This article was originally published in the World Orphans Fall Insight Magazine 2018.

An estimated four million people now work remotely in the US. World Orphans is part of that growing statistic, with a decentralized ministry model, staff throughout the US, and team members across the globe. We have experienced many advantages of decentralization: lower overhead costs, access to a larger geographic area with minimal travel, and personal connections with local churches across the country. Decentralization provides many opportunities that are critically valuable to what we do. But being decentralized can make it very challenging to maintain community with peers. And the incredible resources accessible to us—such as Skype, phone calls, and FaceTime—still have their limitations. 

Each year, with community building in mind, our team gathers for a staff retreat. These few days are not for strategic planning sessions or vision-casting meetings, though those have their place. Instead, the focus is on both interpersonal connection and each individual’s emotional and spiritual health. This time is set aside specifically for our team to connect with each other and more deeply with Christ.

This year, our retreat was in Estes Park, Colorado, the first week of October, and the theme we rallied around was “Table to Table.”

We began our time together around a table, laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying good food together. Nothing was programmed or scripted, and there was no room for tension or stress. We found ourselves reconnecting in the most relational way possible: over a meal. Sharing a meal together offers a special kind of magic. 

After our meal, we worshiped, lifting our voices together in praise to Jesus, and launching ourselves into our two-and-a-half-day journey to our destination: his table. We concluded our retreat by sharing the Lord’s Supper. 

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament that the church has historically celebrated together. As our bodies are nourished physically when we eat from our tables, we are also nourished spiritually when we eat the bread and drink from the cup at the Father’s table. As a staff, we always look forward to this time together.

Throughout the retreat, we were intentional about connecting with God through reading the Bible and spending time in reflective solitude. We also enjoyed connecting with each other through play and adventure—board games, hiking, and some friendly competition.

We began at the table over a meal, and we concluded the retreat in celebration together at the Lord’s table.

During my years with World Orphans, I have had the privilege of traveling to over 25 countries, and I have been nourished in endless ways, having sat around the table with friends—new and old—in many different cultures. I have watched the table become a safe place to grieve, an invitation into friendship, and an unfettered celebration. 

We hope you enjoy this issue of World Orphans Insight, where we’ve offered our experiences of coming to the table—from Kurdistan to India, from the US to Guatemala, and from Ethiopia to Haiti. Indeed, there is something sacred about coming to the table together in friendship and in Christ.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit