“Chomping at the bit” may be one way of describing the volunteers who waited at the bottom of the stairs to greet attendees as they arrived at registration for the Rome retreat. In similar fashion, the attendees themselves could perhaps be described as “ready to burst through the starting gate” when the registration table opened this afternoon.
There was a pervasive sense of eager anticipation of reuniting with old friends, meeting new ones, scheduling self-care appointments, finding out who would be in the same small group, and hoping to get oriented to the entire event. The buzz of chatter and laughter filled the narrow halls as the 101 attendees of this retreat maneuvered through the sign-up and orientation space.
And the hum only grew as the coffee break opened and brand new friends gathered to share their stories of home, joys, challenges, and expectations for the next few days.
Alison shared her story of home and her hopes for this retreat with her newly assigned small group. As a leader in her organization, she is responsible for pouring into the lives of others. Following a tough season, she found herself as a nearly empty jar with only a few drops of oil left - not even enough for her, let alone anything extra to share with her team. The oppression of the Muslim culture in her country of service is nearly inescapable. And she can hardly remember the last time she heard a fresh word from God, speaking just to her.
So she cried out to God, “I need you to meet me! If it’s too dark in this country to hear you, I’ll go to Switzerland. Or I’ll go to Italy if I need to. I’ll go wherever I need to if it means I get to feel your presence. I’m desperate to meet you!” And along came a Thrive retreat in Rome.
In the last few weeks, Alison’s energy has been spent on getting arrangements made so she could be gone for the week. She realized she didn’t even have the capacity to pray for herself and how God might move once she arrived, so she put herself in the hands - and prayers - of Thrive supporters, volunteers, and staff, and just got herself out the door.
So here Alison sits, waiting to meet with the Lord. She’s sitting with sweet anticipation of God doing what only he can do - something big that will bring refreshment and renewal, something that will refill her jar - so she has something to serve when she gets back home. And so she is ready to burst through the gate, not in her own energy, which has been depleted, but in sweet anticipation of what God will bring her, speak to her, and reveal to her about Himself.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20