Reading the word “missional” over and over again in our Mennonite media, calling us to get involved with immigrants, homeless, protest marches for Black Lives Matter, sexual abuse – it was just too much. My stress level increased with each new report of good works, making me wonder what I should be doing.
I felt selfish. Day after day into months, John and I enjoyed our beautiful 15-acre home and retreat center all by ourselves. I began to feel like this safe place of quarantining was just wrong. Should I risk our health and sign up to help a local shelter for the homeless or serve at a community kitchen? That felt wrong too. What was my missional thing to do?
Admittedly, quieting the activities of my mind and personality and paying too much attention to “should” have always been a challenge for me, but this shut-down was taking me to another level of dis-ease with the contemplative call on my life.
Our lifelong vision has been to offer a place of spiritual rest and silence for busy people to come away to be with God. However, after four months of quarantine, we decided to open our place to Hipcampers (the glamorous camper version of Airbnb).
Within a few days, we were booked for the next two months, and soon after, into the fall season! People started coming with their joy, filling the empty place in my own spirit that yearned to offer hospitality.
They’re not coming for silence, so we get to talk to them at a distance, which feeds my extroversion and quells my jealousy of God getting to know people who come, without me getting to be part of it.
Most of them aren’t coming for the labyrinth and prayer walk around the woods. But the mysterious and holy thing is, they’re meeting God here in ways they nor we ever planned or dreamed.
Our guest book says things like:
“I traveled here full of pent up emotions … My faith in the unknown and the spiritual has really wavered. Here, I felt a deep internal shift as soon as I stepped out of my car, and I felt open to receive all the gifts that this space offered … I felt a Spirit here. I leave full of clarity, forgiveness and commitment to my spiritual path that I was too scared to confront for so long.”
“The place is magical, blessed and sacred all rolled up into one. I was truly surprised at how palpable the peace felt – such beautiful energy. I came here to find something I didn’t know I was looking for. And what is that thing you call a labyrinth? Something happens in there that I can’t describe.”
We shake our heads in amazement and laugh with joy as we read and hear these responses. It seems that when we got out of the way of what we created and expected, God began using it in greater and more diverse ways.
Is it missional to stay home to provide a safe place for people to come and find Someone they don’t know they’re looking for? Might tending a retreat center and offering spiritual direction with new definitions be the next step of following God’s call? Is this time of pandemic transforming my definition of missional?
Thanks be to God, I believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!!”
This is an abbreviated version of the full article that is available at https://www.mennoniteusa.org/convention-news/hosting-hipcampers-missional-spiritual/