From December 23rd through the 29th, the Bethel ministers along with one other committed member went to New York from their congregations Christmas Retreat and Mission Conference. The theme of the Christmas retreat was why people need Christ and the church. Why was Christ born on earth? These questions were answered through the study of Romans. Each member came away from their trip, touched and set on fire for the mission of God and renewed strength for 2018.
For the youngest of the group, Kiara, this was her very first retreat in New York with members all around the U.S. and the world. She reflected on her time there and wishes to share her experience. She says:
“During this Christmas retreat we learned more deeply about Romans. In the four lectures we received, I truly learned and started to understand more about the love of God and what Jesus Christ means to me as well as learning the true meaning of Christmas. This time was very graceful for me and I truly feel like I needed to go to this retreat. I felt like this retreat is what allowed me to open my heart even more to God and accept him fully into my life… I had the chance to really speak to God directly and to really lay everything down in front of Him. After doing this I received so much peace within and realized that I needed to pray more and bring things to God more. I truly enjoyed my time volunteering with the teens, as well. I believe the kids touched my heart the most, to the point where I didn’t want to leave so soon. I was really impressed with how much they knew and how welcoming and loving they were towards me and to each other. After the short time I spent with them, I felt in my heart that one day I wanted to become a Teen Ministry Leader. I really want to one day bring many young souls, many souls in general back to God. I am so thankful to my leaders for inviting me to this retreat. I pray that I will be invited to many more in the future and that I can keep the grace I have received in my heart forever.”
The college youth leader, Danielle, also shared her experience.
“Coming to New York this time around has affected me very deeply. During this time I reflected a lot on the past year and repented for my lack of seriousness when it came to the mission and increasing God’s kingdom. Listening about what true faith is really struck at my heart. Not looking at the situation, but at the God who can do all things and makes all things possible for those who have His same heart. Realizing I don’t have to be skilled at something, but as long as I have faith and do my very best in God, He can work so wonderfully and quickly.
From the Christmas Retreat, the questions of why we need Jesus and why we need church, were the main focuses of this time. Reflecting on this with Romans during the Christmas season doesn’t seem to represent the world standard of the “Christmas spirit”, but it’s needed. From Romans, I can see my sin so clearly and how absolutely hopeless I am. I’m the one whose feet are quick to run to evil, whose hands are quick to shed blood. I am the one who forgets my Creator and Father and puts created things in His place. My sins are great, however it is by His great mercy and powerful, powerful love that I am saved and called His child. It is by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ that I am given new life again and am called righteous. This is what Christmas is. This is what it is about. Jesus needed to be set on earth so that I (we) could have an advocator and mediator; to be saved from my sin (the clutches of death).”
Michael, the prayer ministry leader:
“I was asked to serve kids and I needed to because I had no means to pay for my retreat fees. It was a blessing, but I really wanted to soak in all the grace of the messages. But this was a great chance for others who serve this ministry year-round to finally sit at Jesus feet for the retreat.
Finally getting to participate myself brought me to deeply ponder why I often feel so joyless. I need to be reminded constantly of God’s grace, and this was a great time for that.
Pastor’s exhortations and reprimands were spot on for me, and I got a lot of grace hearing others struggles. There was no clear standard bearer for mission this year, and when pastor said that, I felt in my heart that there is no reason why Atlanta can’t be that standard. Only by grace can we excel and save souls. I pray we do that, all of us in the US/Canada region.”
Cindy, church minister and staff:
“Christmas Retreat and Mission Conference opened my eyes clearly and restored my heart on mission. I’ve been in mission field such a long time. Although, I had served other ministry for 7 years, mission was always in my center of heart. Finally God called me again to save His lost souls 3 years ago, however I wasn’t that much joyful as I’ve been longing for. Rather, I excused with many reasons and situations. I tried to find why it would be hard for me. I struggled a lot with my situations and lacking of faith. God restores me from mission conference in June, I realized deeply my sinful heart and laziness. Everything is already given but I don’t have faith to receive. With the guidance from this time, it really helped me to focus on teaching and guiding souls to the Kingdom of God.
For this Christmas Retreat, I received very clear answer to ‘Why we need Jesus’. It isn’t something could be dealt with or excused. It is truly truth for everyone in the world. I was also very impressed and had great passion to teach students like the different pastors that spoke during the retreat. I’m very challenged and realized how I am an insufficient bible teacher. I decided to learn everyday and make sharper the sword of Word.
Through the conference, first of all I repented a lot. God already allowed many opportunities and grace but I couldn’t take them. It was my faults, weaknesses and wickedness. I never want to spend this precious time without fruits. I hope I can bear fruits before an end of the time. Second, I realized how to build a church. I’m so thankful for the clear method and strategy that was taught.”
Everyone who joined in the retreat and conference were urged to dedicate more prayers to evangelism and to the betterment of this world. Through these events, the minsters came back to serve Atlanta with a fire in their hearts and the hope of Jesus Christ ready to be spoken on their lips.