A Global Retreat for Intentional Care, Rest, and Renewal

Our Lutheran Brethren International Mission (LBIM) missionary families live and serve in cultural contexts that are very different from their home cultures. They navigate life in different languages and minister in areas where Christian community is minimal. For these reasons and more, the life of our cross-cultural missionary families can feel lonely and isolated, leading to discouragement, burn-out, and a myriad of issues that negatively affect ministry. Intentional rest, renewal, and spiritual care are vital for long term health and productivity.

In late 2023, LBIM was blessed to facilitate, for the first time ever, a global LBIM missionary retreat. It was a significant undertaking. Our missionary families from far corners of the globe (Chad, Japan, and Taiwan) took a pause from their ministry contexts and navigated the complexities of international travel, making their way to the Suan Bua resort outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. A staggering amount of car, train, and plane connections was orchestrated, and by God’s grace, all arrived safely and on time.

On November 26, a week of retreat and renewal commenced… a week of fellowship, sharing, laughing, crying, learning, praying, and playing together. Our theme for the week was “Joy in the Journey.” Our speakers each took one of the four chapters of the book of Philippians, focusing on taking joy in all circumstances, finding joy in unity, knowing joy in God’s grace, and being joyful in God’s provision.

Joel and Liz Christenson and Chris and Suzanne Preistaff, our missionary care couples for Asia and Africa respectively, led the retreat. A team from Triumph LB Church (Moorhead, MN and West Fargo, ND) provided children’s ministry programming. Rachel Roy and Rachel Christenson of Mount Bethel LB Church (Mount Bethel, PA) provided ministry in music and worship. Lissette Gabre, a TCK (Third Culture Kid) Consultant and People Care Specialist from OM (Operation Mobilization), spent a day with us, sharing her expertise with both kids and adults. President Paul Larson and wife Bee were also part of the retreat, as was the family of Pastor Sky Chen, the pastor of Victory Chupei Church, a congregation of the Chinese Lutheran Brethren Church of Taiwan, and the sending church of LBIM-Chad missionaries, the Daniel and Nancy Wen-Wu family. I was blessed to have my wife Rachel and daughter Claire along, as well.

The days were interspersed with times for worship, hearing from the Word, corporate prayer, small group time, sharing time, children’s programming, games, communion, and even a night of “LBIM’s Got Talent!”  It was such a joy to see our missionaries from different fields connect with each other, share stories, pray together, play together, laugh together, cry together, and rest together.

Spiritual retreats are not a new experience for our missionary families. We have been intentional about facilitating those in each of our fields for decades. But it has often been expressed what a blessing it would be to have a global retreat, where all our missionaries could gather in one place for connection and renewal. The task was daunting and expensive. But by God’s grace, and the generosity of his people, this dream became a reality. Thank you, Church, for blessing our missionaries with this gift.

Dan Venberg is the Director of International Mission for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.

Retreat Reflections

Matthias Szobody  | France—preparing for ministry in Chad
We walked into the global conference barely four months into this new vocation. On the one hand, our minds are full of questions about what remains for future ministry. Yet there we were, fellowshiping with those the Church sent long before us, listening to story after story of how our Father has already been touching lives through them. The encouragement could not have been more timely.

Sara Hosch | Taiwan
Thank you for investing in our families. Thank you for this incredible opportunity to be served and loved on, and for sending teams to love our kids, as well. We are arriving back in Taiwan beaming with joy and hearts full from this time of encouragement!

David Narvesen | Chad
It was a wonderful time of replenishment after a difficult year. I feel much more rejuvenated and ready to get back to the people who need to hear the Word of God.

Teresa Szobody | Chad
The first global LBIM retreat was more than I expected it to be. I can’t find an expression to communicate how valuable it has been to form a connection with our Asian missionaries in conversation, prayer, and worship together, and in hearing their stories firsthand. Priceless!

Ethan Christofferson | Taiwan
A big shout out to all who invested so much to make this week possible and so amazing. We feel refreshed, encouraged, and better equipped to march forward. We come away reminded that we are not alone but rather a part of a big family that really cherishes each other. Wow!

Paul Larson | President, Church of the Lutheran Brethren
In the CLB stirs the heart of a missionary people. In the heart of a missionary God stirs the desire to gather people from all corners of the world. How fitting that those most scattered in the service of God’s mission be brought together for a brief rendezvous of frontier disciple makers. At so many points and pictures held in my mind from this retreat, I sensed the smile of God. Thank you, Church, for your support and mission partnership!

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