Sanctuary by the Sea

By Barbara Anderson

(c) 2013 Sandra Hasenauer

(c) 2013 Sandra Hasenauer

It amazes me when you set out to do something for others how God blesses you through the experience. I lead an organization named All Hands In that works on issues of human trafficking locally in Greater Boston, Massachusetts. Our goal is to acquire a house and begin a long term residence program for women survivors of trafficking and exploitation. While we work towards this ministry goal, we have begun a retreat program for women survivors entitled “Sanctuary by the Sea.” Every fall, we lead a retreat in Southern Maine under the pines and near the ocean. The survivor is able to bring a mentor or counselor with them to the event and the weekend expenses are covered through grants that we have received. We offer a safe place to relax, worship and build community together. Whether it is while we are playing games, taking a walk, sharing a meal or just chatting, God weaves his love through every part of that weekend. We even have an opportunity to work with horses at the stable, building trust through the experience.

One of my favorite parts of the retreat is having devotions on the beach and then watching the women frolick in the ocean; certainly an opportunity that they have not had in their lives. Lobster for dinner on Saturday evening is a tradition because you can’t be in Maine and not have lobster!

However, through the fun and silly times, we have prayer, Bible study, and worship on Sunday with communion. These are very powerful moments for all of us around the table together, sharing about our lives and growing together in our faith. God’s hands of healing touch each of us during this retreat weekend. I leave feeling so blessed by the amazing, courageous women I have met and the friendships that have been formed.

We are hoping to grow our retreat program and offer more retreats throughout the year to stay connected as well as to invite new women to join our community. I have learned that even sitting together having a cup of tea is so important to a woman’s healing process. I encourage you to find a way in your community to connect with a trafficking organization working with survivors to use your gifts to make a difference in the lives of women. Something simple can make a world of difference to someone else.

Barbara Anderson is president of All Hands In.

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