lives, and they will raid their cupboards and rally their troops. As women deeply involved in their families and ministries, women who are all too familiar with sacrifice but still rise to give it daily, women who shop and cook and teach and disciple, who have opened their homes and hearts to needs that scream all around them, stepping away for a few days for themselves is perhaps one of the hardest decisions they will make. Pouring out is their native language. Being poured into…it’s a language they are less familiar with. In these few days, we hope to provide a space for them in the “language school of rest”.
Thirty-one women have now descended on our Azmera haven retreat as of yesterday. It feels almost surreal that they are actually here! Names that we have prayed over now here with luggage and faces and the courage to say “yes” to Jesus to step away and receive from Him. We deeply desire that they would become fluent in the Father’s gentle and restorative presence over these next few days. We long for them to not just believe His care for those around them but to receive a “visa stamp” of “LOVED” on the passport of their identity while they are here.
It honestly feels like being a child at Christmas to wake up this morning, while it is still dark out and write this. What does God have for these women today? How does He want to unwrap His delight before them? What in His tender heart does He want to surprise them with here, in a place surrounded by other women who come in battered, worn, excited, and curious?
“Never have I ever eaten a rat!” I burst out laughing as our game continued that night. Only at a retreat with women in Asia would that have come to mind as something someone could possibly have done. And only in Asia would someone actually stand up because they had done it!
Are these women adventurous? Yes. Strong? Yes. Determined? Yes. Willing to sacrifice on a moment’s notice?
Yes. Daily they are these things. And we are praying that they will come away knowing that they are daily, minute by minute, delighted in by the Ruler of the nations and the Romancer of their hearts!