Restoration: Beauty From Ashes – Stories of Healing
By: Julie Thompson and Diane Zimmerman

Recently, the Restoration: Beauty from Ashes group concluded with a night of testimonies. Since this group is for women who have experienced sexual abuse, simply walking through the doors each week takes incredible courage. As ministry leaders, we were able to witness how God brought healing and hope into the lives of so many beautiful women. Here are just a few of their amazing stories of restoration in their own words….

Attendee, age 20: When I first heard the announcement about the Restoration group, I was intimidated and nervous to inquire. I thought I was dealing with the repercussions of the abuse just fine by myself. I decided to go to the first meeting, worried I might see familiar faces. As I sat in the room, tears rolled down my face; not tears of sadness, but tears of relief. I was not alone. There were women, older and younger than me, that were also searching for freedom through God. I was placed with an amazing and respectable group, led by a genuinely loving group leader who listened and poured into me. My group helped me regain a voice for myself that I never thought I would be able to get back. God’s grace and timing with this program completely changed me as a daughter, friend, and Christ follower. I was given a sense of peace and freedom from shame and guilt that I never knew was possible. If this is your story too, please set aside your fears, anxieties, guilt or shame, and accept help. God wants to work through your hurt and transform you. You can find so much healing and empowerment. You just need to take the first step!

Attendee, age 26: The Restoration: Beauty from Ashes group holds true to its name. It helped me more than any therapy session I have ever been to. I have experienced sexual, emotional, physical, and mental abuse. In 2015, I was abducted by my then boyfriend. The Lord rescued me from that situation and made sure this group was a part of my healing journey. I now see a hope for a life that I’ve never had. The curriculum that the leaders use not only addressed the issues created by the abuse but also helped me understand and work through things that I have struggled with for years. Normally when I think of a support group, I picture a group of judgmental strangers, and the discussions are full of irrelevance and awkward silences. It was the exact opposite when I became part of this group. From the first meeting, I was welcomed with open and loving arms from women who shared my pain and struggles. I now have a group of soul sisters who continue to encourage me to keep healing. Thanks to this group I’ve begun to smile again, something that I have not done in years.

Attendee, age 36: Restoration has been such an unexpected blessing in my life. I was terrified to attend this group at first; in fact, I stood in the hallway crying the very first night. It was overwhelming painful to see so many women in attendance that had a story similar to mine, undoubtedly privately suffering like me. The first steps were the hardest, but I found such an incredible support system of women to help me on my healing journey.
God used the leaders and my small group of women to empower and encourage me to find my voice once again. I have been able to share my story with my husband in a way I never thought possible, even though I had previously tried many times. Our communication as a couple has improved dramatically, which has strengthened our marriage. The benefits to our relationship and our family have been priceless. Each week of the Restoration journey has been an important step towards my freedom in Christ, and I have felt the weight of so much pain being lifted because of this amazing group. I would encourage any woman with a similar past story to take the bold step to attend. If I see you crying in the hallway, I will offer you words of encouragement and sit with you, just as the leaders did for me. Your story isn’t over yet; you just have to take that first step towards healing.

Attendee, age 45: When the announcement about Restoration was made at RC3, I immediately thought this would be a great opportunity for my sister, as she really needed some healing. Of course, I didn’t really need it, as years of therapy had “healed” me, but I would lovingly accompany my sister in support. My sister agreed, and we both signed up. Week one was very sad and uncomfortable, as women were crying and afraid to even enter the room. This is not a topic any of us want to discuss, but we kept going back and the weeks got easier. My sister was unable to complete the eight weeks for various reasons, but I stuck with it (funny how God works that way sometimes). I began to really connect with other women who have similar stories and issues. I began to see God working, as I trusted Him more. He made me realize that I actually have a great deal of healing yet to accomplish! My sister may have needed this, but I definitely found out that I did too!
God orchestrated my steps and demonstrated HIS faithfulness along the way! Our GOD is so good! He has done so many awesome things throughout these eight weeks. I know He will continue to do so, as I realize that GOD is not done with me yet. Healing is a process. We may want it to come quickly, but in order to become who HE wants us to be, we have to rely on HIS timing, HIS grace, HIS faithfulness, HIS love and walk this JOURNEY together with HIM.

Fast forward to week eight, when in contrast to week one, all the women walked into the room with their heads held high and HUGE smiles on their faces. We are sad that the study has come to an end, but ecstatic for the journey we are on. We have made safe new friends and want to share our stories with anyone who has experienced similar struggles with sexual abuse. It was definitely scary to take that first step of faith in signing up, but I am here to tell you, it was definitely worth it!

Maybe sexual abuse is not part of your past, but you can certainly rejoice with these ladies and many others that are seeing God restore what was taken from them.
Maybe this is part of your story, and you are hearing about this ministry for the first time, or maybe you heard about this ministry before and were unable or too fearful to sign up. Either way, we pray that God will give you the courage to step beyond your fears, hurts, and anxiety, so that you can join the Restoration group in the Fall.

For more information, or to be placed on a confidential email list to be informed of future events, email Diane at dzimmerman@riverscrossing.com