At the beginning of November, approximately forty men from Carlock Mennonite, Morton United Methodist and First Mennonite Church gathered at Camp Menno Haven for our annual Men’s Retreat. If you are unfamiliar with such an experience, let me fill you in. Each retreat has essentially the same structure. We begin with funny videos and strange questions to allow some time for conversation and laughter. Then we begin a routine of worship, teaching, food, and free-tme. The last moments together, on Sunday afternoon, include testimonies from how the Lord has stirred hearts just before we partake in the Lord’s Supper together. This routine is both exhausting and refreshing for me. The retreat is mentally exhausting because of the high quality of teaching that takes place throughout the weekend. I regret that I only remember small ‘nuggets’ of wisdom which the Lord stamps upon my heart. The retreat is always refreshing because of the communal study of Scripture, honest conversations and prayer, laughter around great food, adventures hiking around camp, and strong worship where men practice the Psalmist’s words, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in joyous song and sing praises!” (Ps 98:4).
This year was unique because at the same time of our retreat, other people from First Mennonite were tending to the physical needs of camp by giving their time on Saturday to clean, chop wood, clear trails and other various chores. After speaking with some of these individuals, I know that their time was also exhausting and refreshing. It was exhausting because some of the chores were difficult. They also took the full day to do manual labor before driving home. However, it was also refreshing because they experienced the joy of supporting the physical property of camp and participated in these tasks in the context of mutual community.
These two gatherings are similar and important for reflection. Both events required a sacrifice of personal time to intentionally meet in community for the sake of a common mission. The mission of the men attending the retreat was to learn how to dig a deeper 'spiritual well' through prayer. The mission of the work volunteers was to beautify camp. Neither event could have taken place without sacrificing valuable time and a willingness to grow in relationship with other Christian people. As you continue to read our daily Scripture readings each Wednesday, which takes us through the book of Acts, pay attention to how the first century believers used their time. Consider their priorities. Consider their growing sense of community. Consider their desire to help one another. Consider their common mission. I encourage you this week to look for moments which you can gather in community for the sake of the King’s purposes and live out Psalm 101:6, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may [do life] with me.” Although this may stretch your comfort zone and be a little exhausting, I promise that you’ll find that mutual community centered on Christ is truly refreshing to the soul.