Refreshed & Recharged for Christ: a women's retreat in Neah Bay

It’s a beautiful day – Thank you, Lord!

We are leaving Port Angeles and heading for the Inn at Neah Bay just ten minutes west of Makah Lutheran Church.

Road through Olympic National Park

Road through Olympic National Park

Driving time will be about one hour and 15 minutes, and it is scenic and beautiful, driving through forest after forest in the Olympic National Park, winding around Crescent Lake, followed by Beaver Lake. We slow down to go through a small village called Clallam Bay settled on the water next to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

So many windy roads! I have to make sure not to drive too fast or my passengers will get sick!

Between our two cars, there are 10 of us women, nine Makah women and myself. We’ve come together for this weekend to be refreshed and recharged by digging into the Word of God. For most of the women, this is their first retreat experience, and, as a group, they don’t yet understand how it will differ from a big pajama party, or simply a time to hang out with the girls, but our anticipation is high as we pull into the driveway of the Inn.

The Inn at Neah Bay, hosted by Dora and Tom

The Inn at Neah Bay, hosted by Dora and Tom

Dora, our hostess, and her husband, Tom, own the Inn, which consists of four bedrooms with attached bedrooms. In total, they can serve up to ten people, and that is precisely what they do – they serve. Dora greets us all warmly – she is such a joy, such a blessing! Her servant’s heart shows in every detail of the Inn from the crisp sheets on the beds to the inviting aroma coming from the kitchen.

Once we’ve all arrived and settled, we come together as a group for the first time over dinner, and quickly learn three of the women have already dealt with drama that very morning.

  • One woman fell outside her home on the sidewalk and was suffering from a concussion
  • Another was reeling from the death of her four-month-old grandson who died in his sleep
  • The third had witnessed a drug raid at her place of employment where she acts as the manager.

Needless to say, we need to start our retreat with prayer – asking for God’s peace in our hearts and our lives, and over a hearty, home-cooked meal.

Praying together.

Praying together.

The focus of our weekend is “Abiding with Christ,” by Andrew Murray – a classic, in my opinion. Though this book was published more than a century ago, its lessons still ring true for Christians today and are maybe even more important than they were in the 1880s. We live in a world that prides itself on “self.” We admire people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and the women who, seemingly, have everything. But, God calls us to “abide in Him,” to rest in Him and to trust in Him.

It’s been a long day. So, after a brief introduction to the book, we all retire to our rooms early.

Saturday morning begins with another delicious meal, made lovingly by Dora, and a devotion from “Jesus Lives,” by Sarah Young, before we jump full force in to “Abiding with Christ” for the remainder of the morning.

sad woman

Most of the women with us this weekend have lived hard lives. They struggle with alcoholic sons, distant grandchildren, and aging parents, much like their neighbors. Unemployment hovers around 51% on the reservation, dipping only slightly in the summer during tourist season, and about the same percentage fall below the poverty line. Life on the Makah reservation, just like on reservations across the country, is tough.

But, these women have God.

A few were raised in Christian homes, but most are new to their faith. However, even those few who were raised in Christ struggle to understand and accept the magnitude of God’s love for us and how deeply He wants to protect and help us.

This isn’t just a Makah problem or a Native problem, it’s a human problem.

How many of us want to rely on ourselves to get things done and control our own future?

And how many of us get burnt out trying to do so?

To abide in Christ is to rest in Him, relying on Him and needing only Him. This is a huge conversation that most of us need a lifetime to fully grasp, but, Praise God, we have amazing discussion and insights within our group. Different women are able to glean different truths – it is such a blessing to be able to work through this book with others. We can all learn more together than we could individually! We continue to work all the way through lunch.

We enjoy some free time after lunch. Some women rest and take the time to be alone, no doubt needed for their tired and processing brains, while the rest of us walk across the street to the beach. It is such a perfect, sunny day for walking and fellowship, and our study overflows into our free time. I’m always amazed how women can come together and share their burdens when given the time to step away from daily stress.

Beach at the Inn at Neah Bay

Beach at the Inn at Neah Bay

In the afternoon, we watch the film “War Room.” Fabulous! And once again, our post-movie conversation returns to our morning discussion and the importance of prayer in a strong faith life.

After dinner, we return to “Abiding with Christ.” The women are so hungry and passionate about what they are learning, they ask if they could get their own copy of the book. How do you say no to that?!

Suffice it to say, we head to bed happy and excited, with bellies full of Dora’s amazing cooking!

Sunday morning is low-key: breakfast, devotions, and church before we pack up to head back home.

As I reflect back on the week, I praise God for the blessing this weekend has been to these women. They are refreshed by their time spent with their Lord and Savior. They are recharged, not only for their day-to-day tasks but for their journey toward eternity with Jesus.

I’m thrilled that everyone expresses a strong desire to do it again soon, so we’re already planning another in October!

And those three women who arrived so wounded and broken down?

They left excited and revitalized. They no longer think of a women’s retreat as a girl’s weekend away, but understand the concept and the power that comes from dedicating time to Jesus, sitting at His feet and digging into His Word.

And for the special donor who sponsored this event, I say, “A generous [woman] will prosper; [she] who refreshes others will [herself] be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

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(The following Sunday, we joyfully hand out a copy of the book, as well as “Jesus Lives,” the author of which, Sarah Young, wrote from of her own abiding in Christ, which she, of course, had learned from Andrew Murray. The women were also given a journal with which to record their prayers and/or their walk with Christ. Finally, they were introduced to the concept of “Secret Sisters,” wherein you draw a name out of a bag and periodically drop your Secret Sister a note or small gift to encourage them in their faith walk. We'll start this at our retreat in October! I can’t wait to see what comes out of these new sisters!)

-Connie Wilson