This post is #198 in a series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during and following our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that period from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Three
Read Part Four
Read Part Five
Read Part Six
That first bereaved-parent retreat in April of 2011 turned out to be above and beyond all we could have ever asked or imagined. We knew from our experience at the Respite Retreat what God could do when a group of like-minded bereaved parents got together ... but this first While We're Waiting Weekend was such a sweet confirmation of what we believed God was calling us to do.
Buoyed by the success of this first event, we quickly scheduled our next retreat for November of 2011. And you know what? That retreat almost didn't "make." We still didn't have a good way to get the word out, and we had just a few couples interested in coming. Then at the last minute, some of them dropped out, and we found ourselves facing a decision whether to cancel or proceed with basically just the four of us facilitators and one couple. We all chuckle about this now, but we gave God a deadline: If He didn't provide some more attendees within the next 24 hours, we would cancel. Of course, He came through ... sending us two more couples and a single mom! And what a wonderful weekend it was!
After that first full-weekend retreat, we began discussing the possibility of hosting some events that were for moms and dads separately, and we decided to move forward with that idea.
In June of 2011, we hosted our very first While We're Waiting Mini-Retreat for Moms at Janice's home. Our desire was to provide these ladies with a day of pampering in a beautiful, relaxing setting with gourmet food, on-site massages, and most of all, faith-filled fellowship with other moms who understood the experience of losing a child. This special day was also a wonderful success!
In October of that year, we held our first While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Dads. This event took place in rural west central Arkansas at my husband's grandmother's home. Seven men attended and enjoyed spending time outdoors, riding ATVs, grilling steaks, and just hanging out with other dads who understood the experience of losing a child.
By this time, it was clear that God was calling us to continue moving forward in this ministry. We created a website to help get the word out and to make it easier for people to register for our events. We started a closed Facebook group just for parents who had lost children as well as a public page on which we could post ministry events. We even began the mountain of paperwork necessary to become a nonprofit ministry and received our approval letter without complications in a surprisingly short time.
Between these three types of events, we hosted four retreats that first. In 2012, we hosted seven, and in 2013, we hosted eight. Word was beginning to spread, people were starting to register, and before we knew it, we had waiting lists a year out into the future. So in 2014, in addition to the retreats we were already hosting, we traveled to Wichita Falls, Texas, Picayune, Mississippi, Wynne, Arkansas, and Gravette, Arkansas, to host additional events in an attempt to meet the demand. Every one of these gatherings was so special, the parents we were meeting were so phenomenal, and God's hand was so evident upon this growing ministry, and we knew it was time to take the next step.
To be continued ...