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We knew we needed to get together. We knew we needed to take time to get to know each other, learn together, and serve together.

Knowing this, Rudy, a Race Relations Advocate in California, found the perfect place for us to meet: Mater Dolorosa, “a Passionate Retreat Center” in Sierra Madre, CA. It's a beautiful and peaceful place surrounded by hills and mountains, with trails for walking surrounded by trees, shrubs, and plants typical of the area.

And we were blessed to be the only group at the retreat center for those few days in October. The only thing we were not able to do was go out hiking in the hills because there had been sightings of a mama bear that we certainly didn’t want to encounter! 

During our time together, we prayed for the Lord to guide us, to teach us, to open our hearts, and to open our eyes to hear His  voice…and He did answer those prayers. The schedule we had was actually a suggestion only. He had other plans for us. When we read in Psalms that He knew us even before we were born, it is comforting and beautiful. He guided us in a way that made us grow closer with each other. In the work we do with race reconciliation, it’s very important to have a team that trusts in each other, supports one another, and has no rivalry—only unity.

Aside from the prayer times at the retreat, we also had the incredible opportunity to learn from Benjamin Madley, a professor from the Department of History at UCLA. Professor Madley taught us about the history of Native Americans on what is now California.

As a way of preparation, we had read his book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophean incredible 498-page book packed with information and stories that he had spent over ten years researching. After we had read the book and heard his presentation, we couldn’t hold back our tears and sadness over the treatment of the native people in that region.

Later that week, we had the opportunity to worship at Bethel CRC in Pomona. They invited us to join them for lunch afterwards where we enjoyed some delicious tacos and continued fellowship. We also had the key opportunity to sit and talk about racial injustices and immigration.

Being in the midst of brothers and sisters in Christ is something we love to do every time we have the opportunity. We were blessed by this retreat as we learned together, prayed together and strengthened relationships on the team and with local congregations.

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