By Johanna Willett

During the last weekend in July, 204 ministry couples gathered at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson for a weekend of relaxation and inspiration.

Like the waterfall cascading down a desert mountain at the resort, the Pastors and Wives Retreat brought refreshment to parched places.

The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention conducted the two-night retreat to allow these couples to focus on each other and God.

Time spent poolside didn’t hurt either.

“The original vision was of creating an environment meant for relaxation in the midst of affirmation and encouragement in a nice place with some free time,” said Keith Henry, AZSBC church life facilitator.

To create a retreat themed “Relax Refresh Recharge,” Henry worked with David Johnson, AZSBC executive director; Amy Medley, an AZSBC administrative assistant; and four pastors: Jason Griffin of Freedom Valley Church in Surprise, David Taylor of Common Ground Church in Sahuarita, Jeremy Hatfield of the Church at Tubac and John Guillott of Green Valley Baptist Church.

Upon arrival, couples received gift bags and $50 for a Friday night date.

The retreat began Thursday evening with dinner, worship and a quick show by the Christian illusionist Harris III, who performed again on Friday evening. On Friday morning, Mark Dance, director of LifeWay Pastors, and his wife, Janet, offered encouragement, and on Saturday morning, couples prayed for each other. At each session, Austin Ryan and Worship Catalyst led worship through music.

Free time wandering the resort and lounging at the pool punctuated the scheduled activities.

Ministry couples from 152 churches around the state attended.

Pastor Steve Lindsey and his wife, Naomi, made the trek from the Sonoita area south of Tucson, where Steve leads Canelo Cowboy Church.

“This past year, we have just been through the ringer,” Naomi said, adding that they have mourned the loss of a daughter, Naomi’s father and a nephew all in the last year. “It’s just been a crazy past nine months, and we didn’t realize how badly we needed to just get away without the pressures of everything going on in our lives and just be able to be filled by other pastors and just get revived. We really needed that.”

The majority of the retreat is funded by a portion of the Arizona Mission Offering, with the state convention first organizing a retreat like this for ministry couples in 2015. Three years is about how long it takes to allocate enough money to fund the weekend and offer couples discounted rates, Henry said.

“We believe that ministry couples tend to continually do ministry,” Henry said. “They put so much time, so much energy, so much passion into their work that, at times, it becomes a huge weight upon them. … The thought was, what if we did a retreat that was just meant to bless the minister? That’s it. Just something meant to say thank you, you’re not responsible for anything here.”