Have you ever fallen victim to the trap of a busy lifestyle? Often, the fruit of this culturally encouraged way of living is stress, exhaustion, and missed opportunities to build relationships. If we are to be effective followers of Jesus, then we need to take care of ourselves, and make time for others.
Dawn Sanders of GEM noticed the importance of helping women in missions find the rejuvenation and rest they need to continue serving effectively and created a ministry within the organization called Connecting Hearts.
What began in 2012 is now an ongoing, successful ministry catering to the women of GEM. “The goal is to connect to God, connect to others, and connect to yourself, because if you don’t know yourself at all, then really, how are you connecting to God and how are you connecting to others?” Dawn puts.
Though Connecting Hearts, under the umbrella of GEM’s wellness department, serves women throughout the year with any needed prayer or counseling, the highlight of this ministry is its annual women’s retreat.
“Sometimes, [in the business of life], we lose sight of our first love,” Dawn explains. “These retreats are where we can kind of reconnect that relationship and be reminded of who our first love is.” These thoughtfully prepared retreats are filled with a variety of tools and activities; such as times of reflection, journaling, prayer, counseling, teaching, time spent in nature, and physical activity; these retreats are instrumental in reviving a woman’s well-being.
Though these retreats aren’t intended to ‘fix’ problems that women may have, they create space for the Holy Spirit to move and speak to them where they’re at. “We want it to be a community where they could go deeper and really listen to God and the Holy Spirit, and share on deeper matters of the heart,” Dawn explains.
“For me,” Emily Nichols begins, “one of the sweetest moments [at my first Connecting Hearts retreat] came when a small group of us walked a prayer labyrinth on the floor. As we slowly walked this labyrinth toward the center, ‘The Heart of God’, I heard Him say, “Panic attacks are not my will for your life.” It was exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord to know the monthly, night-long sessions of anxiety and terrible heartburn were not what the Lord intended for me. He revealed His gentleness and kindness to me in that moment, and I treasure that.” After this experience, Emily has gone on to attend these retreats regularly.
Leslie Hall, another participant in the retreats admits: “Normally, I’m not a huge fan of ‘women’s retreats’ because nine times out of ten, the content has been disappointing and not applicable, and I just haven’t enjoyed those experiences. Connecting Hearts wasn’t anything like previous women’s retreats I had been on; the content was deep, meaningful, and applicable to anyone in any life stage, and I deeply enjoyed the connectivity with women I’d not normally get a chance to interact with in GEM.”
Emily agrees: “Perhaps you think women’s retreats are cheesy or not your thing, but I can tell you that the team planning and putting on these retreats want you to connect with the Lord. And I think they do a stunning job of listening to the Lord to provide what women on the field need.”
It’s wonderful to know there are resources to help strengthen missionaries as they serve the Lord… but they aren’t the only ones in need of refreshment and encouragement. Would you choose to reserve a moment today to actively step away from the hustle and bustle of life, and spend some time in nature, reading the Word, praying, or choosing to be vulnerable with a Christian friend? Every soul needs regular rest and reminders of who our first love is!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)