Pastor's Retreat (or I've Never Heard a Missionary Make THAT Sound!)

This week was the Fall Pastor’s Retreat for the Southern France Assemblies of God. I went as a representative of the IC France ministry, and I really enjoyed it, since I am getting to know more and more pastors. The retreat was held at a beautiful Christian campground in south central France, lovely in its country setting and used by churches and Christian groups as a retreat center. Oddly, though, the campground doesn’t have a central meeting hall; instead, they have a “big-top” tent, where we had our two days of meetings.

The mornings were spent in praise, prayer, and sermons on the theme of “The Church, Its Ministries, and Money Issues.” Thrilling! The afternoons were reserved for business meetings and reports from the various committees. As in June, the best times were during the meals. Being French food, the meals are excellent, and each time, I meet new and different people.

Here is a funny story for those of you who enjoy my penchant for embarrassing myself: during the second morning’s meetings, there was a long, powerful moment of intercessory prayer. Pastors were coming forward to the altar for prayer, and others were gathering to pray for them. There was the feel of the presence of God all over the tent, but as we prayed, I noticed that my hands were really, really dry. I have always had very dry cuticles that split and bleed, and I have a nervous habit of picking at them. To combat the problem, I try to put hand cream on, as soon as I notice my hands getting dry. I figured I could slip the lotion out of my purse, rub some on my hands, and no one would be the wiser, since their eyes were closed in prayer. So I got my lotion and squeezed the bottle. Nothing came out. I realized it was nearly empty, so I smacked it quietly against my palm and squeezed again. A loud, airy “BLLLLPTHHHH” erupted from the bottle, like the sound that comes from ketchup bottles and people with gas problems. The pastor next to me, while his eyes stayed closed, turned his head toward the loud, disgusting noise. Then, he apparently changed his mind and returned to prayer, though still with a strange look on his face. I frantically shoved the offending lotion in my pocket and rubbed my hands together with the miniscule drop of lotion that came out. I wondered how many people had heard the noise and assumed it came from me! So much for being discreet.

In other news: my mother sends me a package about once a month. The mailman passes by and if I am not there to sign for it, he leaves me a standard form to inform me that that he will return the next day, but if I am still not available, the package will be returned to the central regional post office, with the other unclaimed packages before being sent back to the US following two weeks of being unclaimed. This all seems vaguely sinister to me, and I imagine the last scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a warehouse full of unclaimed packages. I think I will never get the cheezits Mom sent me, so I always make sure that I am there the second day to sign for the package, no matter how difficult it is to clear my schedule. However, while I was gone to the retreat, I missed one. For the first time, I got a different form, telling me that the package had been transferred to my local post office where I could pick it up within the two week range. My local post office is across the street from my apartment, so the whole thing was very anti-climactic, as it turns out, except for the excitement of getting my cheezits!
Ariel Rainey