Last year we offered a virtual group Retreat experience for those who couldn’t gather because of the pandemic. For Kathleen and her group, the impact grew far beyond their Retreat weekend. We are thrilled to have Kathleen sharing with us today!
Mark 1:35 The next morning, Jesus got up long before daylight, left the house while it was dark, and made his way to a secluded place to give himself to prayer.
Airforce One landed at Andrews Airforce Base, just outside Washington, D.C. It was Saturday night and the President of the United States was keeping a discipline that he had known from childhood. I wouldn’t witness this President fly in or do what he had to do to make it to church. I certainly wouldn’t see him until the next morning when he taught Sunday School at my church, First Baptist Washington, D.C.
It was a life lesson to see a President turn up Sunday after Sunday with his Scripture teaching prepared. Sunday after Sunday? Prepared? Old Mr. P. from another Bible Study group stopped giving excuses as to why he “hadn’t had time to read the lesson.”
When I decided to sign up to lead a Velvet Ashes Retreat last year (after a few side-line years) I reflected on the word “busy.” The United Kingdom, where I live, is a very busy place. People hardly have time for church never mind time for a retreat. If I led a group, who would attend?
The Velvet Ashes office took care of that concern, and soon I found myself with a list of six women who would be zooming in from Northern Ireland, northern England, southern England, Portugal, North Africa and eastern Europe. I was so thankful for the ease of our time zones!
Due to covid, we could not meet in person, but we could watch the beautiful videos prepared by the Velvet Ashes Team, listen, or join in with worship and download the creative handouts.
We prayed for our connections, both spiritually and tech-wise.
Almost immediately I had a surprise blessing of hospitality from the nearby Waverley Abbey. Free use of their prayer room! (Are you kidding? Was my first response.) This room, due to the plague (this Abbey has seen more than one), was not being used. It had excellent Wi-Fi, and it became my quiet no-neighbour-mowing-the-lawn-outside-my-window space.
But that was only the beginning of the blessings we were to receive.
The Saturday night feast saw us all dressing up (finally somewhere to go in a land of closed airports and meeting up restrictions) and showing each other delightful food from our host countries. We lit candles, watched the videos, laughed, read Scripture, and prayed together. This retreat formed a bond that would just be a start to facing the coming year.
As last year’s theme was on Invitation and looking at what the seasons of our lives might bring, I formed a WhatsApp group that would gather us together in each season. We’d re-watch the Seasonal Velvet Ashes video, meet for a Zoom Coffee and pray together. There would be times of quick prayer requests on this WhatsApp page, or notes for celebrations or just saying we were thinking of each other. Artwork would be shown, or simply photos of backyards, prayer spots and of walks we took.
Then one morning at 4:00 am, while still very dark, I woke up. It was the kind of waking up where you know the Holy Spirit is doing a little more than just nudging you to pray. I found myself muttering, “Okay. Okay. Let me put the coffee on,” and headed downstairs to the kitchen.
Ping! Our WhatsApp page showed a message from North Africa.
It was our lovely young mum/mom who said something like, “If you’re awake, my son’s been in an accident back in the States.”
I messaged back immediately. Praying now.
Ping again. He’s in critical condition.
At that point I got down on my knees and started scrubbing the kitchen floor saying, “No. No. No. Lord help. Lord.”
Then a message that said her wonderful, beautiful, totally on fire for the Lord, son had gone to be with his Jesus. Oh, Our Father, I just cried.
Yes, our group prayed and grieved with the flowing of tears that came from one of our group members bearing such a loss. We were all blessed by the loving care of the Velvet Ashes Executive team praying for her and her family, for all of us. We had learned to feast together, study together and now cry together. Just daughters of the living Lord, who were once only an email, a Zoom link, signing up for a retreat where we would receive more than we knew we needed.
And while I can’t give the name or location of where we will meet up in person, we invited each other to the 2022 Velvet Ashes Retreat with the words “We’re meeting at Monica’s house. See you in North Africa.”
We’re just not going to be too busy.
We love the way that our virtual pandemic option for a group retreat last year became such a gift to the ladies in this group!
It’s not too late to experience the 2022 Retreat wherever you are. Grab a couple of friends or teammates and find a special spot to watch the videos and work through the Retreat guide together. Or enjoy some quiet alone time with the Father knowing there are women around the world doing that too. You can register HERE.