Strength for the Journey was born as a vision from the heart of Beth Brokaw who, amidst her struggles with metastasized breast cancer, imagined a retreat that would give strength and hope to others facing life threatening illnesses, hard losses, and difficult situations. The first Strength for the Journey retreat was held at the Cenacle in Houston, Texas, co-led by Beth and her twin sister, Anne Grizzle. God seemed to be particularly present as suffering people gathered together to seek communion with Him and with one another.
Originally envisioned as a one-time retreat, the community connections made through storytelling, prayer, tears, and laughter were so powerful that a second retreat was planned for the following year. Once again, the Spirit of God stirred strongly and Beth's health made it possible for Strength for the Journey to continue.
Specific aspects of the Houston retreats, which ministered the most to those attending, were made core components as Strength for the Journey retreats were planned for other locations. Retreats in Alabama were launched in 2005, coordinated by Beth's sister Laura Henry. California retreats began in 2006, coordinated by Catherine Hart Weber. Virginia retreats were launched in the spring of 2008, coordinated by Anne Grizzle. Pennsylvania retreats began in the fall of 2008, coordinated by Roena Clarke. Meanwhile, Deborah Krummel assumed coordinating leadership for the Houston retreats. In September 2011, Rhonda Elston and her sister Debbie Linaman helped launch Strength for the Journey in Oregon.
While Beth was present at the launch of each Strength for the Journey in each new location, her spirit now resides with us through the thin veil on the other side. Each location has its own leadership team, with leaders that have their own individual stories and diverse gifts, and each one brings authenticity, deep listening skills, compassionate care, and strong faith to the group.
Through prayer and listening, new possibilities for Strength for the Journey keep emerging. A group of retreat sisters envisioned a retreat that reached out to the next generation and in 2012 young adults participated in Strength for the Journey retreats in both California and Virginia. Others wondered if men should be included and at a Virginia retreat held in December 2010, one husband joined his wife and was warmly welcomed by the entire group of women. This indicated openness to coed Strength for the Journey retreats and the need to have male leaders available.
In 2010, during her listening and prayer times, Beth heard, "to the nations" for Strength for the Journey. Susan Jhin, a Strength for the Journey participant, invited Beth and Anne on a journey to Korea, which included a one-day Strength for the Journey retreat for Korean women. Although the Korean leaders thought the women would not open up; the retreatants quite freely shared their stories over dinner and during prayer time, and prayed at length for one another. In the spring of 2011, Beth and Anne launched Strength for the Journey in London, England. In May 2012, Beth and Laura Brokaw, Anne Grizzle and Catherine Hart Weber took Strength for the Journey to Israel. Held at the Latrun Retreat Center, participants included young workers for reconciliation and a catholic nun who has served for years in Israel.
A team of experienced Strength for the Journey leaders are happy to come into a new community when a local person has a calling and the willingness to put together the logistics, invite people, and follow-up with ongoing community outreach.
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