Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Women's Retreat - Saturday (Day 9)

Sixty women. Sixty lovely, eager, hopeful, many broken, some despairing Chinese women in one room. Listening with anticipation for God's truth. Ready with open hearts to receive His grace.

Five American women. Just bonded through the previous week of travelling, speaking, ministering and eating great food. Each with prepared talks that were determined independently and eager to be a part of this rare weekend in the outskirts of Beijing.

Then Wednesday we were told that the retreat center would not be able to allow foreigners to stay overnight in their facilities since they were not licensed to do so. Concurrent with our trip were nationwide Communist party meetings being held in Beijing. Security was tight. Having missed the Friday night activities we got up early on Saturday morning and traveled by van to the retreat. We returned to the hotel after dinner and repeated the routine on Sunday returning after lunch when the retreat concluded. Though we missed some of the Chinese speakers and their evening activities, in the end we were grateful to be able to sleep in our own beds Saturday night. And I needed it since I had caught a nasty cold.

It turned out that all but one of us had prepared a talk on a woman from the Bible as well as the Chinese speakers. The whole weekend flowed together naturally and powerfully. We arrived Saturday morning just as Mawei had begun her talk on Deborah from the book of Judges and exhorted them to "rise up, O women!" Liz followed with her talk "You Are Mine" from Isaiah 43:1. When she sat back down with us, she was nearly in tears as God ministered to her own heart regarding this deep truth. With Esther's story, Kathy encouraged the women to step up with courage while Mary used Abigail's story of wise mediation.

After lunch, the women brought out clothing and goods to put on a table for resale. All proceeds would go towards the scholarships for women who could not afford to come. They were short about $150. In the end, they raised $1,150! The extra funds would be put toward future needs in ministering to these women. THANK YOU TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND! When the women heard how many of you had helped them to get to the retreat, they were SO appreciative.

At lunch one of the women asked me what was the purpose of a retreat. Such an experience was totally foreign to them. I explained the need to get away from the normal routine of life, from the demands of the home to focus on God and each other. I told her it was an opportunity for undistracted attention on our spiritual and relational needs. Later I heard stories of how conversations went late into the night. I heard about the activities and the tears that were shed as relationships were built and spirits lifted up through words of encouragement and hope. After the retreat I was told that the women were so impacted by the retreat that they wanted to have one every month! Don't worry. That won't happen but certainly one will be planned annually.

From left: Helena, Helen (leader), Holly,
Mawei (mentor), me, Amy, Helen
In the late afternoon the women were given two hours of free time during which I met with a small group of ladies organized and led by Helen who had asked me to mentor her in Bible teaching. We were going to walk through the first lesson of a book I gave Helen earlier in the week which surveyed all 66 books of the Bible. It was funny when I learned the names of the women - Helen, Helen, Helena, Holly and Amy. Add Harriet and you have five "H's" plus Amy. We should have changed her name to "Hamy." :-)

The time went fast and was fun though the book was not as helpful as I had hoped. I either need to find Chinese Bible study books or write my own curriculum for them. Afterwards both Helen and I agreed that she should read the lessons on her own first and then choose what information she thinks will be useful to their understanding of the Bible. Since they are doing a read through the Bible (no outside books or studies), she can supplement their reading with the tidbits of information she picks up from the book I gave her.

Unfortunately I didn't finish the lesson and I had to hurry to catch the van back to the hotel. It was a wonderful day at the retreat. I looked forward to returning the next morning to be with these women.

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