Friday, May 10, 2019

The Origin of While We're Waiting (The Finale)

This post is #200 in a series ... This is the final entry in a series of posts sharing 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 was to process through the events of that period from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really.  But I've been honored and humbled by how many of you have followed these posts over the past 15 months.  I really can't express in words how grateful I am that God has allowed us the privilege of seeing how He has used Hannah's life to touch others.  Thank you for being a part of that.

Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Three
Read Part Four
Read Part Five
Read Part Six
Read Part Seven
Read Part Eight

On the evening we found out that Hannah had a brain tumor, our dear neighbor and retired pastor Brother Gerald Taylor shared Nahum 1:7 with us:  "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him."  We clung to that verse throughout her year-long battle with cancer, and it now hangs over the door of the While We're Waiting Refuge for Bereaved Parents.

The entire building project was completed in October 2016, a little over two years from the day we starting digging the ditch for the water line.  By God's grace, and with the help of countless volunteers, generous financial donations, and gifts of building materials and supplies, it was completed (and beautifully furnished!) for less than $500,000 -- debt free.

I must share a few pictures so you can see how beautiful it is ...

We had our first retreat at the Refuge in October of 2016, and it was such a blessing to see how each area met the need for which we had designed it.  The meeting area ("Lifesong Room") was comfortable and made our attendees feel at home, the guest rooms were quiet and cozy, the sitting room and deck areas allowed for fellowship and conversation, and the dining room and kitchen were perfect for their purposes.  It was such a confirmation that God's hand was all over this place.

After the completion of the Refuge, we were able to host our retreats much more frequently.  We began to schedule 2-3 events per month, on average.  Even with these added dates, however, we struggled to keep up with the growing demand, and many grieving parents were still waiting a year to get in to an event.  

So God began to raise up people to meet the need.  He brought two couples back into our lives who had each attended retreats when WWW was just beginning, and gave them the desire to step in alongside us and host additional retreats at the Refuge ... allowing us to add more dates at this location without spreading ourselves too thin.  He brought us a couple from Oregon who was willing to begin hosting WWW Weekends in the Pacific Northwest, and we had our first retreat at Ochoco Christian Conference Center in April of 2018.  He recently brought us another couple from Maryland who is willing to begin hosting WWW Weekends on the East Coast, and we will be hosting our first retreat at NorthBay Adventure Camp in August of 2019.  He's brought us some wonderful ladies who have been willing to host Mini-Retreats for Moms in both northeast and northwest Arkansas.  And, He has raised up another couple who has started hosting WWW Weekends with a marriage focus specifically for bereaved parents at our Arkansas and Oregon locations.

We understand that there are bereaved parents who will never come to Arkansas, Oregon, or Maryland to attend a full-weekend or full-day retreat ... but if a 2-hour monthly support group meeting were available in their area, they might be interested in participating in that.  We've been blessed to have people from across the country attend our events and then go back to their hometowns and start support groups in their local areas.  

These support groups differ from other well-known grief support groups in two ways:  1) Attendance is limited just to parents who have lost children; and 2) They are unashamedly faith-based.  Those who attend receive Biblically-based encouragement and enjoy fellowship with other bereaved parents.  They leave each meeting a little better equipped to live well while they're waiting to be reunited with their children one day. 

While We're Waiting "By the Numbers":

* Since our first retreat in April 2011, there have been 99 WWW events around the country, including our full-weekend retreats, our mini-retreats for moms, and our dads' days.

* 660 bereaved parents have attended our events over the past eight years.

* These parents have attended our events from 29 different states and Canada.

* Currently, there are 30 WWW support groups meeting around the country -- in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas ... and one in Australia.  New groups are being added all the time!

I don't share these numbers to bring attention to the four of us co-founders of WWW ... I share them to give glory to the God who provided the vision, the funding, and the volunteers to make all of this possible.  We just feel blessed to be along for the ride ... and excited about where God is going to take us next!  

And to think this all began when a 16-year-old girl prayed for a storm ...

Thank you for following along over the past fifteen months of posts!  You've been a blessing!

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