Holli Brown calls Inheritance of Hope “the most intentional charity we know,” high praise from this recipient of the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of over 4,000 hours she has given as a volunteer. Holli, a flight attendant with Southwest Airlines, and her husband Josh, a firefighter, recently served together on an IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ in California, something the couple has wanted to do ever since they were introduced to the organization in 2011. The Browns have been involved in international mission trips, local community projects, and also run their own non-profit organization pairing veterans suffering from PTSD with service dogs. IoH, though, has a special place in their hearts because of how the organization served Josh’s sister, M’Leigha Graham, and her family. According to Holli, “Without IoH, never in a million years would they have been able to do what they did with M’Leigha being so sick.”
We don’t always experience life the way we think we should, or the way we expect it should be. Each of us at one time may have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Many of the families we are serving have that on their minds on a daily basis. It can be overwhelming. All of us are in different places in our lives and different seasons, and if you are currently in a season of pain, this may be hard to understand or even see right now, but God has shown me that there can be joy and even purpose in our pain.
Geoff Lewis was 31 years old, engaged, and a new business owner when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2007. For eight years, he “fought like hell,” according to his younger brother Josh. A hard-worker and optimist until the very end, Geoff passed away in March 2015. He left behind his wife Sandy, six-year-old daughter Landyn, and their nephew Wayne, whom the couple was raising.
|Geoff (center), Josh, and their Dad in NYC|
John 10:10-15 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
My aunt Kristen was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on her 30th birthday. She and her husband, Deric, had 3 kids, who at the time were 4 years old, 2 years old, and less than a year old. Their life, their whole world, suddenly was turned upside down. You could say that a thief had come to steal, kill, and destroy.
The families Isaiah Douglas has volunteered for consider him a hero, but the soft-spoken college freshman shrugs off their praise with a “that’s what I’m here for” attitude. Known as patient, kind, and wise beyond his 18 years, Isaiah has a knack for connecting with the most nervous and shy of teens coming to Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatsⓇ.
Spencer Reid represents an exciting direction for Inheritance of Hope: He is one of two recent hires that were served on a Legacy RetreatⓇ as a child of a diagnosed parent. “The start for my family with IoH was when we were served in May 2015,” he remembers. “My mom had Metastatic Breast Cancer, and not only was it a great, impactful trip, but the timing was very important for us, because my mom passed away just a month later. Our Legacy RetreatⓇ was the last thing we did together as a family.”
In January 2018, fashion designer and philanthropist, Kendra Scott provided a Legacy Retreat® for 10 families facing a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. IoH is dear to Kendra’s heart, and she and her company are quickly becoming dear to the heart of IoH.
|Kendra (left) and Holley (right)|
In May 2017, when we had a big Legacy Retreat in Orlando, I got to know one of the families, the House family, pretty closely. We had four days with the House family, and they flew by like they always do. We do these retreats trusting that the impact is not only for four days but goes far beyond that, and with this family, I got to see that lasting impact in a powerful way. Matt House died less than two months after the Legacy Retreat, and there were memorial services in Texas where he lived and Minnesota where he grew up, and I was able to go to the Minnesota one. And what a funeral experience it was!
As a new or experienced volunteer, the days leading up to a Legacy Retreat can be quite nerve-wracking. There is a lot of information to read through prior to the retreat and then abundantly more poured at you during the volunteer meeting (the night before families arrive). Beyond all that information, I knew this devotion would also be good to deliver.
I was inspired to do this devotion from a sermon my pastor, Brandon Bruce (Church Experience), gave back in February of this year. I actually wrote “IoH Devotion” on my sermon notes and held on to these, you know, in case I ever actually got the courage to give a devotion. I kept it all this time waiting for the right time to share, and God made it abundantly clear to me that now is the time.
On my sermon notes, I wrote several things, but there are three I want to share with you. If you remember nothing else from this devotion, please remember this:
In our final installment of this series, Co-Founder and CEO Deric Milligan talks with Communications Manager Angie Howell about his memories, and what has changed in the past ten years.
IoH: What are some of the memories that stand out to you the most from the August 2008 Legacy RetreatⓇ to Lake George?
Deric: I remember each of the families and the instant connection we all felt because we were going through similar situations. The bond was simply incredible, and unlike anything I had ever experienced. One of the participants, Mark Contreras, had ALS. I remember his incredible strength and peace. Even though he struggled to speak, everyone was patient in allowing him to finish his thoughts. I remember riding the Comet, a wooden roller coaster, time after time with Mark Heinzelman as if there wasn't a care in the world, even as he battled cancer. I remember Shannon Dodd gleefully riding rides with sons Jakob and Tae just over a month before she died.