Recently, Southwest Airlines donated 50 round-trip tickets, valued at $20,000, to Inheritance of Hope. This gift allows us to serve more families while meeting the goals of achieving unparalleled financial stewardship and providing ease of transportation to those for whom travelling is often most difficult.
John and I were married March 12th, 2009. Less than five years later, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, something we certainly hadn’t planned for or wanted at the time. However, because of ALS, we were introduced to Inheritance of Hope and received the great gift of a Legacy Retreat. Less than two years after our retreat, though, on March 26th of 2016, John passed away.
Since his death, I have loved serving other IoH families, and at the May 2017 Legacy Retreat, I met Tom, another volunteer. He came on the first retreat in 2008 with his family, and his wife Shannon passed away shortly after. He, too, understood terminal illness, the loss of a spouse, and single parenting grieving children. He, too, had experienced a failed marriage as a result of not following Christ. He, too, had two boys with complicated pasts, and the older with behavioral struggles. And, he also lived in the Carolinas, but he lived in the wrong one. Though only a little over an hour away, he lived near the lakes of upstate South Carolina, whereas my home was in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. To say this difference was a concern would be a great understatement.
Toward the end of 2017, our Events Director, Betsy Ogren, mentioned we were in need of someone to make wooden crosses as our previous volunteer is no longer able to keep up with our growing IoH Family. These handmade treasures are gifted to parents at our Legacy Retreats, one for each child. Upon hearing of this need I remembered that one of my interns from several years back had mentioned she volunteered at a wood shop where they made toys for kids in the hospital, so I texted her to find out what the name of that shop was. She said it was "ToyMakers of East Lake." I did some research on their website and immediately thought, "This is the perfect partnership!" and quickly began drafting an email to present our need.
I sent the email on a Sunday and heard back from Bob (the "CEO") the next day! He was agreeable to our request but needed to run it by some of his team and said he would get back to me, which he did on Tuesday. He said they would be happy to make crosses for us and offered three different sizes?! This is like just the warm up, it gets so much better!
Inheritance of Hope hosted 16 families in Orlando this month. They shared precious smiles and priceless memories at our first-ever Legacy Retreat® held at the beautiful Renaissance at SeaWorld. From March 9-12, these children and their parents enjoyed fantastic adventures at Universal Studios and SeaWorld. An amazing team of volunteers inspired hope and helped families create lasting legacies.
Check out these links to see pictures and videos!
At the start of this year, the youth ministry director at my church gathered all of the middle school small group leaders. He wanted to check in on how we were, hear how our groups were going, and encourage us. He shared how, when he has worked at Christian camps, everything is designed to help kids experience great moments, “highs,” and you have a very focused time with each group of kids to bring those highs about. In contrast, in congregational ministry, there are many distractions, and kids often are weighed down by day-to-day concerns.
Each type of ministry has its challenges, but how do you handle all the distractions and burdens kids bring week after week and month after month? Our youth director had wise words. He said you love the kids, let them know how much God loves them, welcome them with all their challenges, and pour yourself out for them. Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you cry with hope.
Cry with hope! What a beautiful phrase to express the hardness and goodness of Christian ministry. We cry because there is so much pain even as we hope because God is good. Cry with hope is an especially fitting expression for the ministry of Inheritance of Hope.
The phrase “IoH family” is used often by Inheritance of Hope, so pervasively that one might think it is thrown around casually. That could not be further from the case. Examples abound of those who have embraced the IoH family as an extension of their own, but one of the very best is the Dix family. Dan, Brenda, David, Rebecca, and Michael have served IoH with a level of commitment that most people reserve for only their own closest relatives.
The O’Gorman family attended our NYC Legacy Retreat® in November 2016. Merritt, who loves dance and was 10 years old at the time, told local news that her favorite part was watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes.
|The O'Gorman Family in Times Square|
Oftentimes when we are at a Legacy Retreat, it seems difficult to pinpoint emotions. Have you felt that? Maybe this is your first time serving, and you have all sorts of thoughts swirling around in your head about what to expect. Or, maybe we’ve done this a time or two and yet... we still have expectations of how it will go or how we WANT it to go.
And then there’s the task of going back home trying to recap a retreat... people may say, ”So, how was it?!” And you might struggle to find the words to explain exactly what happens here. “It was SOO good, but SO sad, but SO fun, and SOO heart-wrenching.” And we become caught in these hugely conflicting emotions. How do you pinpoint or even summarize what exactly you’re feeling as we walk with these families ?
Hope. It was the one thing I searched for during my journey as a caregiver. My husband, Steve, had a rare, progressive, debilitating neurological disease that would eventually destroy his autonomic system and also required 24-hour care. Every time I came to that point where I thought I couldn’t go on, I still had hope. Each day that I had no energy left, no patience, no desire, and no strength to go on even one more hour I searched for the hope that I could go on. Yes, I said all of those words out loud - no patience, no strength, no energy.
As a caregiver, I had only whispered those words to myself. I would mumble under my breath sometimes about how hard it was to keep doing it. I was too ashamed to admit to anyone how I was really feeling. No one tells you that loving someone can coexist in your heart with not wanting to be their full-time caregiver at the same time.
On January 19-22, Inheritance of Hope, in partnership with Kendra Scott, hosted 10 families facing a terminal metastatic breast cancer diagnosis on a life-changing experience in Orlando, Florida. The Legacy Retreat®, Inheritance of Hope’s signature offering, is an all-expenses-paid experience where families create lifelong memories and receive tools to navigate the challenges of a parent’s terminal illness. The event, presented by Kendra Scott, included visits to Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.