Our October half term has been spent at the 3rd Medhurst Ministry family retreat. 12 cabins on a site in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, taken over by families and gospel workers. The week run by Medhurst Ministries was Monday to Friday; family teaching sessions in the morning, free time in the afternoon, and then separate kids and adult teaching sessions in the early evening, followed by hanging out together once the kids were in bed. The week has been full of fun, laughter, great teaching, honest conversation, and growing relationships. Not just for my pastor husband, as important as that is, but also for me and my boy. That’s what is so great about this retreat, the emphasis on the family, not just on the families in attendance and the desire to cater to every person whatever their age, but on the wider family that is Medhurst Ministries.
Our week has been spent together. Learning together (kids and adults), walking and talking together, eating together, watching the kids as they play in the rain together. Walking the dogs, together. Cleaning up, together, watching each other’s children, together. Catch the theme?
The whole goal of the week has been encouraging one another, together, as we walk, sometimes literally, side by side. Allowing every voice to be heard from the youngest to the oldest and all in between, together. Loving, caring, enjoying and delighting in genuine friendships, some of which are older and deepening, some of which are just beginning, but all united in serving one another as we seek to serve Jesus in churches in hard places.
For my husband the time spent with other pastors, bouncing ideas around, listening to incredible stories of God’s goodness, learning from the experiences of others, rejoicing in growth and encouraging one another in Jesus, is invaluable.
For me as a ministry wife, gospel worker and Mum, the delight of uninterrupted(ish), honest, challenging, and encouraging conversations, where we share wisdom, experiences, personal challenges, heartaches and joys, has been an absolute treasure.
But the true delight of the week has been watching my 13 year old boy interact with confidence with all the other children there. Enjoying having younger children look up to him (they’ll grow out of it, I’m not worried). Having peers who challenge him, mock, humble and appreciate him as he is as well as understand and share their own ‘my dad’s the pastor’ stories. Adults who take the time to ask him about him, tease and wind him up, delight in his attempts at banter and most of all genuinely love and care for him as an individual and as a part of this new but growing family.
And that’s what’s great about the retreat. The time and thought put into the activities, which even includes sending a note to the children through the post as a reminder, teaching, free and structured time. It’s all focused on loving and caring for and delighting in one another, just being a family. From teaching in the morning and evening sessions to planned and spontaneous activities in the afternoon. To having the chance to spend time as women just to sit, chat and have a cuppa or a glass of wine in the evenings once the kids are in bed (or watching a film in the next cabin). And these are the truly precious times, where we share what the Lord is doing in our churches, in our homes, in the hearts of our children, and ourselves. Those few evenings were the highlight of the week for me, as I listened and heard what the Lord is doing and was encouraged to keep going by my sisters in Christ. But also what was unusual was the way that our conversations ranged through all our roles; from wife, to gospel worker, to Mum, to friend, to church member. It wasn’t just a get together of wives, or mums or any of the above, but a sisterhood who are united in their desire to serve the Lord in hard places.
In many churches in hard places we find ourselves in isolated positions, with few people who understand our contexts, or even our desire to minister there. So, to be away from the everyday, in log cabins, for a week with people who totally get it and from whom I can gain wisdom and experience and share my own is an amazing blessing and joy.
And it won’t stop in the log cabins. Zoom calls for, with, and between the children, as well as visits, where they can be arranged, WhatsApp messages and calls. We now know that we have these friends and sisters always on the other end of the phone. A constant flow of communication as we delight in the joys of life and cry and pray for one another in the difficulties. Together.
Who wouldn’t want that?