The Desert Blooms

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 was now requiring 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.

Somewhere along the way I had settled. I was skimming life, never being where I actually was and always looking for the next thing to bring me more peace, more satisfaction. I was blessed but didn’t know it. I was restless, and because of it, I wasn’t able to consistently connect in deeply meaningful ways with anyone or anything. My soul was starving and dry, but the pace of my ministry as a pastor, and the needs of those who depended on me, left no opportunity to quench it. I was desperate for a different way of being, but unsure of what that meant or how to get there.

A soul-journey in community

Attending my first Transforming Community retreat was like a breath of fresh air. I was surrounded in community by other Christian leaders who were like me: serving people while living lives that at times were empty and unlike Christ. As I listened to their stories, I was surprised by just how quickly I felt kinship with virtual strangers. Not only was this connection immediate, it grew. Over the course of two years, I met people who were broken, and who needed to be open and honest and share without any fear of reprisal or regret. We did. I did, and I found myself supported by a group of Christ-laborers in ways I never could’ve imagined.

Getting beneath the surface

Each quarter I was introduced, and in some cases reintroduced, to spiritual practices that helped me begin to listen and get in touch with what was going on beneath the surface. Things that I hadn’t seen and some I couldn’t acknowledge. Sometimes it was frightening, but I knew the insight was to my benefit.

I discovered my God-given desires and began to live in accordance with them. I learned the value of cultivating consistent rhythms of solitude and silence and taking time to honor the Sabbath so I could have the opportunity to hear the voice of God and begin to discern and respond to His will for my life, family and church. I began to learn how to be present and enjoy the “now” moments with the people I loved. Moments that prior to the Transformation Community, had all too often passed me by.

In time, I became more comfortable with myself; not wanting to be someone else, but the best version of me.

Glorious Transformation

The Transforming Center lived up to its name. Step by step I was gradually and profoundly transformed. Today I see and feel and live differently, and yet I know I’m still changing as a result of what I learned and experienced. I wasn’t just changed; I was equipped to continue to change. And now, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to share my story with others.

The barren wasteland that was my soul now flows with the living water of God’s Spirit.

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:

Gilbert and Lesley Smith’s reflection on their community experience

© 2017 Vincent Rife

Reverend Vincent Rife

is lead pastor of Grace Christian Church in Tinton Falls, NJ. He and his wife, Katinka, have three awesome kids Gabrielle, Joshua and Eli. He was a member of Transforming Community 4, along with his friend and fellow elder, Dave Kemp. He also participated in the Leading a Transforming Church program and Grace Christian is a member of the Transforming Church Network.
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