Greg spoke from Exodus 13, a passage I think I've tended to gloss over. In verse 17 we are told that even though the way to the Promised Land could have been easier and shorter, God led them through the wilderness of the Red Sea, the desert, the thunderings of Sinai, the hunger and snakes and years of camping. There the people were stripped of clarity and control, he said, as an invitation to intimacy with God.
Powerlessness and confusion? Well, we have that in abundance as we cross cultures, make a thousand mistakes, struggle to understand and be understood, to order and bless in the face of chaos. The shocking proposition he laid before us: God actually brings us here for our good, to embrace us with protection and presence. We need to be shaken out of our little kingdoms of comfort to cling to the only love that matters.
In fact the entire narrative is one of a lover and a beloved, a growing confidence and warmth that actually transforms us into people whose potential for reflecting beauty and truth into a broken world brings about the vision of community we long for. Communion with God and with each other, spilling over into acts of justice and mercy for all. We trust the path even when it leads through suffering, because it leads to intimacy with God.
It was over a year ago when we began dialoguing about this retreat. In the meantime the Thompsons walked through some wilderness of their own, ultimately deciding to leave the place they have loved and worked in for the last two decades and move to Memphis to be part of the movement towards beginning to heal the centuries of racial injustice in America. And in the meantime our people in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, South Sudan, and soon Malawi have walked their own wilderness paths of grief and loss. We faced miscarriages and wars and Ebola nearby and temptations and failings and loneliness and the mundane daily stress of feeding a family and caring for others. But over the last week, we all came together to worship and pray, to strengthen and encourage, to ponder anew the God who pursues us even when the path feels obscure and the higher purposes cloudy.
We are so grateful, to them and to the dozen others who came to speak to us. We had 6 days of retreat, including Team Leader training on topics from vision to paperwork. We had a panel of Kenyans express to us what it is like to be shamed by us, to be isolated or treated unfairly, good hard things we needed to hear. We had long-term Serge wise people speak to us about evangelism and loving others and ministry from weakness and transforming communities. We had spirited worship and a communion service on the beach under the stars. We danced and drew, swam and ate and ate some more. We celebrated. We commiserated. We finally hugged goodbye and went on our hundred wilderness paths back to beautiful stretching places where God woos us to be loved.
Thanks to all who prayed for this time, and do keep us in your hearts as we return to the journey.