Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Elisha Foundation Retreat 2008 (6)

One of the remarkable aspects of a retreat like TEF is how quickly you can delve into some of the greatest heart issues faced by a family. Both years I have had the privilege to attend and speak at the retreat I witnessed this firsthand. Disability by its very nature is something that occupies so much time in the thinking of the family, yet it tends to be the one thing no one wants to talk about. Consider that scenario for a moment.
I mean, folks may want to get medical updates on your child or the like, but very few ever ask the most burning questions of the soul. “What are your thoughts of God concerning this development in your life? “How is your child’s disability affecting your marriage?” “In what ways are your other kids being impacted by this?” “Do you feel worn out, defeated, lost, directionless, over-burdened?”
I suppose we don’t like to ask these questions of anyone for the same reason we avoid evangelizing – we are fearful of the answers and even more afraid of what we will say next. But, like evangelism, once you finally open your mouth and ask, I think you will find folks very willing to talk. There will be exceptions, but on the whole these are the very subjects that families want to think through.
The TEF retreats are a little like TAG on steroids. TAG’s are our acronym for Truth Application Groups that we run out of Grace Fellowship Church. The idea is to knead the Truth of Scripture into the warp and woof of life by cross-centered examination and accountability. What I envision as my primary role at TEF is to bring this dynamic to families in the retreat’s condensed time period. The only difference from our TAG’s is that this group comprises both Christian and non-believer.
Brad getting ready to lead some "camp songs" at the indoor campfire.

How thankful I am to have been preaching that great evangelistic gospel according to John! Having been immersed in Jesus’ evangelism and evangelistic method for the last months has affirmed to me like never before the call to speak winsomely, yet almost crushingly plain the call to repentance and faith. What these families need more than pity, money, help or even expense-paid retreats – is Jesus. To have six opportunities to present that idea was a gift. To have a song leader like Brad to “improve” the preaching with cross-centered hymns and songs afterwards was an added bonus!
Pray that the Word that went forth in preaching, singing and service will bring forth conversion and life.

Gathering for a main session.

One of the most touching moments in the whole weekend happened when nobody was looking, except me. One mom had a child at the retreat that is profoundly disabled. It is a global affliction that leaves that toddler almost entirely unresponsive. While everyone else was having a blast with Brad singing campfire songs in the conference centre (it was raining) I caught a glimpse of this mom making Eskimo kisses with her child over in the corner. And that unresponsive little face… lit up. And for a moment those eyes danced and there was a beautiful, relational connection between them. I wanted it to last for a long time for them. For that moment probably comes along once for every seven hospital stays, gastro-intestinal complications and “appointments.” But it came, and it was beautiful and it was a gift. For, even if that moment never repeated itself, that little one still bears the image of God and is being loved by a family. Praise the Lord.

My friend, Eli... of The ELIsha Foundation!


  1. This entire series of posts has been tremendously inspiring and helpful, Paul. Thank you for serving these families and for serving us by making us aware of this ministry.

  2. Thank you for sharing your gifts, talents and abilities with us, Paul. I know that each family was blessed in some way throughout the weekend and I also know that Christ was preached and lived to these families.

    We are blessed to have you partner with us in our calling and passion.

    Thank you, Paul and thank you Grace Fellowship Church Toronto!

  3. It was such a joy to partner with you again. I am so thankful that your church sees the value of this ministry and that they share you with us. The overflow of your faithful efforts in your local church in studying the Word produce a rich bounty that I have really been blessed by.

    To know that these hurting families were able to spend the last few days meditating on Jesus and seeing His glory even through their painful circumstances is enough motivation to make me want to drive back up and do it all over again.

    It was a privilege to serve alongside you.