MetroRED Retreat 2015: RESTORED

If I had to describe the MetroRED retreat in one phrase, it would be: God showed up. People came hungry and thirsty. and the Bread of Life, the Living Water came to satisfy our hunger and our thirst. He restored us to newness, to wholeness. He mended our brokenness and shame. He showed us new facets of who He is and new ways of relating with Him. He spoke to us in powerful times of worship, led by the Pilgrim Church worship team. He spoke to us through convicting words from Pastor Michael Carrion, Pastor Josh Olivero, Andrea, and Eroia. He spoke to us through our small group discussions and meal time discussions. He spoke to us in the laughter shared while playing games. He spoke to us in silence and solitude. He spoke to us in prayer. He spoke of His great Love for us. Love that restores. 

So what's next, Lord? We're eager for what lies ahead. but we're also wary of the world grinding us back down. Help us, Holy Spirit. May Your fire continue to burn in our hearts! Help us not to fear the world but to proceed boldly in it. Help us to TRUST that what You did this weekend is not temporary but permanent. Help us not to ignore our continual hunger and thirst -- the cries from the deepest parts of our hearts to continue drawing closer to You. Help us not to mistake your filling us this weekend with your filling us tomorrow, and the next day, the next week. Help us to, as Pastor Josh likes to say, "GET IT," and KEEP GETTING IT. Help us to be greedy and ambitious for the things of God. may our continued restoration be a force in the world that brings revival and glory to Christ's name. As we witnessed this weekend, everything is possible for You. 

Submitted by R. Kim

With the mindset that habit would produce heart, I practiced meditation and prayer daily. I attended Sunday and mid-week service, religiously. But, I was becoming very disheartened at pursuing a god who would not meet me. Though He was present in prayer, I received no answers. The MetroRED Retreat looked like the perfect opportunity. Away from the overwhelming noises of deadlines, applications, and social events, I wanted my complete focus to be on God. My greatest expectation was to hear God’s voice clearly—not from other sources but to earnestly pray and directly hear His words and commands. As supportive as pastors and friends were, relying on them felt very dispiriting, like having a divine middleman. Something was missing from my relationship.

The initial excitement I had for the retreat started to fade away as I realized there was the possibility of leaving the retreat disappointed—I might not meet God. I had been fighting the frustration of unresponsiveness, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was writing a love letter to someone who was too busy to respond, sending a text followed by “seen” in small letters.

At the retreat, the praise team led worship, and you could feel God’s presence fill the entire room. Pastor Carrion preached. When I say preached, I mean he preached. It was a 9 A.M. burst of spiritual caffeine. We had small group sessions in between sermons that were so intimate and safe to share our struggles. Any nervousness on meeting new people was quickly dissolved into a beautiful fellowship.

During silence + solitude, I still couldn’t decipher what God was telling me; and, it was almost the end of the retreat. Though disappointed, I made peace with the idea of leaving with P. Carrion’s moving sermons and decided to reflect more on what I was doing wrong. I settled: I wasn’t leaving empty-handed. As the incredible leaders led us into a prayer session, one thing resonated with me: “He first loved us. How can we do anything without first accepting God’s love?”

As the prayer leaders gave prophecy and prayer over His people, I was dumbfounded by how intentionally and specifically God loved each of His children: leaders, friends, daughters, and sons. He wonderfully and uniquely gifted them. It was a touching moment to witness, and I desperately wanted to know if God loved me the same.

The truth was, though I would pray for my heart to long for Him, I was seeking His miracles, not Him. I was running towards the destination and not being present for the journey. I was misinterpreting what God wanted from me. The answer was so simple. It wasn’t sacrifice. It wasn’t something I was doing wrong. It was simply to accept His love.

I prayed, and He broke me. I had built these insurmountable walls that hid all my hurt, unresolved feelings. In my head, there were only two options to deal with them: 1. I could sulk, or 2. I could be happy. I chose the latter. There were so many things that broke my heart that I continued to push inside the secure entrapment of these walls. I became so numb to them that they no longer even hurt. Worst of all, I had disguised them so well that it was shocking when He revealed it. God was knocking it down and releasing everything inside. Here was option 3: let God heal. And I was sitting there, in shock and tears that I had such hurt from my past and God. I began to get angry, asking God where He was during my internal warfare, leaving me to battle so many demons alone for so long. I understood that the reason I have such difficulty trusting God now was because I never felt like I was His priority even as a child. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I had to justify God’s absence. I was angry. But, the message I got in the moment was so clear: “I’m here.”

As I continued to pray, I was so blessed by my MetroRED family. These friends who I had met only a few months ago and at the retreat prayed for me. I was moved, humbled, and still trying to process what was happening. One by one, each of them stated God’s love, and I was just speechless. I felt so affirmed by my sisters at Metro. I am so thankful that God would press their hearts to pray for me. (Shout out to the kind soul who stuffed a Kleenex in my hand and ran away. Love, Mucous Monster.)

The retreat exceeded my expectations. It was really just the start of God opening doors in my life. I received something I desperately needed without even knowing I had a longing for it.

I just wanted God to tell me He was there for me. Instead, I received healing, fellowship, and confirmation. I received the message of God’s love, and it touched me beyond anything. Without the retreat, I don’t know how long I would have been running in the wrong direction. I’ll be honest: I’m not completely healed. There are scars and still a million and one things I pray about, but it’s a start. Since the retreat, He has been opening my eyes to Bible verses and showing me things that have gone unnoticed before. It’s still a struggle, but I walk with Him, joyfully.

When you’re at a retreat center filled with people who also seek God, a praise team that lifts Him, and chosen leaders to guide you, it’s so easy. A part of me never wanted to leave this place where His love was so evident. I know there are going to be days where I question His love. We’re going back into the world that struggles with temptation, materialism, racism, terrorism, indifference, road rage, and people who think vegan cheese could ever compare to the real thing. So, I pray that God replenishes us, that we encourage one another, and that we have hope even at our weakest. For, He is always working. And, I pray that He uses our lives as testimonies to those who have yet to experience His warmth.

If I could leave you with some encouragement from Pastor Carrion’s sermon:      
*Religion is brutal; relationship is easy
*Brokenness is healed if it pursues its healer. Ask God to heal, fill, and renew you before using you.
*God closes doors in your life so that He can open others.
*At times where you feel unqualified, God will work in you.
*Lastly, God loves you and delights in you! So, so, so much. You are so wonderfully made! You have such intention and purpose, and He will make it known.

Thank you so much to Pastor Carrion, P. Doug, P. Josh, the praise team, the prayer team, the small group leaders, and every single person at MetroRED who made this retreat possible. God truly blessed those who could make it and planted something special in each of our hearts.

God Bless! - C. Kim