At the beginning of summer 2019 I had an opportunity to be part of the IFES European staff retreat. The timing was perfect for me, as I had started my three-month sabbatical around the same time. The retreat helped me walk into the sabbatical with a focus on Jesus, and already in a period of reflection on the previous few months.
Scripture Engagement has been really helpful to me in helping me learn new things. The retreat felt like a very safe space to reflect and engage, and as a learner at heart, I found numerous aspects of the retreat fascinating. Probably the most impactful thing for me was the balance of spending time in solitude with God, and with others in community. It was a healthy combination of meditating on the Word, prayer, and learning together.
After having this privilege, I wanted to share it with others. This kind of retreat was pivotal in my understanding of rest and reflection, so I decided to invite a friend of mine, who also works in ministry, to join me on our own four-day retreat in the Czech countryside. It has now become a tradition for us, and we have both since then introduced some other friends to retreats as well.
The crucial combination of solitude and community I experienced at the IFES European staff retreat was exactly what we wanted to recreate on our Czech retreats. Our pattern has been that after some discussion and prayers, we decide on a topic. Some of the topics we’ve had on our retreats include ‘Prayer’, ‘From mourning to dancing’, ‘Knowing I am loved’, and ‘Resilience in times of crisis’, among others. We always start our days with a Lectio Divina spent in a solitude time, then we share about our experience in scripture. Afternoons tend to be spent in some reflection (timeline, topical reflection), hikes or some manual labour.
These retreats have quickly become my preferred method of rest and vacation. It helps me with spiritual disciplines in my life, gives me more clarity about God‘s story in my life, and deepens my relationships with those who spend time on retreats with me. My friend Ráchel once said that she can‘t think of a better vacation as a ministry worker. I agree with her. I believe that as a ministry worker, I am at risk of spending my time with God only for the purpose of succeeding in said ministry, of slipping into business talk with God, rather than a deep relationship. I am at risk of going about my ministry by doing, rather than being. Retreats like these help me not to fall victim to these risks, but walk with God and carry out my ministry more meaningfully.
Eva Petržilková, UKH (IFES Czech Republic) staff worker