Spiritual Formation in Avance
The Avance Missions Immersion program, based in Mexico City, mobilizes young adults in cross-cultural mission service for two months, a semester, a year or two years. All of our participants live with Mexican families, learn Spanish and serve under national leadership.
Our passion is that our participants will gain perspective on what their role is in God’s call to the nations. Whether this is serving Christ cross-culturally or back home in Christian or secular contexts, our hope and prayer is that all will be missional – actively seeking to share the love of Christ wherever they are.
We also desire to see our participants deepen in their love and intimacy with Christ and to live and minister out of this reality. It is in response to this desire that we have developed and continue to improve our Spiritual Formation focus within our ministry.
Our initial steps in implementing this vision in Avance, came through a one-day prayer retreat in the midst of our busiest ministry season: the summer. At this strategic point in the summer, after our intensive Spanish language course and before the final weeks of full-time ministry, we now draw aside and spend a full day in worship, prayer and learning to enjoy the presence of our good Lord, Jesus. During this time, we take times in silent focusing prayer before the Lord, give our participants a guided two-hour time alone with the Lord and provide optional prayer appointments.
This retreat has grown into an overnight experience and is meant to be a launching pad for implementing key spiritual disciplines in the lives of our participants. Last summer we provided a guide for all attending the retreat to use over the final four weeks of the program and one week upon returning to their home countries. This guide covered important topics in formation: the role of our desires in our spiritual growth, the importance of times of solitude and silence, the spiritual reading of texts (lectio divina), journaling and self-care.
Spiritual Direction Opportunities
We also offered the option for our participants to sign-up for one-on-one Spiritual direction sessions, one in person before the program end date and one after via Skype…with the option to continue indefinitely. We had a very positive response to this opportunity and a number of our participants continue to take advantage of this one-on-one spiritual mentoring.
In our regular meetings we seek to model and use specific pathways or disciplines that lead us to reflect on Christ’s work in our hearts and lives: times of silence, lectio divina, artistic praying in colors, worship, and other creative prayer exercises.
In addition to our summer retreat, we also have retreats in the fall and spring, to pull aside together to seek the Lord, reflect on our life in Him and return recharged for ministry. Here’s a brief glimpse of our fall retreat:
As a leadership team we have been slowing reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Pursuing God’s Will Together. This has been a valuable exercise in learning to discern God’s will together which does not come naturally.
Spiritual Mentoring Groups & Curriculum
Our staff have initiated spiritual mentoring groups with the purpose of accompanying young Mexican leaders in putting their roots deep in Christ. We currently have 8 groups operating in partnership with Leighton Ford Ministries mentoring communities. Additionally, we have written spiritual formation and direction activities into both our certificate and master’s programs.
Our desire in all is to see Christ formed in us and those we serve, to follow the example of our Teacher, the Lord Jesus, who modeled a deep commitment to drawing aside to spend time with His father and in going out in ministry as His father directed.
“My dear children for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you: Galatians 4:19
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” Mark 3:13-14
By: Paul Johnson, Director of Avance