BE Bold. Take Risk.
Each year we have our annual retreat to be refreshed and nourished. It is interesting to discover that the flavor of each retreat is different. God the Holy Spirit works in various ways to meet what we need most in every retreat. This year, many of us were again blessed. I am sharing my impressions and have requested some to share their experiences at the retreat. The snippets are designed to give you a glimpse of our small community as we make memories together at the MEANS annual retreat each year.
“Two days before the retreat, I was resigned to the fact that my health condition will not allow me to go. But God, in His perfect timing, graced me with some healing the day before and I was glad I made it to the retreat. Aside from the physical rest and relaxation that I experienced, I was blessed spiritually and encouraged as I connected and reconnected with other volunteers who have gone through difficult circumstances and yet were able to rejoice in those circumstances. I got to know more people intimately through a small group bible study as we realized that we have the same struggles in raising families, in our walk with God and the ministry God has involved us in. Another story that stood out for me was the one that Paul, my husband, shared during our Monday devotions about being poor and yet being rich before God. It encourages me to be faithful in my giving and to give joyfully as one that God has entrusted with His resources.” Elma Samuelson, Global Volunteer, Grand Rapids, Michigan
This past retreat we had a lot of time for fellowship with each other. If there is one thing that I realized about MEAN volunteers, it would be that, collectively, we are a family, an inter-generational family. The wide range of ages allows each to share wisdom, stories from the past, and learned lessons. At the retreat, the young and the old were able to catch up with each other and strengthen relationships at deeper level than what can be done over lunch or during a short break at a MEANS workday. The most important thing that makes MEANS volunteers a family is the support given to everyone. We celebrate together, we mourn together, we pray together, and we can go through anything together.Anna Borromeo, volunteer, student at Il Math and Science Academy (IMSA), Aurora, Il
It was a great joy connecting with everyone at MEANS and hearing about how the Lord is moving among many of the ministries that MEANS is supporting in the Philippines! I learned that our fears keep us from taking risks for the Lord and I have been challenged to be more diligent to make more sacrifices to invest in His Kingdom, to be more courageous in being obedient to Him, and to be more trustful of His provision and providence in my life (Hebrews 11:6) Paul Samuelson, Global Volunteer, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Growing up, I was always excited to attend the annual MEANS Retreat. At 21-years-old, this still holds true today. The annual retreat has always been a time to make great memories filled with food, fun, and fellowship. For me, this year’s retreat was a time of reflection – a time to sit back in awe and wonder of all the blessings that God has provided. During the retreat I heard numerous stories about how MEANS came to be and how God has continued to equip MEANS with supportive donors, exceptional leaders, and dedicated volunteers. Listening to these stories was a perfectly timed reminder that despite my uncertainty with my future plans, God’s plan for me is certain, and if it His will then there is always a way. Once again, the 2014 MEANS Retreat was another retreat filled with great memories; I can’t wait to see what the next retreat has in store! Kate Borromeo, MEANS volunteer , student at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
The retreat place is a bit far from where I live. However, the place is beautiful and those who attended to us are all very friendly. I enjoyed that a lot. It is inspiring to meet people who have donated their 3rd Saturday of every month for decades to volunteer for the MEANS ministry. I also like seeing the video interviews of the MEANS recipients and missionaries. At my first retreat, five years ago, I saw the greetings of Elpis missionary in Maesot, Thailand to the MEANS family and I ended up visiting them two years later. I plan to go back this winter. It was nice to see the video about other MEANS ministry partners at this year’s retreat. Steve Dykehouse, MEANS friend and donor from Adrian, Michigan
I echo most of the comments from attendees that Cedar Valley Retreat Center in Wisconsin is very ideal for our retreat. From all the MEANS retreats I have attended so far, I can say that this latest has provided volunteers greater opportunity to take on leadership, planning and execution. I was thrilled to see Rampi Hontanosas and Hannah Mooi leading the group in one of the sessions. I was encouraged to see greater visibility of the Rochas in the program, and also the folk dance presentation from Grace, Myla, Kate and Anna with Gilda Panaligan’s coaching. I like the materials provided in the retreat; 1) the milestones of faithful service.- it is encouraging to see the years of service for each volunteer; 2) MEANS core values – it is important for volunteers to be always reminded of these values; 3) ECFA’s seven standards of Responsible Stewardship – another valuable material for MEANS. Providing these materials regularly sends a message that these are important to the culture of MEANS. Overall, I believe the retreat was a success. For me, it provided a venue for spiritual refreshment and renewal. I look forward for this every year. Amy Javelosa – Rio, MEANS Board Secretary, Hayward, California
MEANS Retreat – Postscript from Lina Padilla, MEANS Board Chair
It was Friday noon. I was finishing some work so I could leave the office at 1:00 p.m. to go to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. I wanted to be there on time with Carmena to pick up Amy Javelosa Rio, MEANS board member, who was arriving from San Francisco at 4 p.m. that day. From O’Hare we planned to drive to Cedar Valley Retreat Center for the annual MEANS retreat from August 29-September 1, 2014. The retreat is a once a year event where MEANS volunteers gather together to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday routine at work and at home. The MEANS families of volunteers are looking forward to this yearly event. At the retreat, we planned to have some concentrated time to fellowship with one another, talk and assess the ministry of MEANS, pray and worship together, listen to our invited speaker, study the bible, play together, plan for our next ministry strategy, and have our board meeting. Some of our global volunteers (those who live outside Illinois) from Michigan, Wisconsin and California planned to join us, too. This time, we were expecting Frank, a guest of Steve Dykehouse, who came all the way from Spandau, Germany, to join us.
After many months of living under stress at work and at home, I was ready to go. When Carmena, Amy and I arrived that Friday evening at Cedar Valley Retreat House, in Wisconsin, a sense of peace came over me. I was again reminded of how beautiful and peaceful the place is. I knew as soon as we arrived that God’s presence will be manifested in our midst that weekend.
During the retreat, I was tremendously blessed to witness the dedication and commitment of the MEANS volunteers to serve Him. I cannot but praised the Lord to see all of them working together in love and unity, helping each other, no matter how daunting the tasks were. I was overjoyed to see bigger children taking care of the smaller ones; looking after them, playing together despite their age gaps. It was refreshing! The participation of the MEANS volunteers in taking more responsibilities in running the retreat was a definite proof that all of us in MEANS were putting into action the theme of the retreat which was “Be Bold. Take Risks.”
The morning devotions led by Paul Samuelson, from Grand Rapids, encouraged us and prepared us in our prayer time. The message and bible study on Nehemiah reminded me to be bold and take risk – at whatever challenge I will be facing with God’s enabling grace. On the last night of the retreat, I chatted with some of the MEANS volunteers who were still awake after our fun night. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a sharing of stories of how each one became a volunteer of MEANS…and how God orchestrated all the events that would lead them to be involved in MEANS. I said to myself…”we need more times like these to allow God to show us His workings. Sharing stories like that will open our eyes to see God’s hand in every detail of the MEANS story.
One of the highlights for me was the surprise party that the MEANS volunteers gave. It was a blast! To listen to what each one had to say about me humbled me. And I quietly prayed….”thank you Lord, to you belong all the glory and honor.” I was glad to see ministry partners greeting me through a video tape that was put together by Rampi Hontanosas, our It volunteer. I cannot thank God enough for Rampi, who took the time and effort to create a video for their surprise party for me.
Thank you so much my MEANS family. I am tremendously proud of you all. You give me great joy.