If you've followed this blog for awhile, you are very familiar with While We're Waiting, because I talk about it all the time! But, just in case you're not, let me take just a moment in fill you in.
While We're Waiting is a ministry to parents who have experienced the loss of a child. God put us together with Larry and Janice Brown about 18 months after Hannah went to Heaven and about 3 months after their son Adam joined her there. At the outset of the ministry, our desire was to host retreats for couples who had lost children. We had all experienced how healing it can be to spend time with other parents who truly understood our struggles and victories along the road of grief. As we discussed where we might hold these retreats, God brought Stan and Donna May to our minds. The Mays own and operate a local Christian day camp called Family Farm. And the May's son, Zane, went to Heaven in 1996, so they had a unique understanding of what we wanted to do. When we approached them with the idea, they embraced us with open arms.
We held our first retreat in April of 2011 (which you can read about here), and since that time, the ministry has grown exponentially. Our "couples" retreat is now called a "parents" retreat, because we have opened it up to both couples and singles, and we'll be hosting our sixth one this coming November at Family Farm. We have also expanded our retreat offerings to include annual weekend-long retreats for dads, and quarterly day-long mini-retreats for moms. (For more information about any of these events, just click the corresponding tab above.)
In addition to our retreats, we now host a monthly support group for parents who are waiting to be reunited with their kids in Heaven. We also send "Hope Packages" to newly-bereaved parents, and maintain a Facebook page. We do not charge a fee for any of our events, because we never want a lack of finances to keep someone from participating. We filed for and received nonprofit status a year ago (which is nothing less than a miraculous accomplishment!), and are now able to offer a tax deduction for donations.
Our retreats have been filling up rapidly, with our November retreat already booked up. We have folks registered from Oklahoma, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, New York, Indiana, and Arkansas. God has blessed the ministry abundantly.
Up to this point, our events have been held in four different locations. Our Parents' Retreats are held at Family Farm, our Dads' Weekends are held at Sullivan family property in west central Arkansas, our Moms' Mini-Retreats are held at Janice Brown's home, and we have our support group meetings at Hot Springs Baptist Church. As the ministry has grown, we've reached the point that we'd like to host events on a more frequent basis, but we are limited by the availability of some of our venues.
We recently had the opportunity to have our own "retreat" of sorts with Larry and Janice Brown. We spent a few days in southern Mississippi, as I wrote about in my last post. While we were together, we spent a lot of time talking and praying about where God may be taking While We're Waiting. And we concluded that it's time to take a step of faith. We believe that it's time for While We're Waiting to have a place of its own.
The Browns own fifty rolling, wooded acres just outside of Hot Springs. There is an older home on the property, and it is our plan to add six to eight bedrooms, each with its own private bath, to the house. The existing structure will be modified to include a kitchen, a dining area, and a cozy great room/meeting area. There is a beautiful pond on the property which can be stocked with fish, and lots of space to build walking trails with benches along them. We've envisioned a gazebo on the hill overlooking the pond, and maybe some paddleboats and a fishing dock on the pond. We'd like to have a horseshoe pit and possibly even a frisbee golf course. Our desire is to make it a comfortable, safe, relaxing, home-like place of healing. A place where parents who have children in Heaven can get together and talk ... about our kids, about our Savior, about Heaven, and about how we're going to live well while we're waiting to join them there one day.
Last night, we sat down with Stan and Donna May, who have been such a big part of While We're Waiting from the very beginning by allowing us to hold our retreats at Family Farm. They were so wonderful and encouraging, and gave us some great advice as we move forward. We will still be holding our November 2013 and April 2014 retreats at Family Farm (as well as next month's reunion), and the Mays will continue to be an integral part of While We're Waiting even as we eventually begin holding events at the new "While We're Waiting Ranch." They are special folks and we dearly love them.
So, there you have it. While We're Waiting will be building its own retreat facility, where all of our events will eventually be held. We would love for you to join us in prayer as we undertake this monumental task. We will need wisdom, discernment, and Heavenly guidance to do this right ... We do not want to take a single step unless we know that God is leading us. As we move forward, of course, there will be a need for funding. Our desire is to be good stewards of the finances God provides as we begin this project; doing as much of the work ourselves as possible, and seeking donations of labor and materials to keep the costs down. As we begin to build and furnish bedrooms and place outdoor benches, etc., we'd love to offer people the opportunity to donate items and/or funds in memory of a precious child in Heaven.
We are so excited. Mostly because we can't wait to see what God is going to do with While We're Waiting. We are incredibly blessed just to be a part of what He's up to! Thank you so much for your prayers as we move forward!