This month I had the privilege of attending a retreat hosted by Women of the Harvest, "a ministry of support and encouragement for women serving cross culturally,” for missionaries serving in South and Central America. I have been to other retreats and conferences before, but this was my first time to go to a missionary retreat. I expected that it would be a time of refreshing, rest, fellowship, and Bible study, something like a cold glass of water on a hot Brazilian day. As another attendee described, it was more like ‘riding a barrel over the nearby Iguacu Falls!’
We were showered with love, care and concern, and nurtured mentally, physically, and spiritually. There were a variety of pampering options available, including massages, pedicures and haircuts, as well as an opportunity to have an appointment with a counselor for a private consultation, and with prayer partners for a time of intercession.
There were Bible classes in the morning, devotions within small groups, and worship time as a big group, which was like getting a glimpse of heaven. This time was a huge blessing to me, too, as God really worked on my heart. The topic was on “Our Identity in Christ” and we looked at passages from the book of Colossians, particularly chapter three. “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is…set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God...”
This passage is rich. It goes on to remind us of those things Christ died for and what He wants us to consider as dead and to put aside – those things that drag us down, absorb us, and eventually become part of our identity. As His children, His Word says we no longer have to live that way, but must live according to our identity in Christ: chosen, holy and beloved. Chapter three of Colossians identifies that for us. I love this quote Linda gave us by Neil Anderson: “When you know who you are in Christ, you no longer need to be threatened by people or compete with them because you are already secure and loved.”
Every time we got together as a group, there were little gifts waiting for us. Food items that can't be purchased here, books, mugs, CD's, stationery--lots of things to make us feel like we are God's beloved daughters, and that we're not forgotten out here in the field. I really enjoyed the massage, the time getting to know women who "get it" because they, too, are missionary women, and building new friendships with those serving cross culturally like me.
I've tried to share with you a snapshot of what happened, but the truth is that it was a weekend like no other, and I'm sure I could never put into words how much it meant to me. God bless the volunteers who loved on us, the sponsors who provided us with this FREE retreat, the hotel who served us really yummy buffet meals, and my fellow missionary ladies who opened their hearts this weekend and touched me deeply. If you know other missionary women serving around the world, please let them know about Women of the Harvest!
Below: my small group receiving chocolate chips, my small group leaders who were Amazing, and our team enjoying the outdoors!
In other news . . .
I recently learned about a program here called “SPACE” (Sao Paulo Action for Children and Education), which is a non-profit organization that raises funds to sponsor needy, at-risk children into good (private) schools, where they can get a solid education and escape poverty, with the goal of helping them succeed in life, having structured families and better jobs. The name SPACE was chosen because it implies unlimited possibilities. SPACE gives them a giant leap in four areas: physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
In order to make this giant leap, a potential student needs to have the ability to make the leap to a more rigorous academic environment, test high enough to enter the new school and, most importantly, have the strong support of a parent or guardian who will help them to succeed.
I identified two students, one from each project, who I believe have the potential to make this ‘giant leap’.
Mayara, 15, from the Vila Andrade project, is one of my best students and wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. She has grown into a beautiful young lady in my four years here, and continues to surprise me with her grasp of English. She lives with her mother, who does not know how to read or write, and a younger sister. They attend the Vila Andrade church.
Jennifer, 10, is from the Lar project. She started with me when she was 7, and I was a little hesitant to have her join my classes (her feet didn’t even touch the ground in the chairs!), as all the other students were older. She quickly showed me she could hold her own and even surpassed those older than her. She is the second of four other girls, and has a solid, Christian mother and father and family life.
Please pray for these girls that, if God allows, they will be accepted into this program. They had family interviews this last Monday, and we are now waiting to hear the next steps. There is no guarantee of course, but I am praying this could be the opportunity each of them needs to have a chance at success in life!