Thursday, August 14, 2008

Backing up...Pastor's Summit - Jackson Hole, WY

I realize that we never posted anything about our trip to Jackson Hole, WY in July for our last of 6 meetings with the Pastor's Summit. I think the reason we kept putting it off was because it's next to impossible to summarize in a blog post how life-changing the Pastor's Summit has been for us. As soon as we got home from this past summit meeting I sat down and started typing up my thoughts and reflections from the week. I think I have about 6 single-spaced typed pages so far, plenty more to write about and lots of gaps to fill in. One of the things I shared with the group of pastors and their wives at the end of this last meeting was that this has not been a mere "mountain top experience", no pun intended, where we simply attend a conference or retreat, get all fired up and then go on with life as usual after coming home. These meetings, and especially this group of people that we have been sharing our lives with over the past two years have truly affected and transformed our lives. We have been truly blessed to be a part of this.

So here are just a few pictures from our week in Jackson Hole...

The wild flowers that covered the fields in Grand Teton National Park were so vibrant against the soft green sage that filled the air with its aroma.

Here is a photo of Hidden Falls. We had to hike about a mile up into the park to see this - just gorgeous.

While the scenery was truly breathtaking, what made the trip was being reunited with the 9 other pastors and their wives who have become so dear to us. In addition to gathering with this particular group, John and I also had the added bonus of getting to spend time with Michael and Denise Wichlan, former members of Trinity that we 'sent off' to seminary 4 years ago! Denise has been on staff with Covenant Seminary's Center for Ministry Leadership, which is responsible for spearheading the Pastor's Summit, so it has been a real treat to be reunited with them at most of the meetings.

Pictured here are Josh and Shannon Geiger (in front - serving at Cristo Rey PCA in Dallas), Steve Garber (next to Josh on the left - one of our speaker/facilitators who is the director for the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture), Donald Guthrie (next to Shannon on the right, wrote the grant for the Pastor's Summit as well as a wealth of theological books), and Lisa and Andrew Vander Maas (in the back - serving at Crossroads PCA in St. Louis).

Pictured here are Adam and Liz Brice (in front - served at Christ the King PCA in Conshohoken, PA, but are now planting a church in Lafayette, IN), Chuck and Diane Jacob (in the middle - serve at Knox EPC in Ann Arbor, MI), and Wendell and Priscilla Stoltzfus (in the back - serve at Covenant OPC in Reading, PA).

Pictured here are Drew and Becky Derreth (in front - serve at Hanover Valley Church in Hanover, PA), Janet Burns (on the left - wife of Bob Burns, the director of the Center for Ministry Leadership) and John on the right (if you read our blog, you already know about him).

April and Bob Willetts (currently serving at Trinity PCA in Norfolk, VA).

Andy & Linda Phillips (Harley on the left - serve at Providence PCA in York, PA), and David and Cindy Tate (Harley on the right - serve at Manor PCA in Cochranville, PA).

One of the biggest highlights of this last trip was spending time with and getting to sit under the teaching of Joe and Barb Novenson (both pictured on the right sitting next to Becky and Drew), who serve at Lookout Mountain PCA in TN. John and I both felt like his preaching cut us to the core and spoke to our situation in much needed ways.

As one of the other pastor's wives and I were reflecting on this past summit meeting, the one word that we both walked away with was brokenness. I remember the first time we all gathered together for worship, I was so moved by the heartfelt and emotional singing from these 30 or so pastors and their wives. I thought to myself, 'Boy, nobody sings like a bunch of broken pastors and their wives who are constantly trying to remind themselves of the transforming power of the gospel!' John also pointed out to me later that it was just so refreshing to be able to worship without the worries of the temperature in the room, the timing of the announcements, if the service was going too long, how the sermon was going, etc. etc.

Our times of worship were led by Reggie Kidd, who truly ministered to this group of pastors with his rich knowledge and talent as well as his compassion, heart for the gospel and his heart for pastors. On the last day of the summit, John and I went into the worship service right after an intense meeting with Joe and Barb Novenson over breakfast to talk about life, marriage and ministry. We were deeply encouraged by their own life journey and counsel to us and had much MORE to reflect upon. Now, I am not easily moved to tears but I quickly turned into a puddle on the floor during that last gathering for worship. Reggie had us sing, "Before the Throne of God Above", which happens to be one of my favorite songs but after such an emotionally intense week, it particularly hit me like a ton of bricks - especially the 2nd verse.

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
who made an end to all my sin!
Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free!
For God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me,
to look on Him and pardon me.

Once the tears started, I simply could not stop them. But I soon realized that I was far from being the only one who was so moved. I heard several others from the pastor's summit comment that they were more encouraged by the shared trials, sufferings and brokenness with the other pastors/wives than they were by the shared triumphs. How true it is that Christ's power is made perfect in weakness. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

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