I would like to take this week’s blog to share a few reflections from the amazing retreat I had the opportunity to attend at America’s Keswick in Whiting this past week. I had originally signed up to attend this conference last February when I went down for the day at the invitation of Pastor Dave Sutter. I had forgotten all about it until I received a call early in January confirming my reservation. I am very thankful for the church family member who suggested to me on Sunday afternoon that I should maybe drive over on Sunday evening, instead of waiting till Monday morning. I hadn’t had much time to think about it, because we didn’t cancel the Sunday evening service till about 10 AM, after some debate as to when it was supposed to start snowing. Well, it started snowing way earlier than anyone had estimated and when I checked with Keswick, they were more than glad to have me come over Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening. Had I waited until Monday morning to try to leave I’m pretty certain I would not have made it there at all. Because I arrived on Sunday evening, I was able to immensely enjoy the beautiful swimming pool there on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings. They also have their hot tub open and their sauna as well. I have not been in a hot tub in New Jersey since March 13, nor a sauna anywhere else since then. This was a great source of blessing and refreshment for me. I know some of you may be jealous, but remember I was on a spiritual retreat, and a spiritual retreat should also help us work on our emotional and physical health. I also went to an exercise program they had with one of their staff on Tuesday and Wednesday morning to learn about working out with stretch bands. The man that led the workout session also led a very helpful session on diet entitled – “The do’s and don’ts of nutrition”. As I am still trying to lose weight in anticipation of my left knee replacement surgery on March 2, I found this workshop very helpful.
The teacher for the retreat was Dr. James Ayres who happened to be one of my favorite professors from an early class (1984) at PBU (Philadelphia Biblical University) and he was speaking on the theme of- “Building a Legacy Worth Leaving”. We spent five sessions looking at the life of Caleb and the legacy he left for his family. I was richly blessed and encouraged to keep on being faithful to what God has called me to do and sticking with the task that God has set before me. I had a very enjoyable time fellowshipping with Gordon Douglas, who is a Christian comedian who spoke at NDC on October 11, 2020. Gordon shared with me that engagement was his last speaking opportunity and it’s been a very difficult time for him not to be able to generate any regular income. Please pray that God would give him lots of ministry opportunities in 2021. One of the most helpful workshops that I attended was a workshop entitled – “Covid Burnout and Pandemic Fatigue” led by Dr. Lynn Jahns, who is the director of “Barbara’s Place”, which is the women’s rehab center down there at Keswick. Though this workshop was lightly attended I was able to share my notes with my small group pastors fellowship during our monthly Zoom meeting on Thursday afternoon. I was immediately able to encourage my brothers at our Thursday meeting. The session looked at some of the symptoms of burnout and then some solutions and strategies in recovery and avoiding a complete collapse. I am thankful that I was able to be there as Whiting had only maybe two or 3 inches of snow and the rest of the time it rained. I was however able to take a beautiful walk on Sunday evening in a gorgeous snowfall. I’m also thankful that I was able to get safely home to resume my regular schedule of ministry on Thursday morning.
I believe many times God sends us exactly what we need to continue to serve Him and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a well-timed refreshment for my heart, life, and ministry. I look forward to developing further relationships with America’s Keswick as they minister and serve many broken lives and families. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he stated, “We live by faith, not by sight”, (2 Cor.5:7 NIV). We have seen God do some amazing things in 2020 and the refreshment that I received during the three days at Keswick will help me prayerfully to produce “much fruit” for the Lord Jesus Christ in 2021. Jesus challenges us to produce much fruit in John 15 where we read, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” (John 15:5, 8 NIV). Let’s pray together that God would produce much fruit in our lives and NDC as we surrender to Jesus and serve Him in new and refreshing ways in this coming year. I am energized and excited for the great things I believe God is going to do for His kingdom through us as we serve Him together and grow together in the “grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” in the coming year.
Refreshed in the King,
Pastor Rich Sivo