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THE OLIVE GROVE RETREAT

THE OLIVE GROVE RETREAT

By The Rev. Andrew Rea
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
June 9, 2019

When God calls us to do something, He already knows the outcome. People often wish He does email or Facebook, even send a text message. But it doesn't work like that, we just have to go in faith. I see no reference to social media in Scripture yet the prophets managed OK! Eventually. God called my wife Jean and me to start a Christian Retreat centre where people can come for peace and quiet and time for reflection in their busy lives. But He didn't include the other part of His desire - a congregation here. I thought my days of active ministry were about over, well this call came as we both approached seventy years of age!

The call came on a Sunday afternoon in early 2015. I had conducted an Anglican service in the morning and we had lunch and were relaxing in our house in La Marina near Torrevieja. We had lived in Spain for four years and life was relatively peaceful. My ministry allowed me to conduct services most Sundays, funerals and wedding blessings. And not least pastoral ministry. Peaceful though. When the call to start a Retreat came, I realised our lives were about to change big style. I remember saying to Jean as I explained the call 'This is going to be the roller coaster ride of our lives, lots of ups and downs beyond belief!' Prophetic words indeed ... yet Jean simply answered 'OK, let's get started!'

We managed to buy land in Murcia, three beautiful and peaceful adjoining olive groves. We lived in a caravan on the plot where the Retreat was going for fifteen months. We had not been there long when Jean was diagnosed with colon cancer, and my inevitable question was 'WHY??!! We have sold our house in La Marina and come here in faith to seek to do Your will. What is going on?' The simple answer came back late one night as I walked the land, shouting at the sky. 'She will have a ministry to people with cancer'. Jean had an operation and chemotherapy (whilst in the caravan in 40 degrees). Two operations in fact. She is now fully recovered with six monthly check ups - which hopefully from this month will be annual.

I was desperate to move Jean from the caravan into more comfortable accommodation, so the plan to build a wooden cabin for the Retreat got moved forward. In my haste I guess my judgement got a bit skewed. By this time we had started holding Anglican services under the caravan awning every Sunday morning, as Brits living in the Calasparra area told us they had been waiting sixteen years for services in English. A lady in our new congregation recommended a local English carpenter and I contacted him to build the wooden cabin. Promises promises ... the short story is that he started the work, took a large amount of money, could not finish the work and refused to repay the thousands of euros I had paid him. My fault but my excuse is that I was not thinking clearly at that time.

I met another English carpenter near Torrevieja who again made promises but seemed able to deliver. He finished the wooden cabin and built a wooden chapel on the Retreat land. All went well until he offered to build a wooden house for us on the adjoining plot. And wanted a large deposit. There goes that song again ... but he did give us a contract stating that if we did not get planning permission for a wooden house he would refund the deposit. I paid the deposit and we did not get planning permission. His low initial estimate started to escalate anyway and the cost of a wooden house would have been equal to standard brick. He will not return our deposit. However a local Spanish builder we had got to know built us a wonderful brick house - to time and to his estimate. Moral - use Spanish builders!

So we now live in the comfortable house, the congregation is growing and the Retreat is open. God has opened amazing doors on our journey to Calasparra, and closed the doors we should not enter. If He had sent an email not to use English builders that would have been a bonus but we are thankful for our many blessings.

Coincidence or God-incidence? I believe in the latter. Out of the blue recently our bank manager contacted us to make an appointment to see her. What next I thought, requests to meet bank managers are never a good sign! She was most helpful and suggested we take a small mortgage on the house in order to pay off the two bank loans we were forced to take out at high rates of interest because our cash flow dried up thanks to the two English builders. And we will need to build a larger chapel soon and more accommodation for people coming on Retreat. We look upon this unexpected meeting with our bank manager as a God-incidence, one of many on the road to Calasparra.

I have almost finished writing a book which will contain many more details of our roller coaster ride. Now both seventy-two years of age. I asked God one time if I was going to pop my clogs anytime soon and leave Jean with all the mess. The answer came straight back 'You will live as long as Moses'. Amen to that.

The Retreat website address (which is in several languages including English and Spanish) is:

www.olive-grove-retreat.com

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