For the Lord comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
I got to see God working in, on, and through his people…to see deserts turning into gardens, and I am so thankful to have witnessed it and been a part of it.
Last weekend our team had the honor of supporting three members of Christ Church (Austin, Texas) in hosting a silent retreat for about twenty English speaking internationals who attend Church of Christ our Peace in Phnom Penh. Everyone arrived by bus Friday evening and chatted over dinner after which Christine, our “silent retreat” tour guide, gave everyone the schedule of meals and corporate prayer times and a packet with resources intended to guide each person in silent prayer through the weekend.
During that meal on Friday night, I could sense a mix of skepticism and openness in the group as they were asked to look at a list of descriptive words to identify the state of their soul as they entered the silence. Were their souls anxious, weary, chaotic, bruised, thawing, etc.? It was clear that there were waste places and deserts in their lives that had either been identified or not, and this became a weekend of discovery for them as they were welcomed into the discipline of sitting with their own souls and Jesus in the context of silent community.
While this was happening at the retreat in Cambodia, Christ Church back in Austin had been asked to pray for those attending the silent retreat and to send encouragements, visions, Scripture, basically anything that they believed they had heard from the Lord about the retreat. These messages were posted in a common space, and retreatants spent time browsing them to see if anything resonated that would give them further insights into the work the Holy Spirit desired to do in their lives.
As I wandered and prayed for the retreatants, I felt like I was seeing people come into deeper, more vibrant color. I’d never had a sense or description like that come to me, but what I saw happening was beautiful, so I praised God for it. A little affirmation came later when Christine was reading the highlights of some last minute encouragements that had just been sent from Austin, and one of them was a vision/picture that had been drawn and Christine quoted the person who sent it along saying, “I wish you could see the color!”
On Sunday morning at ten o’clock, they broke silence by sitting in a circle and one by one sharing a piece of their experience, and the flood of beauty that poured from their experiences went deep into the soil of each other. I don’t know how to better describe it. The visions, Scriptures, and experiences they’d had through their wrestling in silence with God and the support and encouragement from the church back in Austin unveiled a plot of land with budding vibrance and growth. It was another victory for the Gardener of Zion.
After they all left, Mary, Amy, Liz, and I went to dinner that evening praising God through the retelling of peoples’ testimonies and growth stories. We marveled at the beauty of the church in Austin coming around the church in Phnom Penh, and as we looked over the lush, Cambodian landscape from the mountain out toward the ocean, we sat with thankfulness and joy to have been able to witness and take part in the work God did in, on, and through his people.
Please take a moment to pray for the retreatants. You can literally just pray this: Lord, please sustain and protect those who attended the retreat. Help them to not forget your goodness to them, and as they go into their daily work help them to grab hold of the gifts and tools they have been given that they may press deeper into the good work and the good rest you have for them. Amen.