Evergreen SGV Women’s Retreat | Oxnard, CA | October 20-22, 2017 | by Felicia Wong
Whatever your expectations for this weekend, they were likely met. Whether young or mature, new or long time SGV attendee; whether you wanted to meet people, deepen existing relationships, enjoy solitude, participate in creative workshops, or grow in faith, there was something for everyone. The Core team and other leaders did a fantastic job providing for our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs! Many thanks to all who contributed to an outstanding retreat and especially Praise be to God.
Our esteemed speaker, Reine Ishida, lovingly wove in 40 years of experience as she shared what it meant to, and how we could, Embrace God’s Call. The message appealed on multiple levels and here is a glimpse:
“Embrace” - holding on tight; a close encounter. Therefore, to embrace God is to be whole-hearted, emotionally involved daily. It’s a choice. As Hebrews 11 states, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
A “call” from God is personal. It’s specific and He will initiate it. Embracing His call is how we love God.
“Funnels of God’s calls”. The Bible is filled with those whom God called. Starting with creation, the successive funnels represent the “popping out” of each new generation. After Christ came to save us from our sins, those who repent and follow Him will flow from the Believers funnel. Who’s next to flow or “pop out” of our funnel and be God’s seeds for the future?
“God started it and He will finish it.” He’s waiting.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”(Revelation 3:20)
“Loving God compels us to love others”. Do we love others as ourselves? Do we love ourselves?
To illustrate these messages, Reine provided an overview of her years as senior pastor’s wife and how she responded to this call. For those of us who remember, it was nostalgic and poignant. For those not familiar with Evergreen’s past, it was a history lesson to understand and see God’s plan unfold. Reine’s closing session identified people at SGV whose embrace of God’s call are associated with ministries such as Prayer, the Well, Infants, Building, VBS, and MOPS/STEMS.
In addition to Reine, there were other powerful testimonies. Kathy Takayama and Stephanie (Yokoi) Chin shared how their lives became forever intertwined after Stephanie’s parents were killed in an auto accident when she was nine. Through the tragedy, God’s provision unfolded. They shared stories of how people supported them and examples of how God was working behind the scenes. One symbolic example of God’s faithfulness was manifested in “their funnel”: The Yokois served in the youth ministry; those whom they mentored reciprocated to Stephanie as her advisors; Stephanie poured into her advisor’s children as their youth advisor; and her advisor’s children will hopefully become Stephanie’s children’s advisors someday, etc.
In handing the reins to her successor, Reine asked Sharla Seto to share her journey of accepting God’s call as the senior pastor’s wife. Although we have heard Pastor Rocky’s story, Sharla’s perspective is equally important because Rocky could not answer what he felt was God’s call if Sharla did not also embrace it. Sharla shared how there were several people in her life that were key in her decision because God uses others to love/walk with us, just as He has called us to love/walk alongside others.
During the open sharing time, someone asked, “What if Reine and Cory, or any of the other “pioneers” of our church, had not embraced God’s call? How would SGV look today? This question can actually be applied to any of us. What would the future be like if we don’t embrace God’s call? Have we embraced God’s call or determined what is He calling us to do yet? If we haven’t, we should not be afraid. The testimonies we heard definitely encourage and inspire us to find out. They remind us that Jesus IS faithful to complete what He calls us to do if we will embrace it.