The global network for mission is large. You who are already reading this will have your own story, your own walk with God and in all probability, a very different background to the next person who clicks on ‘Stories from Around the World’. Mission is an exciting and amazingly diverse feature of the body of Christ which is impossible to truly categorise. Living in a rural community of 400 in the affluent South East of England is very much a mission challenge in itself and, with all its cultural differences, as much of a field for seeds to grow and mature as any other part of the world.
Being Wardens of a retreat centre, which endeavours to reach out to the mission community through God’s grace and love, has been an enlightening experience. Imagine sitting down to a meal around a table and sharing time with people based all over the world, and, better still, imagine seeing God’s grace at work amongst the people He brings together as their stories entwine briefly in a way that enriches and stretches and gives glory to God’s ‘Bigger Story’. Again and again our guests are ministered to, prayed for, encouraged and accompanied by people they have never met before and may not meet again and so often we witness ‘deep calling to deep’ as they bless each other without even realising they have done so. One guest described this place as ‘a nest over which the Spirit broods’.
Take, for instance, the young family here on furlough experiencing real challenges in the Far East who found themselves around the table with an experienced Norwegian missionary who had been based in Taiwan. They were able to speak together in Mandarin and ministered to each other in special ways as they shared their experiences. On another occasion mission workers from nine different countries gathered here to share a common story – one of watershed and uncertainty about the future. In a precious time of sharing, listening without interruption, prayer, laughter and tears they grew as individuals and as community and they graciously gave to each other what they each so desperately needed for themselves. Then there was the Anglican Minister who, after spending just a few days here with four other guests commented thus “I was welcomed into this house as if I was a family member. This obviously communicated to the other members of the party and although we had never met, we instantly related to one another round the table like brothers and sisters”.
It is good, in fact essential to stop, press the pause button and ‘allow ourselves the grace’. An increasing number of those who are considering or are actively involved in mission work are now doing so regularly and, when they arrive at centres such as this they nearly always find that the Father has provided, in advance, for their needs.
So our story from this corner of the UK is to offer a place of hospitality where Christ’s Body from around the world can be rested, strengthened, refreshed and renewed.
Written by Richard Hann, Warden, Penhurst Retreat Centre