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Reflections from a Thirsty Soul

02 Apr Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Reflections from a Thirsty Soul
Reflections from a Thirsty Soul

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
– Psalm 42:2

11 Leaders, 9 Ministries, 1 Church

Seven years ago while dreaming about how Project Renovation could spiritually care for, inspire and equip local youth ministry workers, the idea of a soul care retreat emerged.  We named it Soul Thirst.  The concept was simple: Provide a retreat where local and regional youth workers could pull away from the busyness of ministry for a time of renewal experienced in community with other youth workers.

In the spring of 2006, this dream became a reality. That year in a small cabin in Western Pennsylvania, twelve leaders pulled away for a weekend of Sabbath and spiritual renewal.  For me personally, it was a humbling experience and the experience of spiritual renewal and growth which came from that first weekend is hard to place into words.

Now seven years and thirteen retreats later, I am truly grateful to see how God continues to move.


Our most recent retreat occurred a few weeks ago at Creek Haven Retreat just outside of Halifax, PA.  I am deeply thankful for the men with which I had the privilege of pulling away to retreat.  Throughout our time we shared laughter, great food, healing conversations and even some well-timed tears. Josh Rhodes, a dear friend and trusted ministry partner facilitated our time focusing on the spiritual discipline of journaling.

During our time in community at Soul Thirst I was struck by three major themes I’d like to share with you:

Personal Soul Care

Regardless of how tired or energized you feel in a given moment as a ministry leader, the need to care for your own soul is an ever present reality.  Often times, however, we tend to care for others before ever thinking of ourselves.  This imbalance can often leave us in a depleted state.  Through Soul Thirst, I’m continually reminded that providing space, rest and asking nothing in return can be a profound gift.  It was amazing to see leaders receive this gift with deep humility and gratitude.  No need for ambition, posturing, or numbers… rather, we simply wanted to care for each other in the moment.

Connection to the broader Community

Watching eleven leaders drop their guard, be authentic, move beyond church differences and care for one another is a humbling experience.  Throughout our weekend we watched participants move from being eleven separate leaders and nine different ministries to being the embodiment of One Church.  Renewal and soul care did not just come from the facilitators guiding the time, but from everyone who shared in the community.  Each member had something to offer.  Through conversations, prayer, written letters, meals and even a game of pool, each participated in caring for others.

Rooted in a Spiritual Discipline

Soul Thirst Retreats are not meant to be a spiritual high or self-contained experience.  Its intention is to provide spiritual formation skills for life, leading to daily renewal.  The call is to live a different way when one returns to their daily routine.  Throughout our time, we sat with the discipline of journaling, focusing our attention on the idea that: “Journaling helps us see and remember all that God is doing in us around us, and through us.”


The following is a excerpt from Richard Peace’s book, Spiritual Journaling: Recording Your Journey Toward God, which speaks of journaling as a key practice to documenting and passing on the faith to those around you.

“Journals have existed in many forms down through the ages.  In all likelihood, the earliest journals were oral, not written.  A tribe would appoint someone to “remember” its history, and on special occasions, the story teller would recount the events that made the tribe a unique people.

This was true of the Hebrews.  They told their story over and over again, recording it in what is today the Old Testament.  Their stories described  how God sent their father, Abraham, on a long pilgrimage, how Moses led them out of Egypt through the Red Sea, how they entered the Promised land, and how they came to have a king.  In these stories, the Jews found their identity as a special people.

This was true for the earliest followers of Christ as well.  The accounts in the four Gospels are simply written versions of oral stories that had been circulated for years within the believing community.  The Gospels are, then a journal of the early church, recounting what Jesus taught, how he died to atone for the sins of the world, and how he changed lives of the earliest believers.  Taken together, the Old and New Testaments represent God’s use of story to trace the thread of God’s relationship with people down through the ages.”

I want to say thank you to those who were present at this most recent Soul Thirst. Your hearts and passion for students amazes me.  To Caleb Lovely, your worship always takes my time with Jesus to another place.  To my dear friends Aaron and Megan Brown, your soul care through hospitality was deeply felt.  Lastly, to my brother and friend Josh Rhodes, thank you for how you taught me to love my family in a new way through the discipline of writing.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.