Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God is going to do something with Women Refreshed at the Well in 2009

At our church, there are a couple of women with prophetic gifting. In January, Sarah expressed that she felt that God had something in store for Women Refreshed at the Well in the New Year. What? No idea. The thing is, I also had had a very strong sense that God was moving. Afterall, He had been urging me for over a year, to “Roll the Ball” ~ I knew that God was going to do something in regards to WRATW if we were willing to move with Him.
Toward the end of December, 2008, God impressed a name upon my heart. He told me I needed to get together with Jerald. Jerald is a fellow church family member, and he happens to be the one who “called” me into pastoral ministry back in 2002.
Now, Jerald was not a stranger to this idea, as I had shared it with him seven years ago. I have learned that when God lays something on my heart, or speaks to me about someone or something, I need to listen. So, after many emails, we met, and I shared with Jerald what we were now thinking in regards to Women Refreshed at the Well.
Because of Jerald’s profession (architect) I felt that I needed to ask some questions of an expert ~ such as how do we build a combination personal home and retreat house. I loved the idea (proposed to us by our kids Josh and Leah) but I was not sure if this was even feasible. So, we talked. At one point in the conversation, Jerald told me that he would be willing to take the project on (no charge) if he could be on board from the beginning, and also if he could do it for me since we are friends. Okay ~ I have to tell you, this totally thrilled my heart! I had not expected this at all!
Our conversation there at The Old Spagetti Factory cemented ~ over and over to me ~ that God is in all the details. I found out that during Jerald’s university time, he had to design a Spiritual Retreat Center. With a turned over paper place mat, Jerald drew a diagram of an idea that we could do. He told me that he was not at all surprised that God was stirring this up again.
Before we parted ways, Jerald told me that as soon as we found some land, to let him know, so that he could come and “walk the land” with us ~ as it is important to put the right house on the land, not just any house.
You have to know that I drove home from that lunch so excited!! At this point, we did not have land picked out. However ~ God was working on those details!!
Shortly after this visit, I left my pastoral position for an unpaid leave of absence. I had requested a leave of three months. A number of things made it very clear that I needed to totally “step out of “ ministry and take care of myself which included begin to walk through our grief . I felt like it had to be stuffed inside while I ministered to others where they were at. On January 15th, I worked my last day, and left to begin my leave. There were no expectations other than I knew I needed to do some “sitting with God” ~ I knew that I needed to just “BE”. (Now if only Women Refreshed at the Well was open to go to!) I have to say that the words of scripture “Be Still and Know that I am God!” were constantly resonating in my heart!
One day, in the beginning of March, Josh said to Alvin and I, “If you guys are thinking of buying land for your home and retreat center, you need to just do it, otherwise you are going to be sitting in the same place a year from now.” (I really thank God for the wisdom and support of our kids, all four of them!) The next day Alvin and I, along with Josh, Leah and Michael ~ went and “walked a piece of land” that Alvin and I had seen on Henderson Hwy.
Alvin and I had talked once in a while about owning property on Henderson, but little did we know that God had something exciting in store for us and the ministry SOON.

