The retreat this weekend was such a powerful, refreshing, challenging, tiring, sweet time of fellowship together! It was a real privilege and joy to share the weekend and share God's Word with the English congregation at SVPGMBC. (That's the South Vancouver Pacific Grace Mennonite Brethren Church -- whew, quite a mouthful!) Our theme on both the Chinese and English sides was the book of Philippians, "To Live is Christ".
Conveniently, the retreat location was at TWU: that made it rather easy for me! I even got to go home after the late-night snack time, to sleep in my nice soft bed with a down comforter in a quiet room, ahhh.... :) Meanwhile poor Pastor Justin had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to keep the kids in their rooms. I've been retreat speaker and camp counselor many many times, and being a camp counselor is much more tiring than being a speaker!
Here, Pi fellowship is in the cafeteria celebrating Pastor Justin+Yvonne's first anniversary by singing Lifehouse's "You and Me". Carlin sang this song for them at their wedding one year ago; aww, how sweet!
The young people here have such energy and enthusiasm to learn from the Scriptures and serve in the church. I was so impressed to see that nearly half of them already have a regular habit of personal devotions with God -- the usual ratio for most churches I've spoken at is around 10-15%! Good job -- but still not good enough! ;) Need to read through the entire Bible, cover-to-cover: it's our owner's manual for life!
Many people, young and old, English side and Chinese side, shared with me about some of the struggles and sorrows they had with church politics; it both saddened and surprised me that they too are dealing with these issues, just like my own church. But I was much heartened to see that brothers and sisters from all corners of the church have a heartfelt desire to bridge the gaps, to communicate with and understand one another, and to work together for the kingdom of God. The relationship is akin to that of a parent with a grown adult child -- and strong families are the necessary building blocks for strong churches.
May the Lord continue to grant them abounding love, in knowledge (epi-gnosis) and insight (ais-thei-sis), so that they can approve (doki-mazo) what is excellent (dia-phero), and stand pure (ei-li-krineis) and blameless (apo-skopoi) in the day of Christ. With God's help, I know that they will be able to discern the majors from the minors, to speak boldly of the gospel, and to persevere in unity under the banner of Jesus Christ!