To Bend and Not Break
A retreat to focus on equipping house church leaders and members, for Sandy and Jim, MOVE targeted firstly the house church, building relationships within, learning to be vulnerable and trustworthy.
“It was kind of like the pep rally before the big football game.”
For Sandy and Jim Corbin the Apex MOVE retreat wasn’t a lot of new ideas. Married for thirty-three years and well seasoned in overseas missions and evangelism, they are well experienced when it comes to ministry and community. Both did agree that it was all presented with a new and refreshing twist. A retreat to focus on equipping house church leaders and members, for Sandy and Jim, MOVE targeted firstly the house church, building relationships within, learning to be vulnerable and trustworthy. From there, learning to share the Gospel naturally and effectively with those outside. As anyone who is or has been involved in house church, they point out how easy it is to tuck into the warm, safe cocoon of house church. To be so inwardly focused that when the time comes to multiply, it can feel more like a painful split than a celebration of new leaders and community being birthed.
They note, “If we (personally and as a house church) aren’t growing– it affects the whole chain of events.”
The focus on local community was definitely refreshing to Sandy and Jim, having been involved in overseas missions work since their youngest daughter graduated high school. They work with E3 Partners, an organization that equips and trains for short term missions. They were initially drawn to the Wertz/Cardiff house church because of a heart for missions and outreach. Sandy had also been Facebook friends with Diana Perkey, a fellow believer with a heart for Africa who was in the same house church. To them it felt as though God was pulling loose pieces from their past, reassuring them of the church and community they had found. It hadn’t been an easy journey- but they finally were starting to feel connected.
During the retreat Sandy remembers vividly a moment when she volunteered for a “live discipleship quad”. The only female volunteer, Sandy found herself challenged to be open and honest about something she struggled with in front of Apexers she had never met. Sharing a journey of changing churches- an experience that had been painful– how she had thought upon finding Apex that she had finally resolved her injured feelings. God started to work in her heart to show her she still was clinging to past hurts and wrongs. Sandy and Jim both became aware, through the retreat, that those moments were times of pruning. They found John 15 coming to life, the realization that pruning can be a good thing, even though it can be painful.
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
They began to see that God had used the hard times, the pain, to grow them to a fuller potential. At one point during the exercise, Sandy recalls someone reaching across the circle and saying: “Sandy, YOU are worth pruning because God loves YOU.” Sandy began to cry because it was as though she hadn’t fully been able to see the truth in that situation till it was spoken directly. The group then gathered and spoke over her, including the truth that man will always disappoint and hurt, but God never will. Sandy and Jim were both reminded to make sure that the focus is on the process and what God is teaching through the journey, not the initial reactions and emotions. That once on the other side of a trial or hardship, its easy to forget, but we’re supposed to remember the valley for when the next one comes. “We don’t want to dwell in the valleys,” Sandy notes, “but we don’t want to lose complete touch with them. We want to use them so that when the next trial comes, we are able to bend and not break.”
Author: Emily Ogden
Photographer: Molly Bellanco