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Retreat, Reflect and Renew

By Chisanga Marie Kashoki


I went on my first retreat a few years ago as part of my formation as a prayer companion. The prayer companion ministry in the Catholic Church involves training lay people to journey in prayer with retreatants. It stands to reason that if you are to journey with someone in prayer, you must be a person of prayer. To prepare prayer companions for this ministry one of the requirements of the training is to go on an eight-day SILENT retreat. A silent retreat is precisely what its name suggests. For 8 days you are in silence. Not a single word was spoken. The only time you can speak is during your session with your Spiritual Director and during Daily Mass. 


Retreat, Reflect and Renew

Chisanga Marie Kashoki, Prayer warrior


As the day for my retreat drew closer, I was nervous as I would be out of contact with my family especially my ailing parents for 8 days. Sister Leonore one of our trainers emphasized the importance of silence as a time to reflect on God.  We would have no cell phone and our phones would be off the whole time.  I was having panic attacks. No phone!? No contact!? This was going to be hard. My cell phone was my lifeline… No YouTube? No Facebook? What would I do to fill the time? 


In preparation for the eight-day retreat, we were told that a silent retreat is an opportunity for individuals to set aside time, listen to the voice of God, and hear what is in their hearts. Therefore, the only material we need would be our bible, notebook, and pen. This was even worse … I had put aside a book or two to read while on the retreat. Now what would I do? No phone?  No books?  Would I make it?


The day of the retreat came and as we settled into our rooms the realization that this would be my home for the next eight days dawned on me. The rooms were basic, self-contained with a single bed, desk and chair, and a crucifix on the wall. I was like I wanna go home. My double bed, and bookshelf filled with books were calling to me. I mean I could get in my car and leave.  But the desire to serve God was much stronger so I unpacked my bags, placed my crucifix, bible and picture of my family on my desk and whispered to myself “Well, this is it!”


Retreat, Reflect and Renew

Prayer Room



Retreat 

The silence in the first couple of days was so loud. I was aware of being alone and it was something I was not used to. Being alone with my thoughts was uncomfortable. There were so many thoughts going around in my head. Some thoughts I didn’t want to have.  I found it hard to be still, listen to my thoughts and focus on God. 


Eventually, the quiet began to calm my soul and the gentle direction from my supervisor helped me retreat into God's arms and surrender. As I snuggled into God's arms and basked in his love, I felt safe. This was a beautiful place to be.


Reflect 

As I retreated into God's arms, I could see him more clearly and he opened my eyes to the woman I was.  This retreat was cleansing as I went back in time to deal with my divorce, the guilt, the shame and the anger I had. The time of reflection helped me look at the woman I was and forgive her. It helped me let go of the anger that I had for so long. 


Renewal 

On the last day of the retreat, my fellow retreatants and I sat together for our closing session. After 8 days of silence, it was nice to be able to talk again finally. As we chatted amongst ourselves I gazed around the room and I could see something had happened to all of us. We were not the same. We looked different, renewed. 


I left the retreat renewed in my relationship with God, renewed in myself and finally at peace with being divorced. After, my first retreat I took part in four more retreats and the feeling after all of them was renewal. 




Retreat, Reflect and Renew

The team after eight days of prayer

Chisanga, the last row far left


The silence of the retreat allows me to connect to God beyond what words can express. In the silence, God can reach out to me as I retreat, reflect and renew.



Chisanga is a farmprenuer, mom of four adult children, an avid gardener, reader and prayer warrior. Connect with her on Instagram  @Chisangakashoki and  @Kumela_zm.



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Edited by Bwalya M Mphuka



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Retreat, Reflect and Renew

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