Sustained by the Rhythm of Retreat

Continuing the story of Transforming CommunityTransforming Community 4  (TC4) continued to impact the greater sense of community as more spouses of alumni and a church pastor, along with one of his elders, decided to embark on the transformational journey together. Shared language and experience can have a profound impact on these significant relationships, and it was exciting to see people walking this journey together. The Transforming Center now required an application process to accommodate the growing interest, and TC4 would have 68 participants compared to the 12 when this all began! Group spiritual direction was also introduced because it was no longer possible to provide trained facilitators for each small group. Retreatants from this community forward would have the opportunity to learn the practice of group spiritual direction and how it helps us to be better spiritual companions.

We began our journey with the Transforming Center with Transforming Community 4 and have just kept on coming. Incorporating the rhythms of quarterly retreat into our lives is now an important aspect of our spiritual health. When we began, we were looking for a deeper, more intimate walk with God. Although small groups and Bible study were good, we found they weren’t enough to draw us deeper into the divine relationship we sought. Our search for peace in the midst of life’s difficulties required, for us, something more.

Life gets hard

Since TC4 we have undergone some of our most challenging experiences: the ending of our son’s marriage, leaving our church home of 32 years, moving our business, the mission of another son in the jungles of central Congo, the premature birth and subsequent hospitalization of our two grandchildren, a life threatening accident with multiple injuries and a cancer diagnosis.

Without the deepening relationship we have with God through the Transforming Community experience, we don’t believe we would have survived these last 10 years without serious damage to our marriage, business or physical well-being.

Spiritual practices bring peace

The spiritual practices we have adopted from our transforming communities have given us a peace in the trials we never thought were possible. We now know we can discern the will of God and know that He delights in revealing it to us. We have gone deeper in our knowledge of our Christian heritage by learning to appreciate and love liturgical practices of the early Church.

Understanding more of who we are in Christ has allowed us tenderness with one another when our natural tendency might be to “blame and shame.” And in the darkest hours of cancer treatment, the practice of breath prayer allowed me (Lesley) to endure when I thought it was no longer possible.

These gifts would never have been possible if we hadn’t started our TC4 journey. After almost a decade, we’re certain we don’t know where we’d be without them.

As part of our 15-year anniversary celebration we are sharing stories and testimonies from each completed Transforming Community to celebrate all the Lord has done. We hope these stories will inspire you to continue to go deeper in your relationship with God, draw you into celebration of all the Lord has done, and encourage you to partner with us in all He has yet to do!

Read another story of transformation from TC4:

Rev. Vincent Rife’s reflection on his community experience

© 2017 Gilbert and Lesley Smith

Gilbert and Lesley Smith

participated in Transforming Community 4, 5 and 10, as well as in the Leading a Transforming Church Program. They live in Vernon Hills, IL, and are entrepreneurs and professional arborists who have run their own “transforming business” since 1982. They are active in leadership at Church of the Redeemer on Chicago’s North Shore.
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