A Retreat to Feed the Soul

In October, Navigator staff Jean Fleming and I gathered with staff wives—most in their 30s—in a large cabin at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park.

Picture this: two facilitators, 16 Navigator staff wives (and two babies!), two days, and one cabin with eight bedrooms added up to a time of refreshment, encouragement, and challenge in the Colorado Rockies!

While we were planning the retreat, Jean had expressed two desires: first, that we go to a comfortable place; and second, that we talk about “important stuff.”

Our gathering place more than fulfilled the first criteria. Our cabin had a large living room with wonderful views of the mountains and the deer that visited frequently. The huge stone fireplace and comfy leather furniture created a cozy setting in which to relax and reflect.

On the important stuff front, Jean fed us a banquet of wisdom gained from her years of walking with Jesus, her knowledge of the Bible, and her experience as a wife, a mother of three children, and a missionary. We planned little of the content ahead of time. We prayed as we went and allowed God to direct our conversation.

One thought Jean shared that really resonated with the group is this: “Life cannot always be simple, organized, or balanced. But it can be focused.”

Jean said that if we’re living on a starvation diet spiritually at our present stage of life, we’re likely to live on a starvation diet in our next stage. New circumstances don’t automatically create a healthy spiritual diet. In this stage—where I am right now—where is my focus? And how can I live that focus in my current circumstances?

We included a good amount of processing time: individually, around the tables, and in pairs. This gave everyone a chance to start on thinking about what God wanted them to ponder before returning to their busy lives.

The feedback I have received from the women—and some of their husbands—has been more than positive. One woman’s response in particular told us we had achieved our goals: "I felt this was not so much a retreat to learn, but a retreat to feed our souls."

“I had space to hear the voice of God more,” another woman shared. “He desires me to view my circumstances as opportunities to participate in the divine nature. Jesus changes the way I respond in the story.”

On a personal note, I was encouraged to see that God has given me life lessons that the next generation wants to hear. I can minister to the next leaders of The Navigators. They are a great group, and it was a joy to serve them!

By the way, my husband, Bill, and I paid all the expenses of the retreat except their travel. We wanted to honor these women, communicate we believe in them, and love and encourage them well. In the summer of 2017, we raised the money for events like this through a matching fund campaign. We created a special fund to be used to minister to the next generation, and one of our donors gives to it regularly. We are already dreaming about another retreat in the spring and one in the fall of 2019.

Let me close with a question of you: How might you encourage and support the next generation of staff?

Sue and her husband Bill have served on Navigator staff since 1972. Although their roles have changed over the years, the campus ministry has always been involved. Currently Sue’s home is in the Encore mission. Sue’s loves are writing her faith-based blog, Echoes of Grace, facilitating Sabbath-Living retreats, and connecting with several young Collegiate staff women across the country. 
To learn more about the retreat, go to Sue’s blog at www.suetell.com. Her October 25 blog, “Three Ministries, Three Seasons, Two Weeks, and One Carry-On,” includes what she calls “Jean Gems” from the retreat. The November 1 blog features part of her devotional “Being Known.” Her blogs post each Thursday.