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Monday, October 5, 2009

Stories

This past weekend we took about 100 church members on our autumn retreat. It's a one night overnight at our spectacular retreat center on the Baltic. This year we focused our theme on the story that God is telling in our lives. We had 7 people from our fellowship give a testimony to the ways in which they've seen God at work in their lives through out various chapters of their lives. It exceeded our expectations in terms of what they shared. It was such a special time together. It is so powerful to enter into another person's story. It is very inspiring and encouraging. I sat with rapt attention as a young Scottish woman shared about meeting God through relatives and having her faith nurtured at a camp. She shared how she worried about the day to day realities, especially being a mom, concerned that she isn't doing something that will cause her children to become axe murderers. This, from one of the nicest, kindest people I've ever met! A musician from Austria shared about how he felt pressure to "get a real job" instead of pursuing the dreams he had deep down inside to be a musician and use that in ministry. He is incredibly talented and our church has benefited from his gifts. Sadly, he and his wife and child will move back to Austria in December. That is part of our life here. A young man from Russia told of how he experienced incredible success in business after communism fell but along with that came a reckless lifestyle. He got caught up in drug use and lost everything. Eventually, he met a man who had been a drug dealer who introduced him to a Christian rehab center and it was there that he experienced the profound forgiveness of a loving and grace-filled God and was able to break free from his addictions and go onto a productive life of serving the Lord. I listened as a woman told her story of a broken family and how God did a miracle in the final days of her mother's life. How God has led her down pathways she could never have predicted, a path that took her to work in a Russian rehab center where she met her future husband and eventually landed in Sweden with him. She continues to look for the ways that God will use her in surprising and sometimes uncomfortable ways. Her faithfulness is an inspiration. I was blessed by a woman from Ghana whose testimony spoke volumes about God's faithfulness and how she urged us all to be sure that we give God the glory where it is due. She teaches our 2 and 3 year old Sunday School class and is remarkably gifted teacher. She also has a depth of character that is compelling and lovely and beautiful sense of humor. I was touched by the story of a woman with three wonderful children, who is married to a man from a different country and culture. Their life has taken them on many moves, through many transitions, and she spoke of not always understanding the road ahead and yet, how God has faithfully led her family to each new place. She spoke of the role of hospitality in their lives, how they've sought to be an open home for others and also how they've benefited from the warmth of others. We've enjoyed this family's hospitable presence in our lives and are utterly grateful for their presence in our church. We have a warm connection with them and it was such a joy to listen to this woman share about how God had used their life journey in so many ways to shape and mold them and get them through the hard times. I was inspired to continue to seek to be a person who offers others hospitality.As we consider the story that God is writing in other people's lives, it encourages us to think about the ways in which God has been active and alive in ours. It was a great weekend of getting to know people better. I was richly blessed and deeply touched by the ways in which people gave witness to our amazing God.