Lately, I have been doing a lot of caring. Specifically, caring for others as they retreat. Last month, we hosted a retreat for cross-cultural workers from The Mission Society who came down to Spain to spend a week reflecting together, dreaming together, laughing, and even crying together. It was a time for people to rest and to refresh and to talk face-to-face with others who love them and care for them.
Sometimes, retreat looks like a couple or a family coming to our home to spend time in debrief, in deep counseling and coaching, and in a period or recouping and refreshing and gathering new strength to go back in to service again.
Last week, I had the awesome privilege of being a counselor and coach with a small team of missionary women who hosted a retreat for our peers... specifically, our Latina peers. Woman from Central and South America who are missionaries serving in Spain and in North Africa. We hosted 36 women from Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico. Women who have been sent out as missionaries to work in tough situations. Eighteen of them are working in North Africa in Muslim contexts. The other 18 are working in Spain - some in Muslim contexts and some in other difficult situations.
I cannot give you specifics due to the sensitive nature and security issues that these women face on a daily basis. They will remain nameless and without identifying details in this writing. But they will NEVER be nameless or faceless in my heart! I will forever be honored to be in the company of my Latina peers.
I will forever be humbled by my friend who has been working in a North African Muslim context country for 14 years on a funding budget of $350 per month. After fourteen years of service and love for the people of XXX country, she is being called off the field and in to retirement by her agency. She is heartbroken. She does not want to go home. She does not want to leave the people she loves in XXX. Her extreme sadness at leaving the relationships she has built speaks volumes about the depth of her heart - about the depth of Jesus' heart. We shed many tears together.
I will forever be touched by the testimonies of women who struggle daily with finding means to do their work for lack of funding and lack of attention or care from their home countries or churches or agencies. One woman said,
"They send us some money to do the job. Then they call us to get a report on what their money did or how we used their money. But no one ever asks, 'How are YOU doing? How do you feel? We are thinking of you.' This retreat is a blessing to me, because some other missionaries and a couple of women from the United States actually thought about ME! They thought about taking care of me and blessing me and really serving me. I can't believe it! No one from back home even does that."
I am so honored to have been able to be available. To be able to serve and to offer my counseling and coaching skills in this way to these women. To be a friend and to be a shoulder to cry on. To be there when someone needs a good long hug. To be a listening ear when someone needs to say all of the things that they can't ever say in their country or area-of-service because it is dangerous or forbidden. To listen when someone doubts whether they have the strength to continue. To shoulder their sobs when the weight is too much. What a privilege.
This is a part of what I do.