The theme of this year’s women’s retreat was “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” James 4:8.
The retreat took place at Brunel Manor in Devon from 11-13th July. Virtually every woman was blessed with the glorious and awesome power of God’s presence right from Friday evening until our departure on Sunday afternoon.
We were initially welcomed with love and warmth by the registration team that went ahead of us and the friendly Brunel manor team. We were then physically fed and nourished with huge amounts of food (Mathew 6:11, give us this day our daily bread) before being fed spiritually.
The worship team ushered us into the glorious presence of God and then we were fed spiritually by our dearly beloved host, Pastor Fatima Sibanda, who explained to us in clear terms the meaning of retreat and the need to go for retreat in order to spend time with God.
Definitions of Retreat:
A, Period of seclusion for the purpose of prayer and meditation.
B, The act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
Synonyms: departure, withdrawal, shelter, leave, pull back, depart, flee, escape.
Session one: Film show (Friday)
We watched a film titled “October baby”
The film revealed to us what it means to go through rejection, pain, and disappointment. The message that stood out clearly in the film was forgiveness; it’s only after true forgiveness that we can fit into God`s given plan for our lives. We must determine in our hearts to forgive those that have rejected or disappointed us or have made us go through unbearable pain. It`s only true forgiveness that helps us drive out bitterness, anger and hatred, towards other people. We must love ourselves before being able to love others. If we don’t add value to our lives, we can’t value and love other people. It was only after Hannah forgave her biological mother that she was able to love herself and also accept her adopted father`s love. She was then able to walk into God`s given plan for her life. If it were not for the forgiveness of Christ on the cross, none of us would be co-heirs of the Kingdom today. The Lord`s prayer teaches us to forgive as we want to be forgiven (Matt 6:14, Coll.3:13).
We also discussed some of the themes that were in the movie such as:
The various definitions of forgiveness include:
An act of forgiving or the willingness to forgive
The act or state of being forgiven
The willingness to cease or remove the blame against something
Synonyms: Pardon, absolution, remission, mercy, pity, discharge
Firmness or purpose, resoluteness.
The ability to continue to do something even though it may be challenging.
The act or an instance of making a decision.
Synonyms: Purpose, resolve, drive, earthiness, courage, dedication, persistence.
The act of refusing to accept, use or believe something or someone.
Dismissing or refusing a proposal or idea.
The act of not giving someone the love and attention they want and expect.
Synonyms: agony, affliction, nuisance, grief, heartache, torture, torment, discomfort, inconvenience.
Sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of someone’s hopes or expectations.
A person or a thing that causes disappointment.
Something or someone that was not what you hoped or expected them to be.
Synonyms: dismay, disaster, catastrophe, dissatisfaction discontent, mortification, heavy-heartedness, set back.
Session Two (Saturday)
The Saturday morning devotion was awesome; every woman was visited or ministered to by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Our first talk was given by our dear sister Jan Patching from Victory Gospel church Southampton. She taught us that, the love of God is unconditional (Psalms 139), he accepts us the way we are, even when we fail he is faithful and still remains the same. We should always know who we are in Christ and always remind ourselves of God’s Love, because nothing shall separate us from His love (Romans 8:35). If we are persuaded that God is for us, we should run to the throne of grace at all times, God is a refuge and a place of safety for us (Psalm 46:1; 27:5; Psalm 32:7). We can continually go to that place through praise and worship, hence we must praise God at all times, whether in good or bad times. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness.”
Our second talk on Saturday was from Sister Adel Pinnock from Virtuous Promotions in Birmingham. She taught on the fact that God likes bringing us into His presence, and we don’t need to go through protocols, we just need to come as ourselves to meet Him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says we should follow the example of Christ, as we are expected to be a sweet fragrance (Esther 2:12). Hegai prepared Esther with Myrrh.
Esther was prepared with the oil of Myrrh for 6 months before she was ushered into the king’s court. When we go through bitter circumstances we should come out smelling of a godly fragrance, (Psalm 45:8). Our bitter experiences should be used to encourage others out there. In Genesis 37:25, the Ishmaelites that bought Joseph were carrying myrrh, meaning he would go through bitterness but he came out with a fragrance. Jesus was given myrrh at the cross but he refused because he did not want a temporary relief, he took every pain on the cross.
Esther was prepared with perfume, Hegai here symbolized the Holy Spirit, and it was a period of separation and preparation for Esther. When God calls, you must be separated, Esther was favored. In order to come to the king, you must be prepared to go through a process with series of perfumes and essential oils. Esther was prepared for cleansing, purification and separation. Whatever challenges you are going through now, don’t give up, because God is preparing you. Esther was in the will of God, but she was going to face persecution. Sis Adel faced challenges but because she loved God, she did not allow the circumstances to remove her from the presence of God, she ran to the church at every available opportunity and worshipped God, and she did not get distracted even when people wondered what was wrong with her. Myrrh tree oozes out tear drops when it is pierced. Jesus was pierced to bring out the fragrance of God .There is a cost to bring out a godly fragrance, for Esther it was her life.
