Leaping and diving again, the school of flying fish fascinated me as they bounded across the bay. Whether something menacing was chasing them or they were exhibiting unrestrained joy in play, there was no chaos. Coordinated acrobats, each knew his role and his place.
We wish there were never any missteps on our team of nearly 40 people (not counting children), that communication was always clear and helpful, and that our actions always exhibited our heart for missions. But, unlike the fish, we must take time to sort things out.
Merriam-Webster defines retreat as “an act of going back or away, especially from something dangerous, difficult or disagreeable.” Retreat also can mean time in a place of quiet and refreshment away from one’s usual duties. Our work is often difficult, and there are times when it is inherently dangerous and seems disagreeable to our interest in comfort. Therefore, we held a retreat to strengthen our coordination as a team and pull together better.
Our theme was Fan the Flame, appropriate for an exhausted team trying to keep warm beside dying embers and neglecting the things most important to us. Each morning and evening worship, we directed our thoughts toward Jesus and were encouraged. He has given us the embers of faith and salvation for free. But we must, through prayer, fan the embers of our faith into a flame to renew our walk with Jesus, restore our passion for ministry and refocus on God’s calling and purpose for our lives. Christ alone sustains us.
Memorizing our vision and goal statements as a team while discussing issues helped establish in our minds why we are here and where we are heading. “Our vision is to impact the Palawano tribe . . . in this generation, giving them a dream and a hope of what life is meant to be . . . in Jesus Christ, bringing healing to brokenness . . . .” Healing to Brokenness is our motto. Just as each of us is broken and finds healing in Jesus, we pray to be instruments of that healing to a broken generation of Palawano.
Looking inward first, we discovered that our personal weaknesses become the biggest hurdle to realizing our vision. Just as we seek to be instruments of Jesus to bring healing, we must receive that healing from moment to moment. Looking outward to what hampers realizing our goals, we find that there are cultural hurdles, personality hurdles within the tribal leadership, unhealthy relationship patterns and an innate Palawano resistance to leading.
Newer missionaries found it encouraging to hear that the Palawano are considered, by various mission boards, to be a difficult tribe to evangelize. It helped them understand why things seem to go so slowly, that perhaps it is not a lack of Holy Spirit power or biblical methodology, but that one must continue to press hard to the throne of grace, praying for these lovable but broken, self-sufficient people.
Retreating to nature to enjoy God’s handiwork and escape our comfort zones through team-building activities, we learned that each of us contributes to a whole, even the youngest missionary child. By working together, we are achieving our vision of impacting the Palawano tribe in this generation. To God be the glory.