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Retratos || Banquetes de Renovación//(Small Feasts of Renewal)


Why does HLI host mini-retreats? In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, los peregrinos (the pilgrims), on their way to the Celestial City, make several stops in the homes of different hosts.  What the pilgrims perhaps anticipate as a clean bed and good meal turns into far more.  At House Beautiful, a young, weary, faltering pilgrim (Christian) finds much-needed physical rest. But more importantly, over a good meal and reflection upon his journey thus far with those the Lord has put there to serve, he finds encouragement and refreshment for the long road ahead.  He leaves renewed, and strengthened by the armor of God that his hosts bestow upon him.  Later, as Christian's wife and sons travel in his footsteps, they find refreshment over a feast in the house of Gaius. There, they share stories of both the trials and victories they have encountered in their journey thus far, and find encouragement with their host and fellow pilgrims. They even find companionship for the journey ahead, as their hearts unite to those they have met over this prolonged meal.


Clearly, Bunyan understood the challenges and loneliness of life as a sojourner and pilgrim, as one who himself was far from home.  While the life of each Cristiano is one of a sojourner and exile (cf. I Peter 2:11), immigrants in particular know the loneliness of being far from family and loved ones.  As someone who spent years locked in a seventeenth century prison for preaching Christ, Bunyan understood this loneliness too.  Well did he illustrate then how the church becomes the place for fellowship, community, strength, and refreshment for weary pilgrims.  A simple, well-timed fiesta with fellow sojourners, a time of slowing down, enjoying pupusas, empanadas, or homemade carne asada while sharing stories of trial and encouragement in the Christian life can yield dividends in encouraging and refreshing churches and their staff to continue with manos a la obra (hands to the plough).  As Bunyan's story shows, gospel-centered fellowship over a bountiful meal can bring the much-needed cariñoso (warm) embrace of a greater familia de Jesucristo for weary pilgrims. 



MINI-RETREATS FOR RENEWAL


Hispanic Leadership Initiative’s mini-retreats have attempted to be just this: opportunities of renewal for the soul, for Hispanic churches and their leaders.  For Hispanic church leaders, the less-traveled road to reaching the immigrant community and their children can often feel isolating.  The reality that seeing fruit sometimes takes twice as long, with far fewer resources can be exhausting and discouraging.  Hispanic church members, who are working hard to make ends meet, navigate a new culture in a different language, grow in their faith, and serve their church on top of it all, also need encouragement and renewed vision for the road ahead.  In this context, vacations, retreats, and conferences are typically not a reality or possibility, financially or otherwise.  So the invitation to enter a safe haven of rest and refreshment is needed!  


Through mini-retreats, small groups of churches and their leaders have the opportunity to take a break from la rutina cotidiana (the daily grind), come together for a short weekend (at little to no cost), to enjoy comunidad (community) at a family table, sharing sonrisas (smiles), stories, and comida with others walking the same road.  Then, with barrigas llenas (fully bellies), they are invited to be renewed and refreshed, not just physically, but spiritually, with Truth from La Palabra de Dios (the Word of God) to speak encouragement and hope specifically to the “various trials” of the sojourner and immigrant experience (cf. I Peter 1:6-7 & context). While immigrant life is full of trials and often lonely, Peter reminds his readers that the life of the exile is meant to be lived in community; though rejected by men, we are to come to the Lord together, as ones who are escojidos y preciosos (chosen and precious) in God’s sight (cf. I Peter 2:4-5).  



RENEWAL IN DALLAS


In Dallas, TX in November of last year, Pastor Jahaziel Cantú of El Buen Pastor led a mini-retreat for his and another local Hispanic congregation, where the topic was “Renewal on the Way.”  While a 24-hour retreat felt short, the turnout of around 100 participants to be fed physically and spiritually was staggering, and the Lord truly blessed the time as one of renovación (renewal). Pastor Cantu’s wife, Anne, describes that the opportunity for these church members to be served, rather than serving, was a reversal that helped open the doors for spiritual refreshment.  Sitting together, over home-cooked meals, los participantes were able to let down their guard and relax over honest conversations.  Through teaching, participants were reminded and encouraged that, regardless of the situation, they are never alone.  


Photos: HLI's Mini-Retreat in Dallas


Some of the words of the theme song Renuévame, of this mini-retreat in Dallas say, "Renuévame, Señor Jesús; Ya no quiero ser igual;” ("Renew me, Lord Jesus! I don't want to stay the same" - from "Renuévame," by Marcos Witt). Por la gracia del Señor (by the Lord's grace), the Lord used the seeming simplicity of fellowship, preaching, and community among sister churches to do just this: to allow people to leave renewed in their marriages, in their heart for serving the church and others, and in their zeal for living as sojourners on the way to an imperishable, undefiled, Heavenly inheritance (cf. I Peter 1:3-4). 



