What is Encounter? The details say: It is an 8-week staff development program in Colorado Springs. Your weekly schedule consists of a gospel class with Bill Tell, time with counselors from PRT, marriage mentoring, working through the Personal Contribution Assessment, a half day with God, sharpening your mpd skills and discussing developmental books with other program members…
But I say: Encounter is a gift.
The Gift I Received:
All summer long I processed and questioned and looked inward. And there was a moment while working through the PCA where I thought to myself and felt deeply in my heart, I am kinda pumped about how God made me! I was given the gift of joyful acceptance of how God designed me. I was given the gift of celebrating how I am wired and how my wiring is life-giving to me, needed by those around me, and brings delight to God’s heart. This new freedom to be me has affected how I spend time with the Lord and how I am entering a new year of training staff.
To be Received:
Before this summer I don’t know if I could have expressed how important it is to be fully honest with those around me. Full honesty allows me to be fully accepted. Meeting with two wonderful, grace-filled, spirit-listening counselors helped me experience this. They encouraged me to share how I was feeling and what I was thinking, even if it was ugly, even if it sounded blasphemous. Not only did they hear me, they gave voice to my heart. A few times they offered words to clearly describe what I was explaining. What a gift to be received! What a gift to be heard! I was given freedom to be where I was. Never was I rushed to get to a resolution. Finally my counselors affirmed my desire to “kill the shoulds” of life, especially when it comes to my time with God. Instead of asking what should my time with God be like, what if I asked “What is the Lord inviting me to?” Such simple shifts in thinking became life support to my mending heart.
I felt a number of things when John and I signed up for Encounter last spring.
o Fear. I haven’t spent a weekly half day with God since my daughter was born three years ago. How uncomfortable will it be to sit with God that long?
o Selfishness. I was the one who communicated a desire for counseling. So that meant our family had to move across the country and live in a host home all summer . . . for me.
o Worry. How would Lucille respond to being with a babysitter for 15 hours a week? (Families with kiddos have to find and pay for a sitter during program meetings.)
But I also felt…
o Relief. No staffing STP. No fundraising assignment. No overseas trip. This time my heart was the assignment. My marriage, family, sanity and health was the only focus.
I have read and reread this thought from Ruth Haley Barton
about “how important it is to have time and space for being with what’s real in my life—to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with thequestions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness.” It took a summer at Encounter to let life settle enough to see and be with what is. This, combined with my deepening love for how God designed me, sent me back home a lighter and freer woman, wife, mom and minister. I am seeing, loving and becoming more of myself. And maybe for the first time in my life that is all I want.
I imagine some of you Mommy Missionaries have considered attending Encounter. Maybe it has been suggested already, or possibly this is the first you have ever heard of it. I hope you will consider adding it as a possibility to discuss with your husband and regional leader for a future summer. You are worth the commitment and investment.
Melissa found the Navs as a freshman at Colorado State University and considers it one of the best discoveries she ever made. She married her Navigator sweetheart ten years ago and has served alongside him in the Florida region ever since. Melissa loves craft coffee, visiting big cities, and as a Colorado native, counts raising her three year old daughter 15 minutes from the beach an unimaginable gift.