This month, I attended a women’s retreat in Cape Town, South Africa. It was run by an incredible ministry that God kindly laid before us earlier this year, called Thrive. Thrive serves “global women,” as they call us. The heart of Thrive is to empower women in their roles overseas to thrive, and not just survive.
In the last two years I have frequently complained about my life being in survival mode to my husband. And when I stop and look, it’s easy to see why. A year ago we said painful goodbyes to a country and community that we came to love, to start from scratch (again) somewhere else. In the meantime, we’ve been battling a chronic, debilitating health issue that has shaken up our lives in very uncomfortable ways. Three precious people in our lives this year made their entrance to heaven. We’ve been without permanent abode for months at a time, and I have battled with isolation-induced depression* for much of the last 24 months. *I have no idea if that’s a “thing” or not. But that’s what it feels like, so I’m going with that.
Those are the “big things.” The “little things” had started to wear on me too. The missed family celebrations, missed moments with friends, financial uncertainties, lack of consistent relationships, the struggle to find a church home…
I could go on and on about the hurts and losses that have swamped us on our journey to Angola, but I don’t want to. It would get depressing really fast. You see now why this can be so hard to put into words? Anyway, the point is, that there is a side to this epic adventure that takes a toll. A real, felt toll, let me tell you. That toll, led me to find the Thrive ministry earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, landing in Angola and pioneering the work that we’ve been dreaming of, is a joy. It really is. Simultaneously, while there’s been dark times these last couple of years, there’s been great times too. And that’s where the confusion enters in. How can I feel so much love and so much hurt for the same process, the same journey?
I was getting desperate, and my state of mind and heart was hurting our whole family. I needed somewhere to find help, to get better equipped to leave the survival mode. David encouraged me to sign up for Thrive’s Cape Town retreat for women serving in Africa, and while I had no idea what to expect, the description sounded really hopeful.
They may have been the sweetest, short four days of my life. I couldn’t write enough posts to share all the things God poured into me through this retreat. But I will say that while I went seeking him (somewhat shambolically), He was already there waiting for me when I arrived. Seriously. That was my absolute favorite part of the whole retreat. The Thrive team, and all their faithful volunteers, prayer and financial partners, created such a wide open space for Jesus to hang out. From the opening worship session the Holy Sprit just began moving. If I was excited to be there, He showed me that He was even more thrilled that I was there. How incredible is that?!
God challenged me, He called me deeper, He healed me and He spoke softly to me. He took my brokenness and my confusion, my questions and my insecurities and gently but powerfully restored truth where I had embraced lies. Thrive facilitated that.
Thank you, Thrive people.
At the retreat, I was suddenly in a whole room full of people who “get” our lifestyle: the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the benefits and the sacrifices. And they were prepared to talk about it all! No topic was off limits, no subject too great or too small to be worthy of airtime. If it mattered to one of the women, it mattered. How that brought refreshment to my soul, I can hardly tell you.
But that’s not all. Oh no. We were abundantly loved and cared for from the very depths of our souls to the very surface of our toenails! I think the Thrive team actually thought of everything. Counseling, pedicures, small group discussions, prayer, generous gifts, massages, health consults, workshops, funny story night, on and on it went. I got my laugh back, my joy back, my enthusiasm back. Tiredness and anxiety were forced to take a back seat to unspeakable joy and renewed energy for the road ahead. I came back to my husband and girls a restored woman. I don’t know that I can ever really express how grateful I am for that.
Today, as much as wanting to promote transparency in this line of work, I’m writing this because I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who is involved with Thrive. Statistics show that the average length of time a women serves in my kind of role is eight years. I can see why. I have been closer than ever to thinking I can’t maintain this for forever. No one wants to spend life in survival mode. I want to thrive, and my four days in Cape Town with this group of sisters, a tiny 0.18% of my career so far, will enable me to continue in this for many, many years to come. How about that for a return on investment?! I feel so much better equipped, connected and aware of what I’ve really signed up for.
So for one last time, thank you, Thrive people.
Friends, maybe you would like to be a part of this amazing and worthy ministry?
There are very practical ways that you can support Thrive and women like me. They are always looking for retreat volunteers (US and overseas), prayer partners and financial partners. Maybe you even know another global woman who would benefit from going on a retreat like I did. Share the website with her! I know she’ll thank you 🙂