This article is about women and for women. (It’s ok guys, you may read it too. But it’s the women who will especially resonate with this story.) This is about the 200+ women who belong to the One Challenge global community.
We are moms, daughters, sisters, singles, empty nesters, teachers, administrative assistants, Bible study leaders, nurses, principals, speakers, mentors, coaches, translators, advocates, board members, and support staff. We live literally all over the world. We feel respect and concern for one another. We feel connected through shared experiences and a common mission. We feel a deep sense of Christian community.
Kathie Carlson, wife of OC President Dean Carlson, has sought to understand the needs of OC women working around the world and in the U.S.. She and the Women’s Ministry team have have explored creative ways to nurture that global community. Examples are bi-annual women’s lunches at the US-MC, Bonnie Aldrich’s Today’s Take Vlog, and some special interest groups connected through social media. Last year she introduced us to a group called Velvet Ashes, a community of women doing life together across the globe.
“We are an online community of women serving overseas. We are a unique tribe, bonded by the shared journey of uprooting our lives and re-rooting in foreign soil. We know the pain of goodbyes, the upheaval of change, the redefining of self. We know the extremes of our lives that leave our hearts raw and weary. And in all of this we know the deep longing of our souls to be known and to know we are not alone. We are made for community, deep and rich.”
Starting in 2015, Velvet Ashes has created a yearly online retreat. It is designed to be done virtually, either real-time, or later. In January of 2018, One Challenge Global Alliance women around the world chose to try this. Some did the retreat as a team or in small groups, and others participated individually. Everyone did the retreat within a few weeks of one another. A private social media page provided a space to share our retreat experiences through images and words. The Bible study content, worship times, and creative activities served as opportunities for spiritual enrichment and refreshment. It was a beautiful time to rest, renew, and time for soul-filling. We were amazed and blessed by how connected we felt, in spite of geographical distance and time zones.
This year we again did one of Velvet Ashes’ retreats, entitled Sustain– Encountering God’s Heart for You. It addressed the question, how do we pace ourselves for long-term, healthy ministry, especially in demanding situations?
Here is a poem that was included for reflection. One of our women working in the UK and her Germany colleagues shared their retreat experience.
“Listen to Me Under My Words”
(adapted from Guerrillas of Grace,
Ted Loder, Augsburg Books, 1981)
I come to you now
Out of the cold which numbs
Into the warm who cares.
Listen to me inside,
Under my words where the shivering is,
In the fears which freeze my living,
In the angers which chafe my attending,
In the doubts which chill my hoping
In the events which shrivel my thanking,
In the pretenses which stiffen my loving.
Listen to me Lord,
And hold me warm,
And forgive me.
Soften my experiences into wisdom,
My pride into acceptance,
My longing into trust,
And soften me into love and to others and to you.
Renée on the OC-UK team says,
“Isn’t that such a gripping poem?! I fell in love with it and kept reading it and re-reading, letting the words and images sink deeply into my soul. This was part of an online retreat package developed for cross-cultural women mission workers. I had the blessing of hosting the retreat with Heather and Kara, two of my OC “sister friends / colleagues” who serve at Black Forest Academy. They flew in and we had a meaningful three-day time of contemplative Bible study, slower mornings, seaside walks, sharing meals, tea, and soul-talk here at Pilgrims Rest. The women in our mission were all encouraged to do this retreat either alone or with others.”
Heather and Kara on the OC Germany team share some of their thoughts…
“What a blessing it was to connect with friends who are also my colleagues at OC. I truly needed some time to decompress and reconnect with Jesus in a place away from the normal stresses of life. It had been several years since having the opportunity to connect with other women in a retreat setting. Jesus met me where I was and told me that ‘He is enough’ for everything life will throw at me. Praise God for a wonderful time.”
“What a special time… To be able to… retreat together with a few ladies was a true joy… learning about how to “Sustain” our lives and ministry… the importance of finding a good rhythm for ministry, family, and spiritual life… the importance of taking time away… to reflect on what God is doing in our lives and through us on the mission field. It was a great time of mixing in discussions about God and taking tea together. We need these times for retreat in our lives to be able to take a breath and take a walk by the ocean. We were blessed to be able to have experienced this with colleagues.”
Future Women’s Retreat Funding
We are so grateful for the ability to share community through technology and the ministry of Velvet Ashes. Their quality retreat options allow us to put on a global women’s retreat for only $25 per person. What a great return on the investment!
If you want to partner with our women by contributing to our next retreat, we would be so grateful. Some of our global partners have less resources and we love to help them. Please designate your kind gift to Women’s Ministry.