By Resting, refreshing, renewing
By Goldie Chong
After not having a break for ten months, my husband Tek and I needed to get away from Perth for some rest and renewal. A lot of things were happening in our lives, ministry and church. We were fully involved in activities like cell group, teaching, preaching, marriage ministry, counselling and writing. We needed to evaluate our priorities for the coming few years. We did not plan any programme during the four days of the getaway at Mandurah, a tourist’s paradise located 74 kilometres south of Perth. We knew that spending time with God and talking things over with each other was what we needed to do at this time. There were no interruptions from the internet, emails or mobiles. It was a complete break from our normal routine.
Relationship with God
Upon waking up on the first day, we were delighted to gaze at the beautiful green field from our bedroom glass doors. The river stretched out beyond the rolling grass where birds came right up to the house. Not a soul around, it was peaceful, serene, quiet… how refreshing for the body, mind and spirit! I decided that I would spend my mornings in God’s presence, pray daily in the spirit for an hour for the four days we were there. It has been a long time since I spent time praying in tongues though I know it enables me to hear God more clearly. This retreat started my praying in tongues again. I had brought along a copy of Ministry Today magazine with the theme “Discipleship”. Going through the whole magazine I found several articles that spoke directly on the needs of the cell group we were leading. God was giving us instructions on our ministry.
Husband and wife
Tek and I discussed what we felt were our priorities and assignments from God in this season of our lives. We came up with different opinions and the discussion became quite heated with both of us becoming upset. He felt he could continue multi-tasking, having a hand in many pies and wanting me to help him. But he also realised he needed to let me concentrate on areas that I feel passionate about. It was getting late. As it is our custom, we prayed together before going to bed. However, after our prayer, we continued to argue heatedly. Later, remembering the principle “not to let the sun go down on my anger”, I got up and said, “We are still friends”, and laughed and kissed him. Peace was restored. The next day we continued our discussion which was just as heated, but the result was we were reminded how different our personalities were—he likes to think aloud which often sounds like he is talking nonsense whereas I like to sort things out before speaking. So we learnt that instead of being irritated by our differences, we should celebrate them and still work together.
We intentionally wanted to interact and bond with our grandchildren on this holiday. Teenager Ryan has always been a bit reserved. Haydn, a pre-teen, has a sociable personality and easily joins in our adult conversations, contributing his opinion on every topic. Five-year-old Kirstyn has always been affectionate and attached to us. With much reluctance on their part, we got them to join us in reading ‘the Prodigal Son’ which we had printed on paper. We asked each to share what they learnt from the story. We kept the session short so although they were not enthusiastic, there were no complaints and slowly, they began to take part in the discussion.
Kirstyn was upset because the beads she was playing with got stuck in the bottle. “Why don’t we pray?” I suggested. Haydn declared, “It’s no use. I’ve already tried. It’s impossible.” I prayed and got the beads out. “Say thank you Jesus,” I told Kirstyn. She said nothing. The same afternoon, Kirstyn complained that her stomach hurt. Tiger Balm was offered. I suggested, “Let’s pray”. Less than half an hour later, she was playing happily. “Do you still have a stomach ache?” I asked. She shook her head. “Say thank you Jesus for healing me”. She did readily.
The next day was Sunday. We decided we would not go to church but have our own service. I shared a story: “A man went to heaven and was taken on a tour by an angel. In a big room were many workers. The angel explained, ‘This is the Prayer Request room where all the prayer requests are sorted out.’ The next room was equally big and busy. ‘This is the Prayer Answering room where answers are sent to those who have sent requests.’ The third room was small and had only a few workers. ‘This is the Thank You room where people send their thanks after their prayers are answered.’” I then asked, “Can anyone think of a Bible incident related to this story?” Haydn suggested, “The ten lepers.”
“Right,” Tek said. “Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back to give thanks so Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’” (Luke 17:17, 18). So we discussed how we must always remember to give thanks when our prayers are answered. The next day Kirstyn came into my room. “Are you praying?” she asked. “Yes, I am giving thanks. Let’s say thank you to Jesus for the wonderful time we are having, for the games we enjoyed, for the lamb Dad roasted….” And then, we went on to sing, “Thank you Jesus for your love to me. Thank you Jesus for your grace so free….” Kirstyn had learned a valuable lesson—giving thanks.
Regardless where family holidays might take place, usually the children’s idea of a good time is to stay in the hotel and watch videos or play computer games, so it was not easy to involve them in physical activity. A treasure hunt involving grandparents, parents and children tempted them outdoors. The “treasures” included things like a flower, a tree branch, a stone, etc. Our team consisting of Kirstyn, Jasmine and I won. Our winning point was getting a scoop of wild duck poo, which the other team had not dared to touch! On another task where teams were required to get river water, both teams later confessed to getting tap water instead of river water—all felt it was too slippery to wade into the muddy bank. We had a good laugh and the generations bonded together.
Sitting around the dining table was conducive to sharing, talking and opening up our inner selves. Andrew’s mother Swee Lean, who had been widowed for three years, recalled the night her husband died of leukemia. Tearfully, she shared some of the sweet and painful memories, releasing long pent-up feelings. There are seldom opportunities to express and expose the things hidden in the heart, and this outing and sharing deepened our family ties.
Retreat to advance
The holiday was a restful, refreshing retreat. With renewed relationships and by re-focusing our lives, we are ready to advance. All this happened because we were intentional in what we wanted to achieve. END
This article first appeared under the title “Rest, Refresh, Renew” in Asian Beacon: Dec 09-Jan 2010, vol 41, no.6. Used by permission.