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By Ann Dodd

Recently, the Mighty Oaks’ Women’s Legacy Program held its September session in California. This was the first in-person Women’s session since February. Our 11 staff members were overjoyed to be greeting attendees face-to-face after so many Covid-related cancellations and delays. The 22 participants traveled from all over the country, unsure of exactly what to expect or what would be expected of them. Verbally and non-verbally, they expressed a mixture of apprehension, skepticism, excitement, and hopefulness upon arrival. The initial tone among the ladies could best be described as “cautiously optimistic.” 

Women’s Legacy attendees anxiously watch the introduction presentation.

After settling in from a long day of travel, Chef Kenny and Sous-Chef Sue welcomed the ladies with a delicious dinner and warm hospitality. As a shared meal often does, this simple act of thoughtfulness helped foster conversation and connections between the ladies. Shortly afterwards, the ladies were challenged during the opening session by Women’s Program Director Susanne Stalnecker with the question, “If what you are doing now isn’t working, why not try something different?” The “something different” that they were presented with was aligning themselves with the Biblical blueprint for who they were created to be. This blueprint and personal relationship with Jesus Christ is necessary to move them from the chains of suffering to the lasting hope and healing.

A running theme throughout the week was intentionality, and the goal of moving forward in faith. Each day the ladies were presented with a daily challenge. These challenges were encouraged by classes on topics ranging from: Her Worth, The Truth About PTSd, Her Home, Her Marriage, and Her Faith. All of which were taught from a biblical perspective. After each class, the ladies were given the opportunity to dig deeper into each topic during their small group discussion times. Small groups consisted of 4-5 ladies each, which made being vulnerable and sharing personal struggles more comfortable. This is where we really started to see walls come down and healing begin. Our MOWP staff and team leaders, all program alumni themselves, also shared testimonies of the personal struggles that they have experienced and how Christ has helped them heal and grow in their faith. This served as a powerful tool of encouragement to the ladies, as they were able to relate on a personal level. 

This session’s attendees, a mixture of veterans, first responders, and spouses, came from a wide range of varying backgrounds and experiences. Initially, they were not sure that they would have anything in common with one another. But as the week progressed and they began to open up, they discovered that struggles in life are universal and that they were not alone in their pain. Midway through the week, you could visibly see the weight of the burdens that they were carrying start to lift. Joy in their faces developed as they started to accept the possibility that the stories of hope and restoration being presented to them could actually be attainable for them as well. 

In attending the Women’s Legacy Program, these courageous women stepped way out of their comfort zones. They were challenged and thus willingly allowed themselves to be stretched spiritually, emotionally, & relationally. They developed life plans and identified action steps to assist them as they prepared to head home. Of the many decisions made throughout the week, 1 accepted Christ as her Savior and 12 recommitted their lives to Him. The days were long and draining, but these women persevered. In doing so, they not only gained practical tools to help them move forward, but they also made amazing friendships for the journey ahead. As they said goodbye to one another on the final day, they did so with a renewed sense of purpose. This purpose ignited hope, and a desire to live intentionally within the framework of God’s design for each one of them.