Christmas in October

Women celebrate spiritual gifts at retreat

November 5, 2014 | Back Page | Number 22
Story and Photos by Amy Dueckman | B.C. Correspondent
Christmas stocking ‘goodie bags’ greeted registrants for the B.C. women’s retreat at Camp Squeah in October. The theme for the weekend was ‘Unwrap your gifts.’

When Mennonite Women in B.C. members arrived at Camp Squeah for their annual fall retreat last month, they might have thought their calendars had skipped two months ahead. The holiday season was in the air with Christmas trees, ornaments and banners decorating the lodge, all in keeping with the theme, “Unwrap your gifts.”

To begin the weekend, participants took a spiritual gifts discernment test to help determine the special ways God has gifted them.

“God has gifted us in wonderful and many ways,” said April Yamasaki, pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford. She based her Bible study on the list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and other New Testament passages, and talked about how to put those gifts to work. She listed seven ways to unwrap spiritual gifts:

  • Give gifts to God, sacrificing all that you do with your bodies.
  • Allow God to transform your gifts.
  • Don’t think more highly of your gift than you ought.
  • Realize that your gifts are meant to work alongside others’, but sometimes can rub them the wrong way.
  • Use gifts to express genuine love.
  • Use gifts to do good and bless others, even when they might not understand or appreciate them.
  • Pray about your gift and how best to use it.

It was noted that this year was the 50th year for the Mennonite women’s retreat. Several women had been at the very first one, including Veronica Thiessen, former president of the then B.C. Women in Mission. Thiessen remembered that 39 women participated at the first one, compared to 122 this year. In contrast to today’s catered meals by professional kitchen staff , she said that in those days the committee bought groceries, cooked meals themselves and did dishes by hand. They also slept on straw mattresses in cabins, as opposed to today’s comfortable accommodations in the lodge or motel-style rooms.

Despite how things have changed over the years, Thiessen said she believes women now, as then, have the same vision of  “getting together sharing joys, their sorrows, their concerns and getting to know one another” at these retreats.

—Posted Nov. 6, 2014

Christmas stocking ‘goodie bags’ greeted registrants for the B.C. women’s retreat at Camp Squeah in October. The theme for the weekend was ‘Unwrap your gifts.’

Being surrounded by Christmas wall hangings and table deco-rations helped women from Western Hmong Mennonite Church in Maple Ridge, B.C., get into the Christmas spirit.

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