Means Retreat 2019 Impressions by Faith Cheng
Take My Life and Let it Be was the theme song of this year’s MEANS Retreat, and one of many worship songs and hymns that we sang together to open up our time. I was sitting in a fellowship hall with 20 uncles and aunties who all pitched in to help contribute and set up the space for two and a half days together: the A/V system for the worship team, speakers, and videos we would watch; the banners on stage and on the podium; and, of course, an abundance of food. It was an all-hands-on-deck weekend.
The retreat theme was Radical Generosity based on the Gospel of Luke, preached by Tim Keller (via video, not in person). The contrast between the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector in Luke 18 laid the foundation of our discussion, and the disciples’ conversations with Jesus in Luke 9 revealed that ministry in a Christ-follower’s life is a result of generous grace and discipleship.
We dove deep into Radical Generosity, which stems from the heart and permeates one’s whole being. It is a pervasive mindfulness of others and their needs, an attitude of pouring out not just from our bank accounts. No, we learned that night that radical generosity extends far beyond financial giving; Tim Keller prompted us to reflect on our generosity in the different areas of emotional and physical space, relational economy, and time; and whether our generosity really was pervasive. Radical generosity is pervasive generosity.
As our hearts are the wellsprings of radical generosity, Pastor Tim provided some truth to guide self-examination of our hearts. He reminded us that though we had in the past repeatedly fought and lost the battle against shame and inadequacy, now we have met Christ, who calls us out of our past and into blessing. Ephesians 2:10 teaches us that we are God’s handiwork, his poem, crafted in detail and assigned a time and place in history for meeting specific needs of specific people: “there are hands only you can hold, and demons only you can cast out; you are marked by sentness,” Pastor Keller gently reminded us. This service and ministry must stem out of strong discipleship, where believers give fully of themselves to one another, committed to one another and to Christ. Discipleship is difficult, but it is God’s gift to his children, through his children—for each other, from each other. However, it is human that I would never give myself fully to others without first giving myself to Jesus with no reservations. And we will never give ourselves fully to others or to Jesus without first realizing how utterly Jesus gave himself for us.
In our small groups following these sessions with Tim Keller we both gave and received this gift of discipleship to one another. We challenged one another to identify hindrances that prevented us from radical generosity, and committed to the Lord in prayer our happiness, busyness, pride, addiction to convenience, or denial of others’ need that prevented us from pouring out wonderful gifts from the Radically Generous Gift giver. We encouraged one another in deeply experiencing (as Ate Amy would say, marinating in) God’s grace and mercy towards us, being broken by encountering the cross at Calvary, recognizing that all we have belongs to God—and finally, though generosity may cost us, recognizing that no one was ever cut or hurt more deeply by generosity than Jesus Christ himself. I witnessed radical generosity in the heart of MEANS even before we left that room. It was powerful.
The offering from MEANS Retreat went to various scholars through the Education Program for Indigenous Families, whose goal is to develop Christian leaders, enabling young men and women to be agents of change in their families, communities, and the nation. We supported one student from the Elpis Ministry in Thailand, who was abandoned by her parents and raised in the care of her grandparents until she enrolled in Elpis School, where she came to know the Lord. She recently graduated from there as valedictorian and is going on to Chiang Mai University. We also sent support to the education of three high school students, selected by Precious Jewels to perform ministry through farm work. The brothers and sisters at MEANS Retreat spent time in prayer for these students, that the Lord would strengthen them in their studies, and show them every day that He is the source of hope and truth and light.
Praise God for the blessing of dedicated time to reflect on his goodness, his provision, and the strength he gives us to serve Him that weekend. I was in awe of His presence even as we shared food and laughter together, played team games, sang karaoke, and told stories together. In videos from our ministry partners in Philippines and in Thailand, the Lord showed us his Spirit moving among university students and whole communities. He refreshed our hearts that weekend to keep serving and giving this next year, out of the radical generosity of Christ towards us. Thank you for joining with us in MEANS’ ministry.
Take my life, and let it be, Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.