Posted by Tim on 15th October 2012
We have mentioned in several blogs the importance of retreat – to get away from it all, recharge the batteries, and seek God in prayer. This is an important part of maintaining our emotional and spiritual health – to withdraw for a while from the busyness of our lives and responsibilities and to stand and stare:
What is this life if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare?
W H Davies’ whimsical poem Leisure cuts straight to the heart of our busy responsibility-laden lives: – if we don’t create time to re-connect with God, the natural world around us, our own emotions and the natural rhythms of our lives, can we really said to be living? How come the very people Jesus has given abundant life to are running around like headless chickens offering abundant life to others but somehow failing to enjoy it themselves?
Saint Aidan and his seventh century co-workers (see our blog from July 2010) set up their monastery on a remote island, whose only access was via a causeway which was submerged at high tide. Accordingly they developed a rhythm to life which was governed by the tides: time on the island which they spent in prayer and contemplation, and time on the mainland when they engaged in mission. Many contemporary mission workers have forgotten the importance of this rhythm, and enthusiastically do mission work without making time to restore their spiritual resources. Small wonder that they struggle with exhaustion and burnout!
We recommend that as part of a strategy for maintaining spiritual health, missionary longevity, and human wellbeing, every mission worker should develop a personal rhythm involving daily, weekly, monthly and yearly times of retreat, contemplation, prayer and reflection. To help with this we have provided a page listing some good places (mostly in the UK) where retreats can be organised. These can vary from space to find individual times of prayer to fully-led times of retreat. They can be done silently or not, in groups (better for the extraverts!) or in solitude.
We realise that regular retreat may imply five days away once or twice a year, and for many people, particularly those with families, this is not always practical. However it is possible for one partner to give another a free day once a month to spend time with God, or even for busy parents to grab five minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom to read a psalm and say a quick prayer. It is not the quantity of retreat that is important, so much as the regularity.
Whichever way of doing retreat works best for you, we strongly recommend that everyone makes sure that in their busyness they don’t squeeze out of their lives the God who longs to have more of our attention. It was Mary who was commended by Jesus, not Martha.
Tags: Bethany, Martha & Mary, Penhurst, retreat, retreat centre, St Aidan, stress, The Juniper Tree, W H Davies
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Posted by Tim on 21st May 2012
The Juniper Tree
Although I got back to England two weeks ago, last week I left you in suspense about the second half of my trip to Asia. This was because I felt it important to inform you about the renewed challenges facing the Eurozone so that you can pray into this situation.
Following the conference in Chiang Mai, I spent a very enjoyable evening at The Juniper Tree, a most pleasant guest house in the suburbs of the city, with beautifully maintained gardens and delightful wooden chalets in traditional Thai style. There is a tangible sense of peace about the place, and one of the reasons is that it is cunningly designed to create a rural feel, despite cramming a number of buildings onto a fairly small plot. They are effectively screened from one another with careful planting. There is also a swimming pool, library and tv lounge. It is an ideal place for tired mission workers to get a pleasant break away from work, or to stay while they use the facilities of the city. It’s also a useful place to stay while accessing the member care facilities of Cornerstone Counseling Foundation and The Well, though you need to be aware that children are welcome so at times, particularly near the pool, there is some ambient noise.
Traffic in Phnom Penh
After that I spent several days with friends in Lopburi and it was good to see the excellent work they are doing there, and to visit a Thai church which I last visited 7 years ago, before flying to Phnom Penh for a week.
Cambodia had changed much since I was last there in 2004. There has been a lot of inward investment and there are now many modern facilities which would make life very pleasant for the wealthy, of whom it seems there are an increasing number. There were a lot more SUVs and fewer bikes, though still a lot of seemingly suicidal moped drivers, who manage hardly ever to collide. I met several people serving with different agencies who gave me a warm welcome, and heard about the significant number of independent mission workers, though sadly I did not manage to meet up with any of them. I had a number of very helpful conversations with those working to help them though.
