by Chris Kroeker
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
Twenty-six months after our last retreat, we had our Paraguayan missionary retreat from Feb. 1 to 4. Because EMC-supported staff is down to five missionaries and two children, we gladly included retired EMC missionaries who continue serving in Paraguay.
After settling in and getting to know the lovely camp, we prepared for supper. Dark, ominous clouds soon gave way to winds, lightning, and a torrential downpour. Later that evening, because of the storms, a major power outage affected us for 26 hours. With that, our water supply dwindled quickly.
Needless to say, we had a number of challenges to start our retreat. There was ample opportunity to guard our hearts and to become more aware of the movements of our hearts, either down into the kingdom of darkness or up into the kingdom of light.
Paul and Hildi Amstutz did an excellent job of leading us to reflect on where our hearts are at, letting God examine and speak to us (Jer. 17:10). Besides the first evening session and the prepared questions for our personal devotional times, they led us in daily three-hour sessions of introspection and quietly listening to God based on Janet Hagberg’s book The Critical Journey where six stages of faith are discussed.
Sooner or later in our journey our faith hits a wall, and we often don’t respond well to it. This is a painful time when we have to deal with emotions like frustration, anger, loneliness and disillusionment. God’s purpose in our “wall experience” is to help us redefine who we are, who is God, and who is our neighbour.
He invites us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), allowing us to dialogue with Him. These wall experiences are crucial in the development of God’s character in us, and our understanding of and relationship to the world we live in.
We had good times of fellowship and prayer together, and enjoyed the marvelous outdoors, going swimming in the creek, the trip to the river, and the great food.
For my wife and me, these days away from our church-planting ministry were well worth it. God has used this retreat to renew our strength, our vision, and our passion to help others also live the abundant life that Jesus offers freely.
Chris Kroeker and his wife Revita serve under EMC Missions in church planting in Minga Guazú, Paraguay.