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The Power of Presence

I am not always a great listener.


I often find myself in a conversation where, instead of eagerly listening to whatever is being shared, my mind is whirring to whatever connection I can make next to continue the conversation. I get excited to share what is brewing in my brain and suddenly, words pile out, sometimes interrupting whoever is speaking. It's something that I have to actively work on in conversations. The ability to listen without steering the conversation...but just to listen. To be present.


I also experience this same challenge in where I put my attention. Besides being a mom to 4 kiddos, I also help out in a lot of ways around City of Refuge Ministries, from helping to lead at the school, to volunteer stuff, assisting in our church, and countless other ways. As a missionary, I also have the very real task of maintaining relationships overseas, engaging supporters, and keeping in touch with friends and family. The list could go on. Add to that the consuming world of social media, and you have a real recipe for distraction. There is always something to keep my hands and my mind occupied, so when it comes to being present, at times, it just is a bit harder than I anticipated.



A few years back, we held a missionary retreat in the nearby village of Sogakope. We had invited a few of our friends, Lori and Sarah, to help lead through speaking and art response, as different missionaries from all over this country gathered together. While we called that weekend a retreat, a time of pulling away from what we were doing to rest and be built up, it was a weekend of emotional work for most of us missionary ladies.



The teachings came primarily from a book written by Adele Calhoun called "Invitations from God: Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and More". Lori invited us into times of practicing spiritual disciplines throughout the weekend, each of us doing our own self-work, facing the many challenges that come with living in a different culture, in a different country, and in spaces that can sometimes feel draining. God met us as we cried together, shared stories, laughed over our various adventures, enjoyed great meals together, and allowed God to minister and meet us exactly where we were at. God met us as we painted together and reflected on all that God was doing in and through us in that season of life.

One of the sessions that I remember clearly was a session called "Practicing the Presence of People". During that time, we were to partner up with a friend and we were each given three minutes. One partner would start by using the three minutes to share whatever we wanted to share--our challenges, what God was teaching us, or anything else that we felt we needed to share. The other partner had to meet the eyes of the one speaking, but add no input--no vocal agreement, no advice, nothing but their empathetic presence.




This was so incredibly hard for me. Just to listen and not to offer anything. Just to be there to offer my presence--a kind hand and a listening ear. I listened first as my friend poured out some of the challenges that she was experiencing, tears streaming down her cheeks and as I listened, tears filled my own. When it was my own turn to share, the lump immediately hit my throat, the tears flowed down, and these gutteral words came out in desperate flows, so hungry to be released.


Presence, while so hard to give, was exactly what I needed most. I didn't need advice or an idea to solve the challenges that I faced. I needed someone to offer presence. To be a listener. To extend a hand of support and just "be there".


How often is that simply what is needed for those who do life with me on a day to day basis. A cuddle without the desire to scroll through my Instagram. A game played without the distraction of completing my next thing on the to-do list. A conversation, a moment, an opportunity to share—given with my full presence. It isn't easy, but maybe easy isn't everything...maybe the hard things are sometimes more worthwhile?


I found a little remark that I had written all those years ago about that retreat we spent together. I wrote:



We have sat beside these waters the past couple of days as we have dug into what the Lord has for us...invitations to care for our souls...to experience the heart of God for each one of us. My heart has felt a bit tender, but I recognize the beginning of much deeper places.


As I have been reflecting on this retreat, I have been thinking about how I can be more present with the ones I love. I have been thinking about that invitation that God extends to each one of us...to care deeply for our soul. To water it with the things that are good for us, even if they are sometimes hard. It is in these practices that we can more fully live into heart of God and experience deeper waters, deeper places, richer soils.







Maybe, you too, need the power of the practice of presence in your life. What ways can you begin to wade into deeper waters this week? I'm with you, all the way.



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About Me

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I am Autumn Acheampong, a missionary in Ghana, West Africa. Here, I share pieces of my story and journey regarding the various seasons of "in-between" that I have experienced as a woman in ministry, a teacher and educator, a musician and creative, an abolitionist and passionate follower of Jesus, a mom and wife, and share conversations with others on journeys through their own in-between seasons as well.  So glad you are here!

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