Jacob and Arlene Friesen: Attending to Our Inner Life

EMC Ministerial Retreat November 2019

by James and Maria Wahl

Last year’s EMC ministerial retreat took place at Wilderness Edge in Pinawa, Man., from the weekend of Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2019. The weekend was a wonderful time for all ministry leaders within our churches to spend time in praise and worship, prayer, connecting with each other, reflecting on God’s Word and even playing together.

A couple of verses that stood out this weekend are from Psalm 16 verses 8 and 11: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. . . You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Inner Life

Our keynote speakers for the weekend sessions were Jacob and Arlene Friesen from Morrow Gospel Church. They spoke on the topic Remain in Me: Reflections and practices for ordering, nurturing and protecting our inner life.

In the first of four sessions Jacob introduced the topic of contemplating the inner life. He referred to a quote by pastor Gordon MacDonald, who suggested your youth and charisma can take you a long way, but there will be a season when the energy fades. What will sustain your ministry and leadership then? We need to give attention to our inner life.

1 Peter 2:11 speaks about sinful desires waging war against our soul. Jacob spoke about the soul desiring to seek harmony, connection and integration. An unhealthy soul disintegrates and is torn apart. In a healthy soul there is integrity where the will, mind and body are united with God. Jacob touched on the life of Daniel and the time he spent praying and focusing on his relationship with his God. His faith not only survived but it thrived.

Starting with Jesus

In the second session Arlene shared with us the topic of starting the day with Jesus. She posed the question, is your inner life a banana plant filled with monkeys? Does life sometimes feel like it’s coming apart at the seams? Do you long for silence? Are we listening to that other voice when we start our day with Jesus?

Arlene challenged us to listen to the voice that tells us who we are in Christ. It is easy to be distracted by all the should do’s and need to do’s in our life. Mark 1:9-13 tells us the voice to which Jesus listened. Jesus heard the voice of God. He was aware of God’s presence, He knew His name, and He was beloved. Jesus followed the voice through testing with obedience. Arlene encouraged us to get rid of the distortion in our lives while listening to God.

She suggested we push back the other voices that seek our attention in the mornings. A few ways of doing that involve praying to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit first when we wake. Read a Psalm and just meditate in silence to hear God’s voice. Maybe we need to let something go or choose a different response.

Finishing with Jesus

In the third session Jacob focused on finishing the day with Jesus. He suggested we need a life that includes reflection. We need to stop and say, “Lord, how did we do today?” We need to be intentional when thinking back on our day. Jacob shared with us the 1-1-1 principle. He encouraged us to do three things at the end of our day. First, come up with something you enjoyed in the day. Second, something you appreciated about a person in the day. Third, think of something about God for which you are grateful.

Staying with Jesus

In the fourth session Arlene shared with us the theme of staying with Jesus through the day. In Exodus 3 God called out to Moses in the burning bush. What are our burning bushes and do we notice them? We are challenged to keep Jesus in the midst of the tasks of our day. Arlene encouraged us to remain at Jesus’ feet. It is a matter of right action versus reaction.

In Luke 10:38-42 it’s the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus. It was a matter of distraction or devotion. We learned that love for a neighbour springs from love for God. What was Martha distracted from? Urgent tasks? Often it is a choice between good and better. Jesus wanted loving attention to Him. Many times we need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His Word.

Arlene closed with these thoughts. First, have an on-going conversation with God. Second, surrender your agenda to Him. Third, begin a time of silence prior to meeting with someone or starting an activity. Reach out to God the source of our life.


Throughout the sessions we were blessed to hear four personal testimonies of how God has worked in their lives and their personal walk with God.

Laura Penner spoke of drawing close to God through her stages of life. She encouraged us to read our Bible daily, pray every day and love the people in front of you. She is continuing to ask God what she still needs to learn, being still and listening.

Elmer Barkman spoke about his “But God” moments in his life. God is the one that makes the difference. God was leading him to mission work even before marriage. He spoke of the many times he prayed about leaving his house and taking his family to the mission field. Throughout his time in the mission field he mentioned the promise he received that God was going to be with them wherever they went. It was equally important to build a wall of prayer warriors.

Doris Barkman shared of her experience of needing to stay steadfast to Jesus. God had prepared her to go anywhere. She would get the opportunity to help meet the medical needs in Nicaragua. She encouraged us that we are all ambassadors for the Lord.

Jae Woong shared his story of his interest in Anabaptism and his calling to move from South Korea to a Mennonite community in Arborg, Man. He appreciated experiencing God’s greatness and presence through nature. Jae shared how he grew as a believer through his desert experiences. His suffering with arthritis allowed him later to see God’s grace and realize a miracle through healing. Was his dependence on the medicine or God? He was able to lean on God through the hardest times. With Jesus was joy and power.


Along with the sessions it was a great weekend to share stories together, get to know those we haven’t met and encourage each other in our ministries. There was even time for pool, table tennis and curling matches. The guided prayer time with Irene Ascough and the Plett brother’s discussion on healthy fighting was appreciated.

We ended our weekend with a beautiful time of communion together reflecting on our Lord, the cross, His resurrection and the anticipation of His coming again. Thank you to Jacob and Arlene for taking the time to challenge and encourage us with your words.

James and Maria Wahl (St. Vital) are planning to serve God in El Salvador.

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