MEANS 25th Annual Retreat @ Cedar Valley Retreat Center, West Bend WI.

Greetings! We trust you and your family had a wonderful and refreshing summer. As I think of the dancing flames from the campfire and the cheerful voices singing while the children enjoyed the smores (gladly supplied by Steve Dykehouse from Michigan), I wish you could have shared the ‘sparks’ igniting from our recent MEANS retreat. We want to share with you some highlights from our recent MEANS 25th Annual Retreat on Labor Day weekend from September 1-3, 2012.

Volunteers Gathered: For months prior to the retreat, much prayers & creative planning were poured out to prepare a ‘special package’ for the MEANS Volunteers and our guests. I firmly believe this year’s retreat venue was God’s appointment. After we enjoyed Life Action Camp in Buchanan, Michigan for the past 2 years, the Lord directed us to Cedar Valley in West Bend, Wisconsin. The sprawling 100 acres of “carefree hospitality” well-manicured landscape trails, prairies dotted by sculptures, fresh air & clear blue sky afforded us the privilege to be refreshed, to refocus, learn and unlearn, renew and recover! MEANS volunteers gathered together to worship and sing, pray, study the Word, learn, listen and play with lots of laughter! We had meals together in a dainty family-country style dining room with healthy nutritious dishes prepared by a former Home Economics teacher.

Volunteers Celebrated: We unwrapped the retreat’s first day in praise & worship. What a glorious celebration to engage with God in worship & fellowship. As one body in Christ, we offered our thanksgiving, petition and supplication in behalf of MEANS partners – recipients & donors. Another special ‘package’ we unwrapped is the lesson on giving. What does it mean to ‘give until it hurts?’ It shows that God & His work is our highest priority. “When one has nothing, God becomes everything!”.. mama Maggie Gobran, founder of Stephen’s ministry and dubbed the Mother Theresa of Cairo, Egypt, gently reminded us at the retreat.

Volunteers Looked Back: The ministry reports presented in videos featured four main events in Bacolod & Guimaras. The events were sponsored by MEANS. Bethel Transmonte-Skinker, a MEANS volunteer and I initiated and attended these events when we visited the Philippines last August. We also visited MEANS ministry partners such as IVCF-Graduates in West Visayas. The Dental-Vision Care given to low income pastors and Christian workers, hosted by Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church was a success. Pastor Godfrey Serfino, pastor of Ebenezer commented that it should be an annual event. Project Josiah ministry team also sponsored FF Gonzaga Earth Day event.. Tree seedlings and vegetables were planted in the school ground with the approval of the principal of the school. In the future, produced coming from the Project Josiah garden will supplement the feeding program regularly done by Project Josiah at FF Gonzaga Elementary School. Bethel Skinker, environmental engineer, taught about how to take care of drinking water. The video also featured the visit to Good Shepherd Orphanage in Guimaras Province. Those who participated in these events were tremendously blessed and are looking for similar events like these in the future.

Volunteers Refreshed and Refocused: Volunteers MEANS core values, namely: living a Christ centered life, prayer before action, character before ministry and programs, unity before growth, building each other up and seek to encourage our missionary recipients and MEANS donors, were clearly demonstrated during the retreat. Our retreat’s theme based on Micah 6:8 – Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly, continues to resonate as we work in partnership with God to help each other discover His grace and love in every aspect of our service. We further learned & discovered practical application through group Bible Study from Isaiah 58. The personal Quiet Time also re-enforced Jesus’ example in living an outward-focused life, living and serving others instead.

Volunteers Renew Commitment: We can only do this by being still in His Presence, having a pure heart so that we can listen to His Spirit as we renew our commitment to serve Him in the MEANS ministry. As mama Maggie said: “it is in Silence that we leave many and listen to the One.” Oh, how I need to cultivate the beauty of being “silent before Him” if I want to live in elegance for my Lord and King!

Anne Violanda-Benthien
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
MEANS, Board Member

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