Klong Toey, Bangkok
After that I returned for one day to Bangkok where I met up with Ash Barker of Urban Neighbours of Hope, whose work I have referred to before. He lives with the urban poor in a very deprived area of the city, and his whole family has a very simple lifestyle which reflects that of their neighbours. This gives integrity to his message to the often wealthy Christians of the world about incarnational Christianity. Ash is coming to the UK to talk about his work next month and I strongly recommend that you get along to his keynote meeting to hear about his amazing ministry. Special guest speaker will be Rev Joel Edwards of Micah Challenge. For more details click here.
Thank you so much for your prayers during this long trip. It was most enjoyable, hard work at times, but also invigorating. These visits generate a lot of publicity for the work of Syzygy, bring opportunities for collaborative relationships, and bring me into contact with people who need our support.
Tags: Cambodia, Cornerstone Counselling Centre, retreat centre, Thailand, The Juniper Tree, The Well, UNOH
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Posted by Tim on 9th April 2012
We have mentioned a few times on this website the need for regular retreat to help manage stress. Some may wonder exactly what this means, or are a bit daunted by the prospect of five days of complete silence in a monastery.
If that’s you, then Penhurst Retreat Centre is an excellent place for you to have a retreat. One of the most charming things about Penhurst is that it doesn’t feel like a conference centre. It’s a home, in a 17th century manor house, which is tastefully furnished just like it was when it was lived in by a family. An ideal start to feeling, well, at home in a new environment.
It is situated accessibly near main roads in East Sussex, but far enough away not to hear them, and indeed it’s so rural that it’s hard to hear anything at all apart from the sounds of nature and agriculture. With lovely gardens and an orchard which is being developed into a prayer garden, it makes a very restful and relaxing place. There is also opportunity for some country walks and access to the famous Ashburnham estates nearby. One satisfied customer, Alex, commented “”My stay here was just what I needed – perfect for me! This place inspires prayer, with its sense of God’s peace and presence. It’s an easy place to listen to God, a place of blessing.”
Penhurst is also intimately small. Unlike some places where there are dozens of people so it’s hard to find a place to be alone for prayer other than in your room, Penhurst takes fewer people, so you can always find somewhere to get away, whether it’s in one of the two chapels, the lounge, the library or the church just across the garden.
If you don’t like the thought of being on your own, there is a full programme of led retreats and workshops, many aimed specifically at mission workers. In fact, there is a distinctly missional theme to the place, with its many historic connections to global mission, and each room is dedicated to a famous missionary, with photos and books in the room to inspire you.
There are friendly helpful staff who lead prayer twice a day (optional) and are available for discussion and advice whenever you want it, and the food is excellent. The cottage pie even rivalled my mum’s!
For more information visit Penhurst’s own website
Tags: Penhurst, retreat centre, stress, support, UK
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Posted by Tim on 24th May 2010
Many tired missionaries working in East Asia are delighted to have discovered Bethany. This is a rest and retreat complex on Cheung Chau Island off Hong Kong. It is specifically funded and staffed to offer member care to those working cross-culturally in Asia and beyond offering good quality, inexpensive accommodation. Bethany is set in gardens of trees and flowers on the quiet, traffic free island of Cheung Chau with good beaches and scenic walks, so is an ideal place to relax and recuperate from a demanding ministry.
Despite feeling remote, it is conveniently accessible from Hong Kong, so it’s not hard to get to despite feeling away from it all. Set on a hill in attractive grounds overlooking the South China Sea, Bethany’s location is idyllic – five minutes to sandy beaches, peaceful walks around rocky coves and yet the town with its restaurants and shops is just nearby. The Bethany team includes those who have understanding and long experience of the demands on people, for example adjusting to new cultures, difficulties with co-workers, frustrations with sponsors, parenting and educational decision-making, family and marriage needs cross-culturally.
The Bethany mission is to keep people resilient, working in their God-given field for longer. At a basic level, they provide a home from home with familiar food, language and culture allowing people to recover in holiday mode from tiredness and stress. In association with this they have experienced pastoral couples available for prayer and with a listening and sympathetic ear.
More information is available on the Bethany website: www.bethanyministries.com
Tags: retreat centre
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