At this point, we have been "doing" ministry at the retreat house - for 9 months. Our baby is nine months old!! Someone once shared with me a prophetic vision (I think I have blogged about this previously) but just in case, here it is. She shared that in the dream, my husband and I were both ecstatic. We were 50 (this was back in the beginning of 2008) and I was pregnant. She said people were all looking at us with looks to say "seriously, I can't believe she is having a baby at her age" but she said that my husband Alvin and I were just beaming. That next year, when I resigned from pastoral ministry at the church we were a part of, my friend said, "Joy, it is like a pregnancy you are on" ...
Believe me, at times it felt like a very very LONG pregnancy with all of the pregnancy woes!! But when we birthed the baby, 12 years after God called us to the vision, it was so hard to believe. Now, our baby is nine months old. Nine months.
So as I look back - I will answer some of the questions that have been asked me these past few months.
And some questions that Alvin and I have asked one another.
So, WHAT exactly are you doing?
We are providing a place where women, and their spouses at times, can come to retreat, and renew, and spiritually refresh. We provide the place for you to "step out" of the hustle and bustle of life - just for a short time, and to spiritually refresh. The home provides the peace and tranquility that is found in a country setting. You bring yourself, and your desire to spend time that is set apart from your daily agenda. Likely the closest thing to trying to figure it out - is to think of a bed and breakfast idea. Well, this retreat setting has some similarities, but only some. It is really for spiritual retreat!
Do people actually come?
Yes, that was a question our neighbors asked us. Will women actually come. Our answer was that we have been called to this ministry, and when God calls, and he equips, he never hangs you out to dry. And we have seen that He has been all over this vision for retreat ministry. People are coming! We are in our first year, and we know it will be about 2-3 years before we see a pattern, or become more known, but we are hosting people - single retreaters, multiple retreaters, day retreaters, overnight and weekend retreaters, groups of 8 women, leadership groups from churches (18 people) as well as we have hosted our advent walk-through, and also some training sessions, and some guided sessions and bible studies. People are coming - and we already have weekends booked for this year - right up to November - so we are thankful!
What has been your biggest worry?
Well, that has been a personal one, and I am sure it will make you laugh. I was worried about how to make this "not such a good morning person" into one that loved to get up early and I was also worried about the cooking aspect. And God has taken care of all of that - and has made it a non-issue. I even get up early when I am not hosting people, or I am home alone! He has made me into more of a "Martha" when I am actually a "Mary" at heart. lol
What has been the best part of this ministry?
The best part has been meeting one on one with women - and knowing without a shadow of a doubt, that I am exactly where God wants me to be. I have no doubt about that. I love spending time talking and praying with women, and men if they are here. It is a blessing! When the retreaters here are mixed men and women, then Alvin gets to be a part of the ministry interaction - and he loves that too.
What has been the hardest part?
The hardest part has been seeing the pain in people's faces, and hearing the pain in their voices. We realized along the way, that our pain of loss, losing our first grand baby, was something that God was going to use in our ministry. And He has. Our room RESTORE has been used by many people with stories of great pain and loss - losing children, losing spouses, and other reasons that restoration is needed. We know God is going to do something amazing with RESTORE alone - and the ministry of speaking into the lives of women and men who are mourning. Loving on, engaging with, praying with people who are going through loss, brings a burden that sometimes makes my heart very heavy with their grief. However, I am realizing alot about intercession, and know that God has called me to be an intercessor, and that He helps to carry the burdens. However, it is hard. Hard, but good.
What has been the most joy?
Well - I think what I just wrote in the question above, should also come under here too.
The joy has been to see people come, and to hear people comment about the home which my husband and sons have built, and which my daughters and I have decorated very intentionally choosing what has gone into it. There is joy in seeing how God is using this place - HIS place - for his honor and glory.
What has been something you did not expect?
I have to say that I thought I would have single retreaters - and perhaps many retreating at the same time - one in each bedroom. However I did not think about groups. I have had groups - up to eight women who have done small women's retreats here. Those were very special. I have also had groups of women in bible study here. I have also hosted leadership groups. Hosting groups is much different than hosting single retreaters - and yet there is a dynamic to group retreats that I love as well. So what can I say - it is unexpected but we love having the space for group use.
The most complicated thing about using your private home - 85% for ministry is??
So, should I be honest? There was a time when I had a group of women here, and I was downstairs and heard my freezer opening, and other things happening in my kitchen. The next day I was told that "it was a good thing that someone didn't eat the cake that they had found on my counter" ... I will be honest, I struggled wtih that, as my fridge and my counters in my private kitchen space is actually not for retreat use. I had to give that to God too - and laugh when I tell the story. It made me think of ways to make more specific boundaries. It was just a one time thing, but it was something that made me realize that to have our "private suite" in the lower level (aka downstairs in the basement) is something we decided together, and made the choice to do. We are trying to hold our home in very loose and upturned hands! I am so thankful God also called Alvin to this ministry, as I honestly don't know of another man who would have put three years of his life (on top of his normal career job) to work night and day at building this place, investing time, money and swet equity and then to live in the basement. Only God can do that!!
As you look forward, what are your prayers for the ministry?
Well, I am praying that people will continue to come, and that we will eventually become a financially viable ministry wherein we don't have to worry about where money will come from to pay the bills. We are a recognized non-profit with charitable status. Some have donated towards the "bring a woman to the well" fund, to help offset the stay of another by donating. I am praying that people will see us as a ministry that has an influence in the lives, especially in the spiritual lives of people - and will donate towards the ministry. It is my prayers that at some point we can hire another person to come alongside and help me in this ministry - whatever it is - cooking, hosting, etc.
I am also praying for people who want to come and invest time here - volunteering in the garden work aspect.
I am also praying that those who need to retreat will hear and come.
Those who need to retreat but wrestle with the idea, will come and try a day away.
I am praying for those who have lost children especially, and need to come to a place where there is no pressure to talk, or to be a certain way, will find it a good place to retreat to, in order to catch your breath.
I am praying that pastors and their spouses will come for a spiritual retreat time away.
I am praying that people will spread the word, and the ministry will grow - all to the glory of God.
Last words for this post:
Alvin and I continue to stand in awe of what God is doing. Back in 2000, we had no idea exactly how it would unfold. We are thankful for our kids who have joined us in this ministry - and could not have done it without them. We are thankful for our grandchildren, who come and fill this house with their laughter and their presence, in those times when there is no one here retreating.
Alvin and I are thankful for the support of our board, and for the prayer support/financial support/friendship of our friends at our home church Eastview Community Church, and also for the support of our friends at McIvor M.B. Church where we had been for over thirty years. We are thankful for the support of our extended family and our friends.
We are eager to pour you a cup of coffee if you want to stop in and take a look. I come from a very big extended extended family and for some reason have not seen many of them, but hope that this next year is a time when people drop in. Many people drive past us on a regular basis en route to Winnipeg, so there is no excuse!! lol
We are thankful for the call from God, back in 2000, to this ministry. We believe, and it has been prophetically spoken as well, that what we see is merely the tip of something far bigger. So we continue to sit on the edge of our seat, and wait to see what God is up too.
As I sign off this lengthy post - I want to say "to God be the glory" for all that He has done and is going to do here with the ministry, and with us as individuals, and a couple and a family! We are excited about what is in store! I want to share with you the verse that continues to be my banner verse.
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.