Upon the recommendation of trusted friends and team mates, I attended a women's ministry equipping conference that turned out to be a rich time of learning, bonding and worship with women from all around the globe. Women in ministry - from the far reaches of Siberia to the coastline of Spain, all the way down to parts of Africa - came together to learn how to develop and train women in practical and deep ways.
Entrust Ministries has been a ministry in the making. At first it was designed to educate and equip women behind the Iron Curtain, but it has grown to become an international ministry that trains and equips women to go back to their contexts and facilitate ministries in deeper, more meaningful ways. There are 4 modules, Facilitating Relational Learning, Developing a Discerning Heart, Discovery Bible Study and Women Serving Women. They are designed to be taken in succession and each builds upon the other. Furthermore, multiplication is built into the material so that women who have taken all four courses are able (if they intend) to take it back to their own churches to reproduce. There's a lot of hands-on learning during the courses and feedback is provided by both the facilitators and your fellow learners. It's an intense week of learning, practicing new skills, rehearsing and revealing hearts - but it was good food for the soul, and had many immediately practical things to take back to ministry life at home!
We were located in Kilchzimmer, Switerzerland, nestled amongst green hills and sprawling pastures full of satisfied cows and horses. It was idyllic, a great place to unplug from life and focus for a week on honing skills and building each other up. I took the first module - Facilitating Relational Learning. In essence, it was an intense course to hone bible-study leading skills with adults, focusing on how rich the experience can be through guiding a study with specific questions, objectives and activities in mind. It was thoroughly enjoyable because of the fabulous mix of women from such varied backgrounds that came together. I think I made life-long friends in that short week! There was lots of time to be able to practice leading, talk through problems and successes and bounce ideas off each other. It was an encouraging environment that modelled well for us a safe, open environment for women to open up and the Spirit to move. There were often many 'meta-moments'. Since we were talking about how to lead a group discussion while leading a group discussion, there was some hilarious moments what we were talking about was actually happening (or not happening) at that exact moment!
We also enjoyed one free day in Basel. What a beautiful city! There were many things about Switzerland that reminded me of Japan. The cleanliness, order and on-time-ness of the public transport! It was an easy city to navigate with picturesque architecture, well manicured gardens, and adorable houses at every corner. We spent time walking through the city and along the banks of the Rhine. There was an intriguing Paper Museum and the famous Tinguely Fountain. But really the day was most enjoyable because of the company - having shared our experiences, histories and hearts with these women, it was really lovely just to sit in the market place and sip on good coffee with these fast friends.
When I think about lessons learned at this retreat - there are many. Most come from the hard and persevering experiences many of these missionaries shared with heavy hearts. There is nothing like the firm and refining hand of the Father, only to find the grace in His guidance in retrospect. There were lots of tears and soul bearing - how rich to participate in bible studies continuously over several days with women who truly love and know God! I also learned more about myself - though I am verbal, I am more of an internal processor than I had known, as we waded through study after study, it became more apparent.
During one bible study we were asked, "How do you define faith?". After some thought I shared with the group, "Last year a fellow missionary family gave us their indoor plants to tend, they were going on furlough for 6 months back to America. Soon after they got there, the 6 months turned into a year and we kept the plants for much longer than we anticipated. But I really grew to love the plants. Anika and I loved watching for new buds, we propagated some, watered them when needed, figured out how much sunlight they needed and changed their positions for ultimate growth. We repotted some, hung some more and split one so that it would thrive more. The experience - the day in and day out-ness - of those actions, the seemingly small changes, the repetition, has resulted in much growth and greenery. But every day it just felt like we were tending a small garden we had inherited - only to give it back after the years end. Faith - right now for us, in the middle of language learning, still figuring out the specifics of God's plan for our family's ministry here - feels like this to me. A day after day tending, cultivating where there are signs of growth, pruning here, turning a pot there. We have tried our hand at propagating, some with success, some without. But overall, there is more green in our lives. And that - right now - is what faith looks like for us. "
I am super thankful for the experience of Entrust and the women who made it so rich. I hope to be able to continue with the courses to be better equipped for ministry. I could not have gone without a perfectly capable husband and a truly flexible daughter as well. Thank you family :) If you are curious about Entrust, you can find out more at their website here.