RENEWAL IN VIRGINIA


In Virginia, in May of this year, HLI’s Executive Director and pastor of Vive Charlotte Church, José Portillo, had the opportunity to remind another four Hispanic congregations that the “living hope” of I Peter 1, secured through “the resurrection of Jesucristo from the dead” (1:3-4) is more than sufficient to encourage inmigrantes y exiliados, even in the midst of grief and trial, to continue on the pilgrim path.  This mini-retreat, held at one of the local churches, focused on Los Planes y Propósitos de Dios para Inmigrantes ("The Plans and Purposes of God for Immigrants), because indeed, even when the loneliness and suffering of living as foreigners feels overwhelming, the Lord’s plan is for the good of His people.  Sitting over meals with fellow sojourners, like Bunyan’s pilgrims in the many guest-houses, more than forty pastoral staff and laypeople were able to fellowship, relate to one another’s stories, and together listen to and encourage one another with the living hope of Jesus’ promise to care for the sojourner. 



RENEWAL FOR THE HISPANIC CHURCH


Gathering en comunidad with fellow pilgrims who understand the difficulties and complexities of journeying through as ones who are sojourners on both a practical and spiritual level, is necessary for the refreshment and encouragement of the Hispanic church.  As Bunyan understood, these resting places play an integral role in renewing pilgrims for the journey.  They provide a space where, for even one weekend or over a few meals, las lágrimas (the tears) are safe to flow, because pilgrims are reminded of the King who both shed His own tears over pain and suffering (cf. John 11:35 & context), but who also will wipe away cada lágrima de cada ojo. They are a place where los peregrinos understand in a better way that they are indeed not alone; that the way may be long and hard, but the body of Christ is being built up together into one holy Temple, whose head is Jesus (cf. I Peter 2:4-6).  They are a place where, por la gracia de Dios, pilgrims leave renewed and refreshed to continue on the journey, with the knowledge that they are HIS chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and people for His own possession, and that as such, el Señor Jesucristo will never leave nor forsake. (cf. I Peter 2:9-10).


As HLI continues to plan towards the future, the hope and prayer is to multiply the opportunities for these mini-retreats across the nation. The prayer is that more pastors and laypeople for and within the Hispanic community might find hope, renewal, and joy in the task of being faithful pilgrims, and continuing to reach family, friends, neighbors, and the world with las Buenas Noticias (the Good News).  Yet it does not take a formal event to enjoy the needed renewal of a simple meal served among gospel-centered community.  It may be a gifted cook in the community sharing a large pot of frijoles after church, that encourages members and visitors to begin to sit down and discuss what the Lord is doing in their lives.  It may be as simple as a church member feeling encouraged to open their home y la parilla (the grill), that initiates a time of generating confianza (confidence) and praying for one another.


Let us pray that the Lord would use and multiply the efforts of HLI, and faithful peregrinos sitting down and sharing a meal and gospel truth with one another, to encourage, renew, and grow the church among the Hispanic community, and beyond.  En realidad, as pilgrims commune with one another, it is a reminder of the promised inheritance of which Peter speaks: a heavenly Kingdom, where los peregrinos from every nation, language, and tongue will sit down together, sharing stories of the Lord’s victory in their lives at the greatest banquet: the wedding supper of the Lamb.  Festejemos juntos (let us feast together), and let us look towards the promises of ultimate renewal that el Señor has for all His own. 


¡A Dios sea la gloria!


 

JOIN US IN PRAYER:

  • Pray for encouragement and renewal for Hispanic church leaders, who are facing challenges unique to their context. Pray for opportunities for connection, remembering they are not alone, and that the Lord is faithful in His purposes.

  • Pray for encouragement and renewal for Hispanic and immigrant congregations, that they would feel encouraged through the Word of God that though the road is long, the Body of Christ is caring for them.

  • Pray for the Lord to continue to provide the resources, spaces, and leaders to continue offering mini-retreats across the United States at little to no cost for the participants.

  • Pray that these opportunities for fellowship, connection, and renewal would help to multiply the Gospel to the Hispanic and immigrant communities, and beyond!

 

Please consider giving to HLI so that we can continue offering opportunities of renewal and refreshment for Hispanic pastors and their congregations throughout the United States, and that through doing so, we can help multiply and grow new leaders to reach more people with the message of the Gospel.

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