That was the theme of our church’s 11th annual ladies retreat this past weekend. Twenty something women enjoyed a 24 hour getaway from their busy day to day lives. We laughed, cried, worshipped, sang and had fun together. The main retreat room was decorated with quilts and hand stitched items of many kinds.
Early in 1998, the women of our church were invited to join the ladies of one of the Nazarene churches in Edmonton for a weekend retreat. Several ladies went and as three of us relaxed together at the beautiful retreat centre, we started talking about the possibility of holding a retreat of our own. Ideas flowed and before we knew it, we were in the midst of planning one for later that spring. It was a tremendous success and thus it became an annual event that we all look forward to.
Because we would have to travel some distance to a retreat centre and the cost would be prohibitive for some, we hold it at the church. Some bring their sleeping bags and sleep over while others go home for the night and return in time for breakfast the following morning. We keep things as simple as possible, having one meal catered to and ensuring that the others don’t require anyone to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
With the exception of last year’s retreat which took place while I was in Japan, I have attended all of them. After a small group of us organized the first couple of retreats, the planning was taken over by my weekly ladies Bible study group. I was MC for the first few retreats. One year I shared my testimony and this year, I was the speaker.
Our theme verse this year was Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” The italics are mine, highlighting the part of the verse that truly describes what God did for us during our year in Japan.
I spoke once on Friday evening and twice on Saturday. I knew that the ladies were anxious to hear about our Asian experiences but I felt that the weekend needed to be much more than just a travelogue. During the first session, I used scripture and personal experience to talk about the many ways that God speaks to us. On Saturday morning, I talked about our year in Japan focusing on the church that God led us to there. I shared the ways in which I feel that God used us while we were there as well as some of the things that I think he accomplished in my life through the experiences that we had. During my final talk, I spoke about the impact that our trip to Vietnam had on me. I talked about the contrast between North American culture where we have so much and yet are not satisfied and cultures like that of Vietnam where people are happy if they know where their next meal is coming from. I also shared Biblical principles that can help us live successfully in tough economic times such as we are experiencing today. Much to the delight of the ladies, I wore my Vietnamese silk au dai while I gave the final talk. Some of them even talked me into wearing it to church the following morning.
Over the years, we have always done a craft at retreat. In keeping with this year’s theme, the craft was a quilt. Each lady wrote a favourite Bible verse or message on a quilt square and signed her name. During a quiet time on Saturday afternoon while some of us went for a long walk and others visited or napped, one industrious woman took the pieces home and sewed them together. When she returned, everyone gathered around the quilt frame and tied the quilt. The final stitching around the outside was done by hand by an avid quilter in the group during my final talk. At the end of the retreat, I was presented with the quilt! The red and white colour scheme represents the colours of the Canadian and Japanese flags. What a wonderful keepsake and one that I will always treasure!