I attended my first birthmother retreat in April. One of my favorite activities of the weekend was the bonfire the first night. While bonfires are of course fun and filled with laughter and s’mores, this one served a greater purpose. The women participating in the retreat come and sit in semi-darkness, and share their stories. Often, they start off timidly, not sure how much to share. Once they start talking they begin to draw courage from one another and to speak with freedom as they realize this is a safe, non-judgmental place.
The ladies who share the circle have been through similar experiences and an instant bond is formed. They realize they are loved, accepted and known in a unique way by this group of ladies. Often this is the first time a birthmom has shared her story. As she talks you can see the heaviness on her face and hear the pain in her voice, but you also see the weight lift off her shoulders as she realizes she doesn’t have to carry this story alone. She is talking with a group of women waiting to embrace her, to offer her hope that life will move forward for her.
I also loved the different ages and stages of the ladies at the retreat. This year we welcomed a birthmother who placed 6 weeks before the retreat, one who placed 40 years ago, and then a wide variety of years between the two. They are able to learn from each other as they discuss topics like marriage or having children after placement. It can be difficult as birthmoms move forward into new stages of life, but at the retreat they can talk through these things with someone who is further down the road, and draw hope and strength from knowing others have walked this path and emerged on the other side.
Most of all what I took from this retreat is the healing power of the Gospel. Jesus was present and presented throughout the weekend. There were devotionals, worship, a time of prayer and reflection. There was time to deepen their relationship with Jesus or to come to Him for the first time. At the retreat everything from the planning of the food to the location were made with Jesus at the center.
We recognize that what our birthmoms need most, what we all need most, is Jesus. More than community, more than a chance to share their story, more than bonding and fun activities, they need to hear that Jesus loves them, and has a plan for their future. They need their broken hearts to be laid bare before Him, and to know they are accepted because of Christ. At the retreat they were taught this, and given the resources needed to move forward in this knowledge.