I attended a conference that impacted my life in a profound way. I registered for this particular retreat, because it advertised focusing on skills for those who work in the area of member care (those taking care of missionaries and pastors in their field of service). As a missionary and counselor, I was extremely interested in learning new skills for caring for those who are ministering in Central Europe, and, in particular, how I could become better at caring for individuals I see weekly in my ministry.
Fortunately, the retreat was held only an hour and a half away in Hlinsko, another town in the Czech Republic. We stayed at the beautiful Immanuel Center, where we had a gorgeous view of the lake every day.
Although it was easy for me to travel (only a train ride away), I was surprised when I arrived to find people had come from South Africa, the Philippines, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Jordan, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom.
The conference was organized by Jan Whitmore and Mintie Nel, founders of Mission Encouragement Trust. The purpose was to provide training for those attending and teach skills learned from over 20 years of ministry in member care.
Every day we had sessions about debriefing practices, spiritual growth assessments, and personality tests. It was fascinating to learn these skills and consider how I could incorporate them into the counseling ministry that is beginning in Prague.
At the front of the room the entire week of the conference, we looked at a banner with beautiful words, which really embody the essence of care: the knowledge that if we are thirsty or weary, we can come to God and He will give us rest.
Time and again we were taught about “Cross-centered care,” and in order to care for those God has entrusted to us, we must first come to the Cross ourselves. We find the strength and resources for this caring work, as we surrender our lives to God’s love and refining process.
Along with being fed spiritually, I was also fed relationally. With so many attendees from all over the world, there were always interesting conversations about culture and ministry worldwide.
As part of modeling good member care, the Mission Encouragement Staff took good care of us. We had elegant and delicious food every day. On one special night, we were treated to a banquet with enough food to feed many more than our group. Jan and Mintie told us that because all of us at the retreat were care-takers, they wanted to have an evening where we felt celebrated and honored. How humbling it was to experience such lavish generosity (and how delicious was the food).
One of the best parts of the week was praying for all the nations represented at the retreat; those of our national origin, and those where the participants now live and serve. After a beautiful time of praying specifically for each nation, we waved national flags while singing praises to God, who loves and cares about each of these nations so deeply.
I am grateful for the experience and for the ministry of Mission Encouragement Trust. Jan and Mintie’s ministry will have a lasting impact on many missionaries throughout the world, as we return to our countries with the prayers and skills we learned. We will serve better with what was imparted to us.
During the retreat, the “baton of care” was transferred to the attendees, as this is the last retreat of this kind Mission Encouragement Trust will conduct. The last day we symbolically held our “batons” to acknowledge the care we each were taking back to our countries. What a powerful image this picture captured of our being ready to go into the world better equipped in caring for others. We will share “Cross-centered care” wherever God calls us, and we will never forget this retreat that prepared and strengthened us for this task.
Associate Missionary to the Czech Republic