The Emmaus Journey

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Honouring your story of cross-cultural ministry, or ministry in the home office, through reflection, retreat and debriefing

The Emmaus Journey is not being offered in 2021.

Individual debriefing is available with me or with others who I can recommend.

Alternatively, Mission Prep and MORE Network are both run a 5 day re-entry programme for the whole family.

The Emmaus Journey retreat is for you if you are…

  • re-entering Canada from overseas, longing for people to ask you about your time away and to be really interested in your story—all of it—your joys, your successes, your disappointments, your struggles
  • wondering if life in your passport country will ever feel normal; feeling lost or confused in the process of re-entry.
  • feeling that you have so much more to process even after your debriefing with your member care worker
  • disappointed that you’ve never had the opportunity to debrief
  • confused by conflicting emotions of grief, joy, anger, relief, guilt, thankfulness, a sense of achievement, a sense of failure
  • serving in the home office wishing someone would give you the opportunity to talk about your experiences of working ‘behind the scenes’
  • changing roles within the organization or transitioning out for retirement or a different career
  • simply wanting to connect with other like-minded people and to spend some time reflecting on your experiences

At this debriefing retreat you will meet others who understand the unique stressors and joys of missionary service. You will have the opportunity to reflect on your experiences, to consider the impact of events and relationships, to grieve the losses and disappointments, to explore the challenges of transition and to celebrate the successes. This will be done in the context of personal reflection in prayer and meditation, small group activities, and private conversations with a trained debriefer.

You will leave with new perspectives and understanding that will give you hope and renewed vision.


A residential retreat at Mount St Francis retreat centre just outside of Calgary.

At this retreat you will have the opportunity to get away from it all, and enjoy the beautiful location with its view of the Rocky Mountains. There are walking trails, and comfortable areas to sit and relax, both inside the building and in the grounds. The rooms are simple but comfortable, and there are some double rooms for couples. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is very relaxing.

As a residential retreat there will be opportunity to get to know your fellow retreants and to share your stories in mutually encouraging ways over meals and free times, in addition to the group sessions. There will also be opportunity to spend time alone in the grounds reflecting, praying and enjoying God’s creation.

Cost: $630. This includes accommodation, meals, materials, and individual debriefs with an experienced debriefer.
Costs for online retreat will be much lower – exact cost yet to be determined.

Registration Form Spring 2019 Registration Form Fall 2019
Registration Form (fillable)
Spring 2020
Registration Form (fillable)
Fall 2020

The Value of Debriefing

Have you ever been blindsided by memories or emotions of an experience that happened years ago? Oi-Wah, one of the leaders of The Emmaus Journey knows that all too well. Let her tell you her story:

My husband and I spent 9 years on a mission field doing church planting work. It was a wonderful experience for the most part. However, toward the last year, tension had built up between fellow missionaries. Church members began to take sides; my husband and I felt it was time for us to move on. When the decision was made, there was such peace. We believed it was God’s timing and way to move us on. Yet, we left the field feeling heart broken and had a lot of unfinished explanations that we were not able to give to our church friends because we didn’t want to divide the church. That was 20 years ago.

Our mission agency didn’t have a Member Care department at the time. Debriefing was kind of like having a brief chat over lunch with the director. We never thought much about it. In another words, my husband and I were never debriefed to share our stories. I remember years later when I was talking about those experiences with a friend, tears streamed down my face as if I was telling about something that had just happened. I was caught by surprise by the impact.

Now I believe in the value of debriefing; I wish every missionary who has come home from his/her missionary assignment would have the opportunity to tell their stories to someone who cares to listen. A good debriefing time helps to validate what is done well and what needs to change. It is amazing how talking through our stories with a “debriefer” can sometimes help to make sense of the confusion that might be experienced. It also allows us to grieve the losses as we say goodbye to the experiences (good and bad) we left behind. It helps to see God’s presence in our stories and that He is still interested in guiding us forward. It may give us new energy and direction to follow God’s next plan and assignment. Healing is possible and comforting; and the outcome can give us reasons to celebrate what God is doing in and through us.

I resonate with Ruth Ann Graybill as she states, “Debriefing is a relational process in which the realities of the past and their impact are expressed and understood for the purpose of release, renewal, and moving forward.” It took me years to work through my experiences. I often wonder if my husband and I had an opportunity to be debriefed in those earlier days, how we would have been able to thrive better in our later ministries.

Retreat Leaders

Hazel Mayhew is originally from England and spent time in Kenya and Texas with Wycliffe Bible Translators before moving with her family to Canada to continue working in Personnel with Wycliffe. Her passion for helping cross-cultural workers maintain or regain emotional, spiritual and mental vitality led her to gain an MA in counselling and to obtain spiritual direction training. She is pleased to be able to offer these services, in addition to interviewing, debriefing, career counselling and mentoring, through her counselling practice, workshops and retreats.

To contact Hazel:

Oi‑Wah Whitbourne and her husband have been missionaries with Action International Ministries for 30 years. Oi‑Wah, along with her husband, worked in the Philippines (9 years) and India (5 years); she is now the member care worker for their mission agency. Oi‑Wah is also a pastor’s wife, a counsellor (Crossroad Counselling), and a chaplain in the business world. Her passion is working with people and walking alongside those who need healing. She believes Christ is the Wonderful Counsellor and she is leaning on His guidance. She considers it a privilege to walk alongside missionaries in their debriefing process.

To contact Oi‑Wah:

Duncan Westwood was born into a Royal Naval home in England. For over four decades he and his wife, Olwyn, have been caring for missionaries while residing in the U.K., S.E. Asia, the U.S.A. and now Canada. They have two adult TCK sons, with the older one serving as a Worship Pastor in Toronto and the younger one serving in the Canadian Military in Quebec. They have four grandchildren. Last September they and their Old English Sheepdog, Nia, relocated to Cochrane, Alberta for their semi-retirement where they continue to be employed by Toronto-based International Health Management. They have opened an IHM West Office with Olwyn serving as Office Manager and Sending Organization Liaison Officer and Duncan as Clinical Director of Expatriate Care & Development. He also serves as a Certified Spiritual Director and Supervisor who meets with missionary and ministry leaders.

To contact Duncan:

Hazel Mayhew Oi-Wah Whitbourne Duncan Westwood
Hazel Oi‑Wah Duncan