A weekend retreat spawned a calling to reach thousands
by Terri Newsom
Before I knew what was happening or could have turned back, my girlfriend and I were traveling on I-20, heading to a women’s retreat somewhere in eastern Texas. What was I thinking? Why did I agree to go? I didn’t want to be away from my kids for the weekend. And I didn’t want to be with 65 “religious” women who would judge me and reaffirm the guilt I carried for being such a horrible mother.
The year was 1994, and my life was spiraling out of control at warp speed. That past autumn I had placed my oldest daughter in Charter Hospital for depression, and I entered a day treatment program upon the recommendation of her counselor. The counselor’s diagnosis was not a “teenage problem” but a “family problem.” Simply put, our whole family was unhealthy.
I closed my business, sold our house, separated from my husband of 19 years, and drove off in my minivan with my other two children to a city 35 miles away where I knew no one. I was barely hanging onto my sanity. Drastic steps had to be taken. Maybe this retreat would offer some solutions to my problems. No one could beat me up any more than I had.
Just then, a woman came to talk to me and ask about my reading material. She explained—without condemnation—that we alone don’t have the capacity to deal with life’s hardships. But Jesus can take this burden from us, she said, and replace our emptiness and confusion with hope. All we have to do is admit our sins, ask for His forgiveness, and ask Him to enter our lives.
Is this true? I wondered. Is it really this simple? Can I really be forgiven? Doesn’t Jesus know what a mess I’ve made of my life and that my kids are suffering because of it? Is there hope for my children in spite of my failures and misguided parenting?
Despite my doubts, Jesus sent me loving-kindness that day through that woman, who, I later learned, was head of women’s ministry for the retreat.
That weekend, love was everywhere. I could feel it in the breathtaking beauty and serenity of the grounds. I couldn’t understand how that many women could be in one place without gossiping.
The kindness shown to me by women I didn’t even know was overwhelming. I had never felt this kind of unconditional love in my 44 years. The women put their earthly arms around me, and Jesus put His heavenly arms around me.
Jesus met me just where I was—the mess I was—at this retreat center.
My plan was small, but His is always much bigger. He answered my prayer by providing a job at Women of Faith (WOF), which puts on Christian conferences nationwide. These events give women a chance to be refreshed and to experience and reaffirm God’s love in a nonthreatening environment. God gave me the opportunity to touch many lives through my work and His faithfulness.
I’ve now worked for WOF for six years in the corporate office and in registration. My goal is to reach other women seeking truth and hope.
My life and family have been changed forever through the compassionate women God sent to the tranquil surroundings at Brookhaven Retreat.
It’s often through Christian retreats, camps, and conference centers that God reaches out and touches people right where they are. If He can take a broken family like mine and get my attention through the serenity and beauty at a retreat center, He can do the same for anyone.
Terri and her husband, Randy, live in Texas. She regularly travels for Women of Faith events, and her son also works for that organization. Her daughter Kassidy serves at Sugar Pine Christian Camp in Oakhurst, California.
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