I eagerly embraced my 50th birthday, walking into “the 50’s” with hopeful anticipation. In hindsight, this decade brought about its share of difficult times. It also gave rise to much personal and spiritual growth, including freedom from childhood perspectives and coping mechanisms that were no longer working for me.
Gregg and I committed to volunteering at a 2010 summer English Camp in Hungary. Having never taught English as a Second Language, we began volunteering at the International Learning Center teaching English to refugees. It was a win-win – helping our community while learning new skills. On mission trips, I loved developing relationships with the local women. Even so, I hadn’t anticipated how deeply my heart would be drawn to refugee ladies.
In another area of my life, God was facilitating deep emotional healing through the ministry of Mending Hearts. My heart was stirred to attend SALTS (Survivors-of-Abuse Leadership Training Seminar) in April. This week-long intensive training in Michigan was a step towards becoming a MH small group co-leader.
SALTS is not a “how to” training, but a guided opportunity for personal growth and healing. I roamed the beautiful conference center and shoreline of Lake Michigan during free time. Being in nature helped me talk to God and courageously process my childhood perspectives and survival techniques. The week was full of pain, joy, healing, tears, laughter, new relationships, and God holding me closely. In hindsight, I see that this week had an eternal impact on my life, kindling a journey towards profound healing and growth.
August arrived, and we were off to English Camp in Hungary. Sitting in the airport, a text divulged that our local church had abruptly discontinued Mending Hearts and similar ministries. I was stunned and grieved. A safe place had been amputated. In my experience, the remaining counseling model seemed helpful in the moment, yet kept me in bondage to “try harder,” “disregard feelings,” and “readily accept the ramifications of other’s actions.” I had beaten myself up under that theology.
I had a pit in my stomach wondering how we would respond. What were we to do?