by Rachel

Part of the reason we've been so silent on the blog lately is because we all just returned from an awesome week (or two in the case of the Cropseys) in southern Spain.  Every three years the entire World Harvest family gets together for a mission-wide retreat.  The team leaders go a week early for some extra meetings and seminars.  Despite being only a few weeks away from our end of the year exams, we all knew it was important not to miss the retreat, especially since the next one is not until 2016.  

So we all got on a minibus and headed off to the Lyon airport:

It was really more of a conference than a retreat...both the adults and children stayed busy the entire time.  It was sort of, in the words of Eric, like a family reunion where you didn't really know all the family but you know you're all related somehow.  This results in a lot of awkward moments of, should I hug this person?  Shake their hand?  Nice to meet you?  Mention you've already met but it was 3 years ago and you haven't communicated since and does that move you from hand shake to hug?  "Faire the bise"? (the French greeting of touching cheeks and kissing)  But in all seriousness, it was a fantastic chance to connect with so many likeminded people from Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.  The World Harvest folks are united not by denomination but by their dedication to living out the Gospel in their daily lives, demonstrating brokenness, weakness, and the power of God's grace and forgiveness.  

The keynote speakers/meetings were fantastic.  What do you preach to a group of missionaries, many of whom are pastors and church planters themselves?  How do you make new Christ's commission to take up your cross daily and follow Him, to a group who have already sacrificed much?  I saw with my own eyes people hoping in the fact that God is redeeming the world right now, people acknowledging the cost of sacrifice but finding true joy in their trials.  People struggling with depression and panic, people dealing with a diagnosis of cancer at a young age, people facing the awful reality of the loss of their 19 year old son in a tragic accident.  And singing in the darkness anyways.  It was truly inspiring, and reaffirmed my excitement to be a part of such a group of folks.

It was not all meetings and breakout sessions...we did get a free day with the chance to explore a bit of southern Spain.  Eric took the chance to see Seville, a beautiful city about 2 hrs away by bus.  Most of the families spent the day at a Sea World type park in Portugal (no pics of that, sorry).
 And our beautiful resort was located right on the Atlantic Ocean.  Too cold for swimming, but we did enjoy the sand anyway.  Much more time was spent at the pool...where again, the adults deemed the water too cold for swimming but the kids (and brave Aunt Alyssa) went in anyway.  We felt really cared for, and though we were busy, it still felt relaxing in many ways--being fed wonderful buffet meals, rooms overlooking the ocean, free counseling sessions and other "care" packages.

The only real bump in the road was our flight home.  Here we are at the Sevilla airport.  Notice all the kids eating dinner by the window (traveling with 8 kids, by the way, equals a crazy time!).  Notice something missing (the plane).  Our flight was delayed, and that combined with a long wait for luggage and a long walk to our waiting bus meant we arrived back in Albertville just before 2am.  Oh well.

Team Burundi being prayed for the last afternoon of the conference:

We are grateful for this fantastic mission to be a part of.  We are grateful for the prayers of our fellow missionaries.  And we are grateful to our supporters, who made it possible for us to go.  Three more years until the next one!

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