Remember When? (plus a retreat invitation)

I remember the days when A Life Overseas was in its toddler stage, just a couple years old, and the Velvet Ashes community was in its infancy. Who else was around in those days? Do you remember how the whole online community thing was new and fresh to the world? It felt like the cork had popped on our collective pent-up missionary angst. We finally had these places to express ourselves amongst others who understood and felt the same things.

There was a word that flew frequently in these spaces in those days: burnout. 

We were exhausted people. We were working ourselves to the bone for the Kingdom, desperate for renewal and pretty clueless about how to find it. 

I lived in a concrete jungle on the 18th floor of one of the world’s most polluted cities. I had little children at my ankles all day, and I was as desperate as the rest of us to “fill my tank.” Trying to fill that tank felt about as productive as pumping water into a colander. 

The word “retreat” filled me with longing. But how? When? Where? I didn’t know anything about creating or leading retreats. I just knew my own yearning, and I saw it echoing back to me in our online conversations. We needed to retreat. 

So our Velvet Ashes team came together and said, “What if we do an experiment?” The phrase “online retreat” didn’t exist back then. Chances were high this unheard of thing would flop, but hey, why not give it a whirl? 

Our jaws dropped when 700 of you said, “Yes! We’re in.” Then something even more amazing happened: this online retreat thing turned out to actually be a significant time with the Lord.     

Fast forward to 2022. The world is a different place. Missionary burnout, exhaustion, and angst have whole new dimensions today. COVID. Closed borders. Invasions. We could lament and count the ways.  

But I wonder if we could pause for a moment today to acknowledge that something else has changed since the days when A Life Overseas and Velvet Ashes were young. Can we recognize that the worldwide missionary community is no longer clueless about finding renewal and help? Thanks to these two communities and so many other beautiful voices, there is now a wealth of information flowing in these online spaces, sharing opportunities for counseling, spiritual direction, debriefing, small groups, webinars, retreats, and so much more.  Can we celebrate what God has done through raising up people and advancing technology? There is now equipping and resourcing and supporting unlike anything in history.    

At Velvet Ashes, we’re celebrating that there are now thousands of women across the world who have made it a rhythm of their lives to take a spiritual retreat once or twice a year – wherever they are in the world. You no longer have to wait for a retreat to come to your area. You don’t have to put it off until a furlough. No waiting until borders open. We’re learning to be filled by God right where we are.

God has taught us a lot about what it means to offer a retreat experience. We’ve never stopped being surprised by the personal way God interacts with each person in a time of retreat. God moves in the symphony of story videos, worship, art, movement, guided time in the Word, prayer and reflection. It’s time and space to be with God to allow him to tend to your heart.  

If you are not already planning to join us for The Velvet Ashes 2022 Online Retreat, consider this your invitation.  

We’re exploring Solomon’s temple and discovering the incredible pathway it provides for us today to deepen our experience of God. We are tapping into our multi-layered longing for home as we learn what it means for our hearts to be God’s home. 

We hope you’ll join us and spread the invitation to those you know. 

Check out all the details and register here.

Whether this is your first retreat or your tenth, the invitation is the same. Jesus extends the same invitation to us today that he did to his disciples 2,000 years ago. He says, “Come away with me. Let us go to a quiet place and rest for a while.” 


Danielle Wheeler sat on her porch one day and had a dream breathed into her heart, a dream of global women linking virtual arms to find connection and courage for their cross-cultural lives. As Velvet Ashes’ founder and current Director of Spiritual Formation, she loves watching this dream grow beyond what she ever imagined. Mother to four, she and her husband ride the waves of life and culture, leaning hard into the One who leads.

Announcing a New Online Event for Women

by Arden Howell

Exhaustion, Isolation, Loneliness, Burnout… Do these seem like the words defining the season? If so, you’re not alone 

This seems to be a frequent topic among the missions community and other ministry workers, but what are we, as a global Christian body, doing to combat the issue?  

There’s tremendous energy and momentum toward getting global workers on the field, and even debriefing once they’ve left the field, but there’s often a lack of intentional effort to provide holistic care while workers are serving overseas. Thus, many people ministering around the world feel alone and are hanging on by an emotional, mental, spiritual, or even physical thread.  

We’ve seen increased isolation beginning in 2020 lead to more intense feelings of burnout around the world, even outside of the missions community. People worldwide are being faced more head-on with mental and emotional health, and how that affects their vocational and relational lives.   

Tough decisions have forced cross-cultural families into uncertainty or unplanned circumstances. But it’s also forged unexpected friendships and empathy on a global scale.  

For Thrive, a ministry focused on replenishing women ministering overseas, 2020’s changes led to a brand-new event, Gather, where more than 400 women assembled online in July for a five-day, web-based event full of speaker sessions, prayer groups, worship, self-care times, social hours, and more.  

Gather was a true “silver lining” for many women serving around the world and women who were brought off the field or prevented from returning to their home countries for furlough or sabbaticals for the summer. Here are some of their responses:

“Tears filled my eyes as I saw the faces of all the other participants. Wow. Thank you so much for this!” Darla, Gather 2020 Attendee

“I’m encouraged by the large number of participants and the level of participation in the chats, in addition to the great material we’re hearing.” Barbara, Gather 2020 Attendee

“Seeing all of you, I get the sense of not being alone in this crazy global worker life.” Lynell, Gather 2020 Attendee

This February, Gather is happening again. Women from all sending nations ministering outside their home culture are invited to join the Thrive family for five days of refreshment, encouragement, community, teaching, prayer, resourcing, laughter, and so much more.   

Even as 2021 begins to see new changes and questions, we can be reminded that none of us is alone – regardless of passport country, host country, or heart country.  


More About Gather: 

February 22-26, 2021 

$50 Registration Fee (Access to All 35+ Hours of Live Sessions) 

Inviting All Women Serving Cross-Culturally 

Register and Learn More at 


About Thrive:

Thrive is a ministry that exists to replenish women who are serving cross-culturally by providing spiritual resources through Connection, providing transformative experiences through Retreats & Events, providing authentic one-on-one relationships through Alongside, and by increasing Advocates for them as they invest in Kingdom work. Learn More at  


Arden is the Copywriter for Thrive, a ministry devoted to serving women who are living and ministering overseas. Thrive exists to replenish women by providing spiritual resources through Connection, transformative experiences through Retreats & Virtual Gatherings, authentic one-on-one relationships through Alongside, and increase Advocates for them as they invest in Kingdom work.