Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Three
Read Part Four
Over the next few months, we met with Larry and Janice Brown frequently to discuss plans and pray about our upcoming retreat for bereaved parents. Several times we drove out to Family Farm and included Stan and Donna May in our planning meetings.
I can't stress enough what a step of faith this was on the part of the Browns and the Mays. Brad and I had been to the Respite Retreat. We knew what a bereaved parent retreat could look like. We knew what a beneficial experience it had been for us. Our partners in this endeavor did not. They could only trust what we were telling them. And to be perfectly honest, they had some misgivings, though they did not say so at the time. Donna May told us later (after the first retreat) that she was worried we would be bringing a "great big ball of pain" to the Farm and she couldn't imagine how this was going to be a good thing. After all, we and the Browns were still kind of stumbling through grief ourselves at that point!
But you know, the fact that we were so ill-equipped to be tackling a project like this was a vivid illustration of 2 Corinthians 4:7: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."
Part of the planning process was getting the word out about this retreat. We talked to a number of bereaved parents who lived locally, I shared the event on my blog, and I posted on my personal Facebook page about it. I have to chuckle to myself when I think back ... We honestly believed that when we announced this retreat, we would have bereaved parents beating down our doors begging to be allowed to come. That's not exactly how it worked, and that initially surprised us. I had to remind myself how hesitant I had been about attending the Respite Retreat.
The weeks passed and our planning meetings and prayer times became more and more frequent. Finally the day arrived.
We had instructed our guests to plan to arrive between 4:00 and 5:30 pm on that Friday afternoon. I clearly remember the six of us sitting huddled together around a table in the Family Farm dining room around 3:30. We were so worried that none of these people were going to show up.
On the other hand, we were even more worried that they were going to show up, because we had no idea what we were doing!
We truly were just jars of clay.
We spent a large part of that afternoon in prayer, acknowledging our inability to do any of this in our own strength and asking God to be present in every aspect of the weekend.
Four very brave couples did show up that evening ... eight of the most precious people I've ever met. Including the three couples who were facilitating, there were fourteen of us present at that first retreat. Seven beautiful children were represented between us.
God did exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or imagine during that weekend together.
To be continued ...