Written by Jane Mehringer
To say farewell to new friends after a retreat is always a little bittersweet. You hug your new friend and say, “I’m so glad I got to know you!” Followed by, “Me too, if you’re ever out this way…..” But today was different. I took some time to stand back and observe the interactions going on in the room. Faces were bright, people calling out to someone in another group, hugs all around, and possibly the best thing: laughter! Last night, attendees were asked to share something funny that had happened while they were on the field. It was a slow start, but the flood gates opened. If we’d let them, I think they could’ve gone all night! They were still talking about it this morning, and I overheard many say, “I haven’t laughed like that in years!” Laughter is so healing.
My mind went back to the day they arrived. I remember friendly people with practiced smiles and a look of relief that the trip was over. I could still see in my mind the faces of a few who looked like they were hanging on by a thread. As Shelly began her series on grace and grief, slowly small layers were beginning to peel back, and then some healing tears began to flow.
For some of the guests, it took a little longer to open their hearts to the others. Understandably, it isn’t always easy to share your heart with a stranger. But with each activity, pedicure, massage, or art class, prayer was also involved. One of the biggest aspects of Thrive is prayer. We were given the names of our guest weeks ago and have been praying for them since. As we began to know their hearts, we were able to pray more specifically. The most amazing thing began to happen! It was as if we could literally see the Father lifting their burdens! You could see it in their faces and hear it in their words.
Today, as we were in our small groups, the question of “how did this retreat affect you” arose. The phrase I kept hearing over and over was “I finally feel like I have a community!!” How wonderful to hear that God had indeed answered their prayers! As for me, I thought the cool thing was watching the bond between the different generations!
The younger women were being loved and mentored by the older generation, and the older being inspired by the younger generations! Prayers were visibly being answered by God in every way big and small! One of the ladies in our small group said that she missed cookies… later we walked into the coffee break and there were cookies!
The time finally came for our last group session and the process of leaving had begun. Goodbye is not as hard when you know a lasting bond, a lifetime bond, has been made. Strangers no more. Emails and phone numbers were exchanged. Despite all the battles satan had thrown at us, prayers to our Loving Father has won the Victory!!