Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Jesus, Matthew 11:28)
Can you imagine 30 global servants, 26 missionary kids, 14 IM staff, 2 IM board members, and 3 program guests all in one place? That’s what happened at the end of July as all 75 of us came together to attend the Conference for Overseas Missionaries (CFM) held at the Silver Bay YMCA Conference Center on Lake George in upstate New York.
Missionaries & their families gathered from ministry contexts around the world to enjoy God’s creation, to fellowship with IM colleagues, and to tend to their souls. As the Global Coordinators for Spiritual Care, we helped to design the program, to lead worship, and to offer spiritual companionship with our colleagues.
“There comes a moment in our striving when more effort actually becomes counterproductive, when our frantic busyness only muddies the waters of our wisdom and understanding. When we become still and allow our life to rest, we feel a renewal of energy and gradual clarity of perception.” (Wayne Muller, Sabbath)
Our first full day together was a Sunday, and this year we decided to fully lean into Sabbath rest. We would begin with morning worship, but the rest of the day was free. There would be no workshops or meetings the entire day.
We said, “Sabbath looks different for every individual. Rest might mean sleeping. Rest might mean a walk around the lake. Rest might mean conversations with other colleagues. Rest might mean not opening a laptop for 8 hours. We will not define rest; everyone gets to experience it as he/she sees fit.”
These 24 hours of intentional Sabbath rest allowed each of us to fully decompress in a way that none of us could have foreseen. When the program pieces began on Monday, there was an openness to the movement of the Spirit that set the stage for curiosity and wonder as the week unfolded.
By the way, by using the very same letters, “listen” spells “silent.” (Kirk Byron Jones, Fulfilled: Living and Leading with Unusual Wisdom, Peace, and Joy)
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Savage and the Rev. Betty Wright-Riggins facilitated our times of spiritual formation. They invited us into spiritual practices that encouraged us to listen to God from different perspectives. We dove deep into Scripture. We explored beauty through art. We held the tension between certainty and curiosity. We talked about the practice of pause. We examined how Sabbath emerged in Scripture.
These spaces for spiritual formation beckoned global servants to reflect on their own spiritual journeys. To settle in, to become quiet, and to listen to God’s voice through familiar and sometimes unfamiliar spiritual practices.
As a community, we chose to dive deeper together. We held questions for one another. We offered encouragement to one another. We cared for one another’s souls.
Better is one hand full of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
Another piece that was new this year was storytelling in small groups. Everyone, both global servants and staff, was invited into a group of 3 to 4 people and remained with those persons all week. Creating these micro storytelling communities became opportunities for vulnerable sharing, tears & laughter, and allowed authenticity to deepen and grow.
Doing member care well helps do missions well. It strengthens missionaries so they can effectively love, evangelize, and disciple; endure hardship, and grow as people. It’s pioneering, practical, and deeply personal ministry. (Kelly O’Donnell, Doing Member Care Well)
Each afternoon of CFM, we (David & Joyce) offered 1:1 spiritual direction for IM’s global servants. These were privileged places to listen and to pray with our colleagues. This was holy ground. Each day, the Holy Spirit invited us to deeper surrender and transformation as we held the sacred stories of our colleagues with grace and tenderness.
It is moments like these that remind us how we are woven together as the body of Christ. We need each other.
We are honored that we have been invited to help plan and lead this conference for the last five years. We also celebrate the openness of IM’s leadership to add new components to CFM each year to enhance rest and renewal for global servants. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is a willingness to let go, and to lean into a new thing!
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us during the conference. It truly made a difference!
Please cover us with prayer as this ministry continues.
Your partners in the Gospel,
Joyce & David Reed