As Friday, 11 October dawned, a mixed group of people set out from different locations, all heading to Hurstpierpoint in Sussex for the Open Ears weekend.  Some were looking forward to meeting friends from previous get-togethers, others, perhaps, were a little apprehensive, unsure as to what lay ahead.  For others, the trip was tinged with sadness, as this is likely to be the final time that Open Ears will be able to meet at the lovely and relaxing Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre where future changes are on the horizon.

For many, the journey was wet, but that didn’t dampen spirits as people arrived and settled into the comfortable accommodation.  Tea, coffee and biscuits were served and soon chatter and laughter filled the room.

It was a real privilege to have visitors from Europe join us.   Eyolf and Ingrid both serve on the international board of Churchear.   Thankfully they both have excellent English – Eyolf is actually fluent in 11 languages!

Later in the weekend they were interviewed by Marylin, our special ‘in the spotlight’ host for  the weekend.  We learned a lot about the work of Churchear and the all it does in raising the profile and meeting the needs of deaf people and those with hearing loss.  If you would like to see for them for yourself and find out more about Churchear, there are details of their biannual conference later in the magazine and all are warmly invited to attend. Marylin will be going.

Tracy Williamson was the speaker for the weekend, and what lovely, gentle and encouraging ministry she gave.  Her theme was ‘The Father’s Voice’ and she led us through Biblical meditations based around the longing of our Heavenly Father to communicate with us, His people.  We thought about Him spending time with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden; of how He is our Loving Shepherd who leads us beside still waters and restores our soul.  Tracy demonstrated from her own personal walk with the Lord how it is possible to hear the Father’s voice in every day life – even for those of us with a hearing loss.  She shared much of her own story, bearing witness to the healing that only the Heavenly Father can bring to the hurt of rejection and abuse, and how He restores and gifts us with fullness of joy.

Tracy gave many opportunities for the group to share their own testimonies of what God was speaking into their hearts as well as speaking prophetically into specific needs.   We were wonderfully blessed with Marilyn Baker leading us in worship. No one could have left the weekend without having felt a kiss from the Father.

Induction loop users benefitted from an excellent system and all the sessions were interpreted with BSL and presented on screen with Speech To Text; many thanks to Averil and Susanne for their stalwart work making the weekend accessible to all.

The Centre has a beautiful, 100 year old, chapel.  We were able to make use of this through private prayer throughout the day and immediately following the evening session.  Prayer stations had been arranged around the chapel, inviting us to consider the state of our own hearts and to grow into our father’s love.

Each morning the day began (after a hearty breakfast!) with morning prayers.  It was so good to come together and pray for the many needs in the world as well as for more personal concerns. The weekend offered time for friendship, teaching, spiritual renewal and relaxation.  Hand, foot and hand massages were available for those wanting a bit of pampering, and an optional Creative Prayer Workshop was enjoyed by all who participated.

On Sunday morning Tracy led us in a celebration service, remembering all that the Lord Jesus has done for each one of us.

All too soon we had finished another delicious meal and it was time to say our good-byes.  We were well fed spiritually and physically and had strengthened our family ties within the love of God.  Huge thanks to all who made such a wonderful weekend possible, not least the fabulous staff who looked after us so well.  We can’t wait for our next Open Ears holiday at Hothorpe Hall in October 2020.