Hearts to God ~ Hands to Serve
What a wonderful thing it is to "retreat" together! Last weekend, our local women's ministry group had a retreat that was fresh, and life giving! In with the theme, "Hearts to God ~ Hands to Serve", the retreat coordinator did an awesome job creating a relevant and poignant series of general sessions and bonding activities. I would venture to guess that none of us will be the same as a result of our time together.
Helping the coordinator with the "behind the scenes planning", I was able to hear her heart, and help her watch the very ideas she had in mind take shape and be lived out in front of her. After asking her what she felt the Lord was laying on her heart as far as retreat details went, we set out to see what the Lord would open the doors for us to do. What a thrill it was for both of us to see what God could do with a willing vessel who heard His voice, and put feet to the plans of God. God simply moved in magnificent ways, and the details came together, with her heart's desire becoming reality.
We met the first night for dinner and a general session featuring a wonderful speaker who shared many thoughts and Scriptures about the heart. There is something so powerful about a speaker's testimony that really builds "community" - and this true bond that occurs genuinely, comes in an instant through the spoken acknowledgement of the power of God in a life. Oh, how we all must purpose to be transparent, showing others how in our weaknesses, Jesus makes us strong. In this, He is magnified, and multitudes are drawn to Him.
We watched a skit that hit home with each and every woman - the subject matter, a young mom who needed someone to reach out to her with the love of Christ, is one that we could all relate to for sure! Oh, how we must be a people who will stop in the middle of the most rushed of days to meet the needs of those around us! To offer a smile, a prayer, or a "cup of water in His name"...oh, how our communities would truly be transformed.
After the formal session, the joy on the faces of friends gathered in fellowship couldn't be contained, and the simple pleasure of having "game night" is one that we so rarely get to enjoy anymore - especially with our sisters in Christ! Ladies laughing, joking, and playing a board game together is such a sweet thing to see! Fun...just because.
The next day was so much more that I can convey - what power there is in the servant heart who shines forth the light of Jesus to a city in need. We heard our speaker give a wonderful session on "why" we should serve others, and how it is an overflow of our love for God...but then, as a tremendous testimony to a people who mean what they say, and live what we believe, we took a "field trip." Yep, a field trip. During the retreat.
We all packed into cars, and drove a few miles to visit a ministry that touches so many lives, but calls no attention to their deeds. They simply commit to feeding the hungry, to praying for hurt and needy souls, and meet whatever other needs they have resources to match. They are "walking out" their faith day by day - using the provision God gives them to bless those with none. Being the light He calls us to be.
We heard the testimony of a woman who God has spent decades preparing, shaping, calling, and using for His purposes. She, without question or desire for recognition, has answered the call of her Father, and feeds anyone who comes to the door...or meets her on her path...and she is the most beautiful child of God that I think I have ever met. So loving, so wise, and so dedicated. So eager to tell the nameless that they have a name, and that they have a Father in heaven who loves them. So eager to do whatever it takes - not for the sake of works, but for the sake of the cross. Oh my. What a day it was indeed!
The most emotional part of the whole trip for me was seeing dear sweet women with a passion for God and a desire to help others walk into this unassuming warehouse, only a few miles from their houses, and gasp as they realized that such a ministry existed right in their "back yard." They had no idea! They had never heard of the ministry, seen it in action, or met the feisty woman who answered God's call to run the place.
We served along side her, helping with a variety of tasks that needed to be done. She had a quiet morning set aside for us to help her get ready for the crowd she knew would be coming. She knew their needs would be large, and that God would provide for them all. She knew that God had sent us to help her in her time of need. Imagine that! We, who were off on a weekend of fellowship, wound up serving along someone who needed help in blessing others. She was blessed, but I believe we received the true blessing by being exposed to her servant heart and her desire to care for those who considered themselves "invisible."
Best of all, the women who were with us at the retreat all knew that God had taken them to this warehouse filled with the love of God - not just for a field trip, but for a life change. Many of them committed to going back to serve another day. A spark grew into a flame that day, in many, many hearts.
Some of the ladies with us that day may have even seen that God does provide in an even more tangible way, harboring secret needs that the majority of women their would never know about, instantly knowing that there was a place that they could go in a time of need. Who knows, they may even need to get a meal, or supplies, much like the ones they helped assemble.
I guarantee we all know someone who has gotten help there. Whether we ever hear about it or not, people in our midst have received a meal, or other supplies when no one else would lend a hand. And that is the beauty of serving God. Whether we are serving, or find ourselves on the receiving end of the help, God is still glorified. To me, this is the essence of the double blessing in Scripture. God blesses those who give, and those who receive. God is all about the "win - win"! What an honor it is to serve Him. What an honor it is to give Him all the glory!
After a lunch and a return trip to the conference site, we closed up our time together with one of the sweetest closing sessions I have seen in this particular ministry's retreats. The speaker, who served right along side of us, touched our hearts with her words once again, and inspired us to keep on seeking the Lord for ways to serve others.
And then, my friends, we prayed. Not because it was on the program, and not because it was a "good idea"...but because a prayer warrior sensed the Lord calling her to ask for prayer requests, and stood up with boldness to ask for ladies to pour out their requests, which they did. What we experienced was not just a closing prayer, it was a joining prayer. We joined our hands, and knitted our hearts as we called on the God of the Bible on behalf of the needs conveyed.
Oh, how the Lord touched us through that prayer. Oh, how we ached for those who hurt, and had joy for those who were in a time of victory. This is what the Lord is looking for. A people who will seek Him, serve Him, and fall on their knees before Him. Even on a fellowship weekend. For true fellowship is focused on Him!
What a retreat. What a wonderful retreat coordinator. I pray that the Lord will continue to open her heart and give her more ways to serve Him. She has such a sweet spirit, and such a love for Him. I praise God for her willingness to "think outside the box" and I am so proud of her! She listened to God, and acted on it. She walked out in faith, and God blessed the multitude through her obedience.
Much love in Christ,