ARC women savor the sweet life

First-ever territorial ARC women’s retreat held at Camp Redwood Glen

By Beth Desplancke, Captain

Delegates to the first-ever ARC women’s retreat pose outdoors. Photo by Erica Shields

In late May, 179 women made history at Camp Redwood Glen in Scotts Valley, Calif., at the first-ever Western Territory Women’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) retreat, led by ARC Command leaders Majors Man-Hee and Stephanie Chang and ARC women officers. At the “Sweet Life Café,” with décor resembling a 50s diner, the women could taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).

Major Stephanie Chang said, “It was only three days—short in their life-long journey of recovery—but how sweet it was to be in the presence of the Lord.”

Special guest Becky Baker—model, actress, comedian and motivational speaker—shared Psalm 4:7: He has filled my heart with joy. During her personal testimony she encouraged the women to “forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.”

Baker said Satan likes to tell people two lies: God is not good and God cannot be trusted. “Two ways we can counter those lies,” she said, “is by having a heart of surrender and a heart of gratitude. Pursuing these virtues leads to joy.”

She introduced a Creole word, brata, meaning a bonus gift given for no reason. Everything is a brata, Baker said, “a bonus gift from God to make our life more joyful.”

Workshops on self-worth and self-esteem dealt with brokenness, life journaling, how to handle change, how to have personal devotions, relationships in recovery, understanding the differences between men and women, and God’s design for intimacy.

Amber, from San Francisco, said, “I learned even though I am broken mentally and emotionally, God still loves me just the way I am.”

The women also enjoyed the ambiance. Melissa, from San Francisco, said, “I found serenity in the beauty of towering redwoods, a babbling creek and a few deer I spied once or twice crossing the pathways.”


Deflecting arrows

Delegates shared testimonies relating hopelessness, despair and bondage before they were set free.

One woman from Fresno said, “Sometimes you have to come to a point in your life when you completely surrender everything. It’s all about his timing and his will for you.” Another thanked God “for the gift of desperation that brought me to recovery and The Salvation Army.”

Major Michele Lescano encouraged the women to “not let the message of the devil’s arrows be the final word in your life” and prayed for God to deflect them.

Throughout the weekend, Major Lisa Smith led praise and worship and directed a voluntary camp chorus that performed two numbers—a brata in itself for Karen, from Anaheim.

“The women sang, ‘I know that I can make it,’” Major Sylvia Hoogstad said. “You could see in their faces that they meant every word of it. It made my day.”

Lescano gave the Sunday message, linking John 6 with Psalm 23 and stressing that Jesus is all we need. “Every time you partake of the bread of life, you are being changed into your Father’s likeness, into the likeness of the divine family,” she said. “Come to the Bread of Life daily no matter how you are feeling, no matter how broken you are.”

Melinda, from Anaheim, shared, “This weekend was amazing. I now have a close, happy, loving and fulfilling relationship with God. This has changed my life.”

The weekend concluded as the women broke bread together, remembering Jesus who gave his life for them.

“When we all broke bread it was so moving for me,” said Brittany, from Pasadena. “This was the first time in years I have felt God’s presence all around me; it was an amazing feeling.”

Leaving confidently, Michelle, from Anaheim, said, “This experience opened my heart to the Lord and helped me realize I’m not alone, and with God in my heart, I can do anything.”


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