Why I’m Excited About the Global Retreat


A brilliantly fading sunset peeks out between a strip of heavy clouds and the rustling fronds of a thousand banana trees. The beauty stops me in my tracks as I sweep the red dirt out of the house. Our plan to take an evening walk around the community was thwarted by a spontaneous visitor, so I’m cleaning (yet again) while Josh coaches this Sunday’s preacher on the upcoming passage. In fact, I realized while walking with our pastor’s wife this morning that I haven’t seen the road out of our village for a month. I haven’t spoken to anyone from my own culture since then, either. 

In a contrast of worlds, I sit down to rest my weary bones and open my computer on my dusty lap to confirm trip details. Soon, we’ll all be piling onto an airplane to go to a different world. We’re going to the Global Retreat!

“But will that really be restful? Will you just be sitting in meetings all day?” A concerned friend asked me these questions as I described the upcoming retreat. I paused to consider as our sandals scuffed up little clouds of dust past white-blossomed coffee trees and curious children. What was I looking forward to about this retreat?

“Yes, it will be restful,” I finally said, decisively. “I’m looking forward to letting my guard down, sitting with my husband uninterrupted, and soaking in solid teaching while my kids are occupied elsewhere.”

That blank stare. 

We start to feel like we’re crazy in our convictions about the centrality of the local church in missions. In a country that has been inundated with missionary ventures for the last 150 years, Christianity tends toward sensational and shallow doctrine. Cults thrive. False gospels take root. Syncretism is pervasive. And here we are. Instead of bringing fancy programs and noisy crusades, we are serving a small family of churches with a faithful few who are struggling against the tide. The lack of glamour and “big-ness” of what we’re doing confuses people. We can easily fall into discouragement and isolation.

We’re really looking forward to fellowshipping with like-minded brothers and sisters while growing in our convictions and understanding of God’s Word. We’re looking forward to not feeling crazy for a week! We’re looking forward to sitting under solid teaching without needing to be “on guard.” Our true rest is in the Lord.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV).

In the same vein, our children are looking forward to new friends who “get them” too. They have lived their entire lives as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), profoundly shaped by living in a culture that is different from our home culture. To their chagrin, they are constantly being reminded to greet properly, speak in a foreign language, be gracious when they are stared at, and stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. 

Our children find that they make friends easily with other TCKs. Some of our children are looking forward to connecting with international friends they have only known through email. They’re nervous about whether they’ll truly connect in person like they have through the internet. What a privilege, to finally have real in-person time with fellow TCKs. 

That deep fatigue.

Our weariness from the stressors of missionary life is undeniable. We serve a local church in a language not our own. We are hosted by a country not our own. We are sojourners in a world not our own. Much of our lives are uncomfortable (praise the Lord!).

It’s a huge relief that RTIM has vetted the location for this retreat and did the lion’s share of the work to make this happen for us. Left to our own devices, we would not have ventured to such an amazing location because of how much preparation it takes. Our entire family is excited about flying on an airplane to see and experience a new country and culture—this time as visitors and anonymous explorers with little expectations placed on us. We love to travel, and this retreat gives our family that life-giving opportunity. Top on our list: trying new foods!

We really need some time away as a family without the pressures and expectations of ministry. We’re looking forward to some fun, new experiences, good food, and fresh conversations.

That breath of fresh air. 

We’re always amazed when we step away from our everyday environment and feel a tangible shift in our perspectives. This stepping away is essential for maintaining a proper view of life and ministry. Although the realities of ministry life tempt us to stay put, when we drive far enough to hit a paved road, our myopia begins to adjust and life comes into focus. Minor stressors shrink to their proper size; events and interactions can be more realistically interpreted. How much more crossing an ocean to another country!

We are deeply grateful and humbled that our sending church and supporters recognize the importance of us getting away. They have been gracious and generous in helping this retreat become a reality for us. As true TCKs, the kids are learning the language and researching the most appropriate ways to dress and behave. We’re going through our clothes to find items that aren’t too shabby, and we’re inspecting our swimming gear. Every couple of weeks, I can’t help myself. I double-check our tickets because, believe it or not, we’re going to the Global Retreat!

Abby Rattin

Abby Rattin (MD, MPH, FAAFP) has served in rural Uganda with her husband, Josh, and their six children since 2011. Abby’s primary role is serve and support her husband, their children, and the local church. Trained as a family medicine doctor in the USA, she also provides medical consults for Ugandan children with disabilities and epilepsy.

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