“I’ve never been good at taking care of myself,” Toya Mac admitted today at lunch. Her words are representative of many other global women we’ve met this week.

Toya has spent the last six years in Cameroon. The “church” where she’s chosen to worship is a prison for men, women, and children where she ministers, built for 200 but currently housing more than three times that. She’s providing leadership for an emerging school. And over the last few years, Toya has mothered medically fragile children from a nearby orphanage. It’s her heart: even before moving to Cameroon, she says, she was a foster mom for medically fragile kids.

But she hasn’t taken a real break in years because there’s always more to do. Her friends have encouraged her to take an extended time of rest, a sabbatical, to care for herself. Toya has struggled to grieve a series of devastating events over the last few years. Her host culture doesn’t allow time and space for grieving, and when she kept her grief to herself, she created distance from others who could share her pain. “I felt like everyone was saying to me, ‘When are you going to get over this?’

In January, Toya found herself Googling resources for care, counseling, and retreats for cross-cultural women. That’s how she found Thrive. She registered for the retreat before she ever had real plans to return to America.

“Where is home?” has a complicated answer. Toya has official residency in Cameroon. She grew up in San Diego, but her family is all on the east coast, and she no longer has a home of her own in the States. Her time in America in the last few years has consisted of six-week trips spread across five different states. So when a friend with a newly remodeled basement offered her a home this summer, she accepted, and when a friend paid the first half of her plane ticket home and an anonymous donor paid the rest, she rejoiced in God’s goodness.

What has God done in her so far at this retreat? For one, she’s learning how to care for herself. “I should have had this figured out by now,” she says. “I’m not a sharer, but I’m starting to realize I need to be more vulnerable. I need community, and I’m finding that in the small groups.”

“Come to me,” Jesus says, “you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Would you pray for Toya Mac today?

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