It goes without saying that the 2020 missionary team has had a unique experience, and one that has been quite different from the initial plan. Typically, we would have arrived in May and would have had several ECHO retreats throughout the summer. This year, we arrived in June, and over the course of these last few weeks and months, all three of the summer 2020 ECHO retreats have been called off. It is a very different experience, but one the Lord has continuously filled with His grace. While we are grieving the loss of sharing ECHO with each of you this summer, Jesus has poured forth an immense amount of peace and joy into each of our hearts. It feels counterintuitive; we feel like we should be closer to devastation than to peace, but the Lord has called us to rejoice in the new thing He is doing, and to “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing...do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18). We are choosing to rejoice in His faithfulness, and to discern the new things He is doing.
From the beginning of this summer, the word He has placed on each of our hearts has been surrender. As we surrender our whole selves to Him each morning in our Morning Offering and learn to rejoice as each of the “former things” we had expected is taken away, it is fitting that He is inviting us into an even deeper level of surrender with our testimonies. He has been preparing us for this moment, tilling the soil and planting the seeds.
As each of you who have experienced ECHO know, there is a freedom and a reverence at ECHO for stories to be shared and received. Throughout the retreat, each missionary gives his or her witness to God’s enduring faithfulness in his or her life, and while the prospect of unveiling part of your heart to a room full of people is daunting, there is some measure of peace in knowing that your story will be reverenced by each heart who receives it. Each person at ECHO has in part removed their sandals before the sacred ground of the other (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium) and whatever was shared and reverenced is not widely reproduced outside of that sacred space.
This summer, as we move into the new thing the Lord is inviting us to do, He has also invited us to give our testimonies in a new way. Rather than sharing them in the security of ECHO, they will be available in video or written format for public consumption. Besides being more widely available, they can be received by anyone, and we have no control over whether or how they will be reverenced. We – as missionaries, and as the Dumb Ox community – cannot create the sacred space in which others can receive our hearts. We have no control. And that is precisely what the Lord is inviting us into.
On the first day our community came together, we prayed as a team and the Lord gave us the words spoken about Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “‘Is He safe?’ ‘No. But He is good.’” This idea has guided our summer and spurred us on as we come to each new level of surrender. The spaces of surrender we have been invited into do not always feel safe, but they are good. Now, as we prepare to release our testimonies into the unknown, there is a peace in knowing that the Holy Spirit is preparing the way, and all we really have to do is follow His voice and surrender. We have no control. As a world, the last few months should have inscribed this truth on our hearts: we have no control. But the greater truth the Lord has written deep within us is this: He is in control. It is not a fight; it is a surrender.
As we follow the Lord into this new thing and surrender ourselves to Him, we invite you to prepare your hearts to receive whatever He desires to show you through our testimonies to His faithfulness. These words – like our lives – are not our own. The wounds we bear, like the wounds He bore after His resurrection, are not for our detriment or shame, but for His glory. When we open our hearts and proclaim what He has done, He is glorified, and we are made free.
Know of our prayers and love for you, and of the goodness of our Lord who “works all things together for good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).
We are beyond blessed with an amazing community of teens, young adults, priests, consecrated men and women, and families who are striving to live out Christ's invitation to authentic love and who have gifts to share their journeys through writing.