After being at the retreat in Cape Town for just a few hours, I already felt like I'd received so much. It was amazingly refreshing to connect with a new sisterhood of women who "get my life" and understand the complexities of the challenges I face. That alone made this weekend well worth it.
There was a drawing for an "extreme makeover". Along with all the rest of the women, I wrote my name on a small slip of paper and tossed it into the bag. When they drew the winning name from the bag, the woman hesitated as if trying to read it correctly. "Alice..." she said, and then paused. "Oh dear," I mumbled, and Rebecca looked at me with a confused look on her face as if to say, "What?! That's not you." Then the woman finished reading the paper: "van Rensburg". Rececca just started laughing! "Oh dear" is right! When I wrote my name down on that paper, never did I imagine that I'd actually get picked!
My mind immediately said, "I don't deserve this". I began thinking that it should have gone to someone who wants it more, someone who lives in a far more remote place than I, someone more deserving for any other number of reasons. With all eyes on me, and everyone cheering and clapping, I smiled and shrank back in my seat. I figured if I was thinking that I'm not deserving of this gift, that surely everyone else was thinking the same.
As time went on, though, I quickly saw that people weren't thinking that. I was often greeted with, "You're the lucky winner!" or "It's so exciting that you won!". The other missionaries were genuinely happy for me. Although I still felt a tinge of guilt every time someone said something about it, I learned to just respond in humility and gratefulness.
While my mind was telling me that I didn't deserve to receive this amazing blessing, my heart sang another tune. In one of the sessions, it was stressed that regardless of our area of service or level of difficulty in our living conditions, we stand on a level playing field. We are daughters of the King and He delights in us. God delights in me. It was an internal struggle, but I received this gift as coming straight from my Daddy God.
I was pampered with a full body massage, pedicure, color analysis, make-up artistry, and hair style. It was such a fun, special, and memorable day. I was overwhelmed by the women who came to serve us. To think that they raised funds, traveled so far, and humbled themselves so much for me, whom they'd never even met, left me awed and deeply humbled. Ministry board members painting my toenails?! Unbelievable. These women are my heroes.
The entire retreat was just what I needed. At first my natural perspective told me that so many of the other women present needed it more (because of their length of time on the field, the years since they've been home, or the primitive conditions in which they live and serve), but I quickly realized how much I needed it too. Although my challenges may be very different from some, I was still at a place where the physical, emotional, and spiritual "filling up" at this retreat was exactly what I needed. It's as though you don't know how dry you are until you start soaking up, soaking up, soaking up...
I was strengthened and encouraged by the messages and our small group discussion and prayer times. I was uplifted and blessed by the women I got to know and relationships I got to build. I was humbled and validated by the women who came to serve me. I was energized and challenged by discussions I had with wise women about how to handle some of the challenges I'm facing in our ministry. I was renewed and refreshed by lots of laughter and fun times with Rebecca, my friend who went with me.
Strengthened. Encouraged. Uplifted. Blessed. Humbled. Validated. Energized. Challenged. Renewed. Refreshed. Yeah, that about sums up my weekend!