Connecting Hearts: Ministering to GEM Women
After a busy time of healing, doing miracles and losing a close friend, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). If Jesus, who was fully man but also fully God, needed to rest, why is it so hard for humans to answer His call to come away?
Maybe we believe that stepping away for a time will have a detrimental effect on our families or our ministries – that things just can’t run smoothly (or at all) without us. Maybe it’s because it requires us to relinquish control and that makes us uncomfortable. Whatever our reasons, Jesus makes it clear that it’s in the coming away that we receive the true rest He promises.
Twice a year, the Greater Europe Mission member care team offers GEM women the space to come away with Jesus and find rest at a Connecting Hearts retreat. The program is the same for both retreats, spring and fall, but the location often varies.
Each retreat location is carefully chosen – a lovely hotel, usually near water – to allow women to experience the beauty of God’s creation. To warm up physically, emotionally and spiritually during the colder months.
The invitation for GEM women is to come away and find rest. Honestly, the rest that takes place isn’t usually sleep. Most women who have been to a Connecting Hearts retreat will probably say they have left with darker circles under their eyes! But their hearts have been refreshed, which is a sign of true rest.
A loving team of supportive GEM women organizes these retreats, desiring for every participant to rest in whatever way she needs, with the hope of connecting intimately with God and each other. Schedules are held loosely, offering women the choice to participate in whatever they might need to answer Jesus’ call to come away.
Need a nap? Take one.
Feeling the need to pray? Find a friend or take time to be alone.
Want to enjoy God’s creation? Spend time outdoors.
Women can participate in the unique experiences that resonate most deeply with them, including large group teaching and worship, small groups, art activities, games, spiritual direction, prayer, counseling and cultural excursions.
Desiring to bring simple joys, the team even pampers participants by blessing them with items that are hard to find in some European cities, like brown sugar, canned pumpkin, spices and other special treats!
One of the long-term benefits of the Connecting Hearts retreat is the friendships that are cultivated among GEM women. Spending time with others in similar situations helps with feeling seen, being known and loved, and this encourages vital friendship connections that can last a lifetime. Long after going back to their countries of service, after using up their precious spices or butterscotch chips, the women’s deep friendships remain.
While each woman is responsible to pay her costs for the retreat, some supporting churches and individuals may give donations to make it possible for women they care about to attend. And, to keep the costs low, the Connecting Hearts team members graciously volunteer their time to serve their sisters and co-workers in the Kingdom.
Some recent retreats were cancelled due to Covid but, thankfully, many women were blessed to gather again in November 2021. The next retreat is scheduled for March 2022 and it is a hope that God will provide a way for the women who couldn’t make it in the fall to come in the spring.
Part of the DNA of Greater Europe Mission is not only to place global workers on the field to do ministry in Europe but also to provide them with the resources they need to be healthy and whole. Connecting Hearts retreats are just one of the many ways that GEM global workers are cared for and sustained in the midst of their service.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
Matthew 11:28-29 (MSG)
About the Author:
Michelle Johnson serves with Greater Europe Mission through GEM Teams in Kandern, Germany.