With families we made up 20 adults and 7 children. We were well and trully away - in the pristine surroundings of the Satyagiri centre for training and retreat, run by the Dominican order in the small town of Igatpuri.
We chose the theme of "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength" and found a thread of joy running through the weekend together.
Dad was our main speaker - and he shared about the need for all of us to be clean vessels in the Master's hands. How as we help others, unless we ourselves are made pure from the muddyness of past and present sin, healed from the hurts and wounds we have received, and delivered from any bondages we may be under - we will not be able to experience the joy of service and see others freed and restored.
The joy of the Lord demands that we are right with Him. And what a beautiful set of opportunities with stirring worship, times of prayer and asking forgiveness - and lots of meaty input from the Word.
It was a joy to be lead in worship by Trevor Ross - and to express our devotion to our sweet Lord in song and praise.
We didn't neglect the outdoors either. On Sunday morning we had an 'Emmaus Walk' - splitting up in pairs and talking about things - with Jesus walking along side us as the third in the party. Our wanderings led some of us up the nearby hills, while Sheba and Lata (accompanied by our daughter Asha and Jaya's daughter Stuti) went down to the nearby lake on their walk.
There was a lot of laughter too. Had to be if our dear Hoofriz Ross was around! Around cups of tea old jokes were pulled out from cold storage. A constant click of cameras kept us well documented and the kids had a ball playing, running around, turning one of the rooms into their own play-house.
The evening saw us show-case the various talents available. Everyone participated in at least a small way - with songs and skits taking the lion's share of the talent on display. The Eichers upheld their thespian tradition with a short play illustrating some of the points Dad shared about earlier in the day - how many of us are carrying burdens that we really don't need to - and how quickly the Lord is able to take the burdens on Himself - if we are willing to!
We also saw some beautiful dancing, another side of Giri Nayak - namely side-splitting mimes! - and a poem written and read out by Adam Black.
The Sunday morning saw two moving experiences. In Dad's last session he encouraged us to make a list of un-dealt-with sins, as well as a list of hurts in our lives. We then had an opportunity to symbolically pin these to a cross and give them over to the Lord. The lists were then burned. It was a deeply touching time - and brought deep joy to us all.
Before we knew it, we had already reached Sunday afternoon. But the Retreat was not over yet.
We had purposively chosen Igatpuri as our venue for the retreat because of our close co-working with the Purnatha Bhavan centre for women and children infected and affected by HIV which OASIS runs.
A quick visit there was a blessing to us all. What a delight to see the dedication of the staff, the changes in the lives of the children and women, the amazing hand-crafts that the ladies are doing. We were also able to spend some time with the staff sharing our own challenges and praying for each other. It is so valuable to see how God is using others for His kingdom. We are proud (in the good sense) of the work that Purnatha Bhavan is doing.
We left the Retreat with the Joy of the Lord a deep reality for each one of us. We are proud of our JSK team. Each member is very valuable. This retreat brought out again how important each one of us are for the work of the Kingdom. It also showed us that we must constantly growing deeper and going farther in God. What a privilege to be on this pilgrim journey together!