The first ‘Deborah Retreat’ was held from March 24th to 28th, 2015 in beautiful Hengjian, Liyang. Forty women pastors from different parts of Jiangsu were invited to a recreational camp of training, positive energy and strengthening resilience. The Deborah Retreat is a new ministry initiative offered through the Jiangsu Christian Fund and the Amity Social Service Network.
This retreat is designed to give female pastors who are always busy serving others a week in which they themselves can be refreshed, as they withdraw from their heavy workloads and go back to God’s beautiful creation for rest and refocusing. “We hope that by providing this opportunity, each woman who attends can have time and space for reflection and refocusing, that she can relax body and soul in the beauty of this landscape, that through receiving excellent teaching she can learn and 'recharge her batteries', that through fellowship with others she can be freshly strengthened, and that she can enjoy God’s favor. All of this is so that when she steps back out again, she will be freshly equipped to pass on heavenly blessings to other parts of the church,” one of the organizers stated."We hope that their relationship with God will be refreshed and their energy renewed that they can serve even more powerfully in the future."
The opening ceremony was held on the afternoon of March 24th at the Gusong Villa. Reverend Shi Li, both vice-chair and secretary-general of the Jiangsu provincial Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, attended the opening ceremony and represented the chairman and president in his address. He said that this brand new initiative, providing a retreat for female pastors, reflects the special care extended to female pastors by the church. Most preachers in Jiangsu are women. They not only do most of the pastoral work in the church, but cope with home duties as well. This means that they are under a lot of mental and physical pressure.
The retreat lasted for five days, and consisted of Bible study, women sharing with one another about their work and enjoying fellowship together as they enjoyed the great outdoors. Not only did the female pastors visit the famous tourist sites, the South Hill Bamboo Sea and Tianmu Lake, but they also enjoyed a ‘happy sisters’ festival’. Everyone was invited to soak in the hot springs, taste special spring delicacies, as well as absorb great input from special guests. Lin He Feifei, the director of the Taiwanese organization ‘Ministry to Pastors’ Wives’, Peng Zang Yuzhi of the Taiwan Campus Evangelical Fellowship as well as Dr Feng Shuxian, Professor of Psychology at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary were invited to give a series of talks. Sister Huang Kaiying, an art therapist registered in the USA, was invited to guide ladies to experience the wonder of art therapy. During the retreat, every morning and evening there were devotions all together as well as small group sharing.
Southern Jiangsu is beautiful in March; the weather is warm and flowers bloom gloriously. The women pastors who participated in the retreat came to Hengjian, a place of beautiful scenery and fresh air, green hills and clear waters, surrounded by bamboo forests, fragrant tea plantations, and close to Lake Tianmu and the South Hill Bamboo Sea. These last two places are both national 5A-class scenic spots and wonderful places to go walking in the spring. (5A is the highest national rating possible for tourist attractions in China.) This‘Deborah retreat’ was the first run by Amity and was a bit of an experiment. Deborah was the only female judge mentioned in the bible. We hope that we can learn more about caring and coaching workers through this activity, to help lay a firm foundation for serving pastors. May God bless our workers, and may He especially bless our women pastors.