Friday, June 19, 2009

2008 - Grief, joy & hope meet

The Mark Center trip Oct 08 0602008 began with a strong feeling that God was doing something.  I began the year, January 1st with an entry in my journal that said:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  I Peter 1:3
Today is the 1st day of 2008. Lord ~ what will this year hold?
Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. ”They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.
Lord, I believe you plan only the best for me. I know that and I know that no matter what happens ~ you are in control and you will carry me through everything!!
Lord, I give you 2008 and all it entails ~ from today January 1st to December 31st. All of it.  May I grow in you, more and more with each day… O Lord, do your work in me.
Little did I know what 2008 would hold. I see why we are not “let in on things” ahead of time. We would literally be stopped dead in our tracks with fear! I believe that.
Anyhow, I knew that God was at work, and He was also “turning up the heat” on the Vision, and it was coming to a full boil on the back burner. Last year, while at the women’s retreat, Karen (a friend from high school, and also from church) told me that she had also had a dream, and she felt it was about the Retreat Center. Again, I asked her to write it out for me, and here is what she said:
(I am so thankful that I save emails, and that I journal and stick the emails into my journals!!)
April 29, 2008 
I had the dream in January ~ I tried to call you but, I think you had left on your mission trip. It took me a bit of time to even muster the courage to call (kinda new at this stuff) but, God kept prodding me in that direction and reminding me of the dream at strange times. I should have written it down…this is how I remember it:
I was an observer ~ not active in the dream. You and Alvin were standing with huge smiles on your faces. Alvin kept saying how excited he was and giving you reassurance that it would all be OK. You were “showing” and just beaming. There were people off to the side from McIvor (our church) ~ not specific people that I could identify.  They were saying things about how unbelievable this was ~ didn’t you know any better etc. I would classify these random comments as varied ~ some unsupportive while others were kinda “coming around” to the news. Again, I can’t say enough about how both you & Alvin seemed almost oblivious because of your joy.  I also think the dream points to your idea about the retreat centre moving out of an idea and is more visible to others. 
I also feel your project of a retreat centre is a God thing ~ bigger than any of us.
This is what I felt too ~ that I was literally “sitting on the edge of my seat” again. And then we were thrown into the deepest, darkest valley of despair and grief that I have ever ever known. Our little grandson Jay Benjamin was born silently, one day before his due date. Feel free to watch our little Jay’s beautiful tribute atwww.jeremyhiebert.ca/jaybenjaminklassen
Leah had an amazing pregnancy and a drug-free delivery. But then all our hopes and expectations and joys came crashing down on July 24th, 2008. Our hearts felt like they were literally blown into a million tiny pieces. Life for us stopped at 12:02pm that day, when Jay’s heart stopped. 
While I can not yet make sense out of it all, and will say again, Jay’s death is a mystery only God himself understands ~ I believe there were two things that I learned through my precious little grandson’s birth and death.  
1) How to care for others and 2) God again (very, very strongly) impressed on my heart that I had to get the Vision going! Don’t ask me to explain why I heard that so strongly. I just did, and mentioned that to someone very early after the 24th. 
Shortly after that day, while our kids Josh and Leah (Jay’s Mom and Dad) had gotten away for a little trip, I got a text from my son Joshua asking me about the Retreat Vision. He told me, all through texting on his cell phone, that he and Leah had been talking/praying about Retreat Vision and Life Plan. I remember texting back and telling him that I was so thankful that they were part of all this, to which Josh texted back “these are big plans Mom”. When they got home from their trip, we sat around the supper table and talked.
First of all Josh asked me to explain again, what exactly God laid on my heart. When I retold the Vision details, the one thing that I left in, was that it was to be in the city, close to a bus stop. Josh said this was the only difference, to which I replied that I thought God was changing that up too.  (Perhaps this was part of the charred but whole building? Was God burning something and raising something a little new?)
What has come out of our visits and conversation since then? Their thoughts were that we needed to put our home up for sale (we had been talking about that for a number of years). And, that we should build a combination personal home and retreat center. As the 4 kids sat around the table, they drew some pencil sketches of some ideas. I remember that night Josh said “Mom, people don’t come to your house because of the way you have it decorated, they come because it feels warm here, warm because you live in it!  You will never get that feeling in a retreat house that you come and go from as needed!” Josh also said that they had thought that it can not be in the city either (they were quite adamant that Alvin and I were NOT city people, that would be just wrong!!).
And, since a bus would not run out north of the city (where Josh was already suggesting) it meant that we would provide transportation if needed!
Well, Alvin was unfortunately at work during this conversation, so I quickly brought him up to speed on the suggestions. We talked a lot about this. What could it look like? I have to say that the idea exhilarated us! Honestly though, we were so deep in many things ~ first of all, our grief was consuming us. Then there was so much that I had to get done at work with a new ministry starting up. 
In the midst of the deepest sorrow came a reprieve of deep joy when our daughter Ashley married Michael Thiessen on Sept. 26th.  It was quite something how the greatest of grief met with the greatest of joy.  
Back in January 08, when we were in Thailand on the mission trip ~ I had a good time over coffee with Louise (one of the missionaries that we went to work with). It was a “heart to heart” which I wept through. I was weeping a lot those days too. I shared with her how God was at work and I felt that He was shaking things up in my life ~ and perhaps “gently removing” me from ministry at the church. I also shared the Vision with her, and how it felt like God was moving in that again. Louise encouraged me to take some time and go to retreat center that she has gone to in Abbotsford, BC called THE MARK CENTER (www.themarkcenter.org). She encouraged me to speak with the founders/directors Steve and Evy.
In October 08 ~ Louise was in Winnipeg, and again she and I spent a few hours together over lunch. Again I wept as we talked about losing my grandson.  Again Louise gave words of comfort, and words of wisdom. She also knew the grief of losing one of her little girls shortly after birth. Louise looked me in the eyes and said, “For sure NOW Joy, you need to get away, and go to The Mark Center for yourselves.”
Alvin and I decided to see if we could get into a suite at TMC. I called. I had seen that on the website that the whole center was booked.  I thought I would phone anyhow, and spoke with the admin woman named Joy too.  (What are the chances?)
She told me that yes unfortunately for me, they were full for a month with the “TREK team” through Mennonite Brethren Mission Services International (MBMSI).  Then she asked me when I was thinking I would like to come to which I replied “next week”. She paused and said that just that morning, they had a cancellation for a suite, and we could have it! I booked a flight for us immediately. 
Alvin and I “retreated” at The Mark Center. We also got a chance to spend time with Steve and Evy, to hear their story, their joys, their struggles. We prayed together. The time was very good!  We came back with renewed passion for WRATW. 
The rest is history, and a very pleasant memory. Before we had left to go to The Mark Center, Betty (once again) shared another dream she had for me personally. However, she felt there was a connection to the Vision and felt that the time to tell me was appropriate. She told me that she felt that something was going to happen in the New Year in regards to the Vision. I just tucked that away in my heart.