LWNSW Retreat January 2020

Come on a journey with me and I will give you more than you can imagine!

Opening my Bible to Ezekiel 34:11–16 with a heading The Good Shepherd of Israel little did I know what a ride it would be! A chance to prepare a Retreat for the women of NSW/ACT was like a gift that came from a freshwater spring.

An amazing pathway back in March 2019 with the title Pathways to the Good Shepherd took a direction of its own and, tending it with prayer and by being still to listen for the signs, these developed into a retreat program which would encourage others to seek their Good Shepherd.

Event management works well when you are organised and if you have a plan. Time management is another tool deserving of consideration and being creative certainly helps! Turning ideas into reality sure promotes development of a dream!

Having an imagination goes a long way to achieving a retreat program, as does engaging with excellent people who have leadership and impressive faith-filled lives. So, with a little tending it was easy to gain commitment and a desire to be part of this pathway to the Good Shepherd!

Time and again it appeared that my prayers were answered:

  • The experience of placing a seven-foot-tall handmade silky oak timber staff in front of our national bishop seeking his agreement to come as a representative of the Good Shepherd, to nurture and nourish the women of LWNSW, was met with a genuine overwhelming “yes!”.
  • Searching for a sheep skin to use as a symbol of a fleece to lay on the altar took me to a farm in SA where an offer was made of a well-loved mat that, after six hours of brushing, became the cleanest, fluffiest sheepskin ever found!
  • Learning about using dissolvable interfacing, along with special red pens that can be used to write a prayer note to be inserted into a prayer wall. (Later these prayers would be offered up together  in a powerfully symbolic way  by dissolving the notes in a water-filled glass urn where retreaters could watch the water turn red!)

How powerful is the 23rd Psalm as you study each line of Scripture? Having a chance to attend a prayer station to reflect, act and pray brings forth a deep understanding of one’s own pathway to the Good Shepherd. Meeting those sheep dogs as well as those sheep – but meeting the Shepherd. Now that is the blessing.

A gathering of his flock to share stories along the way, to lie in green pastures beside still waters, to have our strength renewed, and that dark valley can be a place where fear does not separate us from our Shepherd!

So, who knew that we would face a COVID-19 pandemic and see our daily lives so affected in multiple ways and with such ramifications that it allowed fear to enter our lives?

I hear mentioned that faith has been tested and strengthened by the experiences of COVID-19. Changing one’s method of utilising church services or meetings is a test of faith. Prayer has become more important, as have family and friends, and taking time to do those jobs pushed aside.

Despair and anxiety have invaded minds, and hearts seek peace. I wonder if this retreat will actually ever go ahead after two postponements and rescheduled dates – this time pushed out to 2022.

But remember! It’s a pathway to our Good Shepherd, Jesus, who will hold us safe. Unfailing love will pursue us all our days with his rod and staff to comfort and protect us, there is oil to anoint our heads and, surely, there is an overflowing cup of blessings for those who know our loving Saviour.

So, come on – let’s stay on that pathway to the Good Shepherd. I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Elaine Harvey, Host Team Leader, St Matthews Woy Woy NSW

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