We also need to sow what we want to reap, though there was no change in sister Adel`s circumstance, she still had to preach though physically and emotionally sick. God allows somethings to come our way for us to learn to trust him. We need to write tests in schools in order to be promoted and go to the next level. God has to test us in order to reveal what is in us. Esther was prepared emotionally, she had to be stable and her name was changed from Hadassah to Esther (Esther 2:7). All things work together for good for those who love God. She had self-control; she did not reveal her identity to the king until at the right time. Dear sisters, the bruises, the lack, the hurt are all like myrrh which is bitter but God uses this and our lives come out as sweet fragrance. God has a plan for us and He will definitely bring it to an expected end. Preparation gives us access to promotion. The plan of God was not aborted even though the enemy Haman tried to hinder them. God keeps His children, when they serve and worship Him. Pray, wait and listen to God, be separated, change the atmosphere through prayer. Be a true worshipper and not a spectator and worship God with all your mind and soul.
Our third talk was given by our dear Pastor Fatima with the theme “draw near to God and he will draw near to you”
To cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; be very close.
To bring, take or pull out, as from a receptacle or source; to draw water from a well.
To bring toward oneself or itself, as by inherent force or influence; attract.
Synonyms: pull, extract, filter, deposit, produce, proceed, interest, allure.
At a short distance away.
Where something is similar.
A short time ahead.
A short period of time.
Something close to you .
Having a close relation.
Synonyms: alongside, nearby, adjoining, neighboring, narrow, close and forthcoming.
She urged us by saying we should get serious in our relationship with God. We should draw near with a clean heart and be sincere about it (Hebrews 10:26). God has never shifted from us but we always shift our position from Him. We should devote all our time to God and He will accelerate us. The woman with the issue of the blood in Mathew 9:20, Luke 8:43-48, and Mark 5:25, pushed her way through the crowd. She determined in her heart that if only she could get to Jesus she would be set free. She persevered against all odds and discouragement; she knew she was not qualified as she was ceremonially unclean. She had lots of obstacles on the way, but she forged her way, keeping her eyes fixed on her goal. She was determined to get to her destination. Though she had been ridiculed and rejected due to shame, and had suffered so much loss due to hospital expenses, she made up her mind that if she could only “draw near”. My dear sisters draw near to God before trouble lands, don’t hold on to bitterness. Sister Adel said “I love God more than the circumstances,” Focus on God and not on the situation.
We were also told to respect God and everything about the household of God (Romans 13.7c), give honor to whom honor is due. In other denominations, they bow on their knees before entering the sanctuary as a sign of respect for God. We should learn from them and teach our children to respect and honor the presence of God. We cannot draw near if we do not love and honor God. We have to press past obstacles and hindrances and reach out and touch the Lord. It is when we are near the Lord that we can hear his heart.
After the talk, every woman was anointed and some had a word, or prophesy through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Unique transformation took place; some had a revelation about their calling or ministries in the house of God. We all re-dedicated our lives to God and chose a lifestyle of drawing near to God no matter what we face.
We were once again taught the meaning of forgiveness by our sister Loulita. She demonstrated how we should let go completely of whoever has hurt us or done us wrong. The she said is done by handing over the person to God for God to deal with the individual, and then handing over our minds and hearts to God as well for God to heal the pain. Then we may take a step further by telling the person we have forgiven them; Hannah did it in the film. We might not forget the incident but we will not look at it with bitterness, and we should be able to look at the individuals that have hurt us without having a negative feeling towards them.
Sister Joy Feddis from Carmel City Church in Bristol delivered the Sunday morning message. She taught that we should seek the face of the Lord and He will draw near to us Psalm 27:4. Resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
We were encouraged to rise up and worship God in every situation; we should stop crying over problems and we should be able to carry the presence of God wherever we go. We should rejoice even before we see change. When we draw near to God we can off-load our burdens on him. We were shown the meaning of dropping our burdens completely and not picking them up again. We should lay them at the master’s feet and enter his presence with boldness and confidence, with a new attitude of praise and worship. We should also pray in the spirit and God will keep us in perfect peace. Our mouth must be seasoned with the words of God. Our works must show the presence of God, and our attitudes must show Christ. We must say no to gossip, malice and unforgiveness. We should receive Gods wisdom and strength daily, for God said he knows the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Pastor Osien also encouraged us to draw near to God. Moses was told to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). He saw the miracle of the burning bush because drew near to God. Daniel drew near to God in prayer and the lions did not hurt him. The Hebrew boys drew near to God and the fire did not burn them. Esther and Mordecai drew near to God through prayer and fasting and the Jewish people were spared. When we draw near to God, we can experience the miraculous.
My sisters, let us continue to draw near to God and He will draw near to us.