In Awe

Rachel’s Vineyard: A journey to hope and healing

We all have things in our pasts that have wounded us. We may carry shame and close off those parts of ourselves from others – even from God.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat offers healing for those who carry wounds from an abortion experience. Bridgehaven now hosts these retreats twice a year, with the most recent taking place over the weekend of March 9. To help the facilitating team prepare a couple weeks before the retreat, the Bridgehaven staff went through an exercise based on the story of Lazarus that Rachel’s Vineyard participants go through during the retreat.

If you’re not familiar with the story, by the time Jesus arrives on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and wrapped in a tomb for four days. Lazarus’ sisters say to Jesus, “If only you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus’ heart breaks for their grief, and He weeps with them. But He has something greater planned – something beyond anything they could imagine. He orders the stone guarding the tomb to be rolled away and commands Lazarus to come out. Lazarus steps out of his tomb, his burial linens are taken off, and he breathes in his new life.

In this exercise, one of the facilitators read the story, and we meditated on Jesus’ love, power, and healing. We were given a chance  to identify parts of us that had died because of sin and have those parts wrapped in bandages. For example, some chose to have their hands wrapped to represent feeling powerless to change, while others chose to wrap their heads to show a spirit damaged by negative thoughts. We then could choose to be wrapped in a sheet – buried. We felt the death and coldness of our tombs as we identified with Lazarus’ sisters. “Lord, if only you had been here, our brother would not have died.”

But it doesn’t end there! One of the facilitators came to us one at a time and asked if we believed Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life – that if we believed in him, we would have no death. Upon proclaiming a simple yes, we were commanded to come forth in the name of Jesus, and our tomb and bandages were taken away. We were told to breathe in our new life and then went into a time of discussing what we had just gone through.

It was a powerful experience.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is filled with exercises like this, designed to help participants work through their experiences and wounds, to allow God to help them breathe in new life. Some exercises walk through Scripture that relates to their experience, while others are designed to help them deal with their emotions – namely anger and grief. They are given permission to mourn for their children and to build relationships with them, which is something most of the participants have never even thought of. On the final day, a memorial service is held to honor their children before the participants depart.

If you or someone you know could benefit from an experience like this, Bridgehaven will be hosting our next Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat this coming November 2-4. We also provide counseling for abortion recovery throughout the year. Give us a call or click here to learn more.

Prevention Services: A Moving Target

Bridgehaven Prevention Services Team

If you ask Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention, to describe what they do, the first thing she’ll tell you is, “It’s a moving target.” This is why she and her team use the target visual (right) to help describe what they do.

Trisha and Prevention Assistant, Kelli Hansen, as Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Specialists, reach the vast majority of students with their Sexual Risk Avoidance message in area middle and high schools. Certified in the REAL ESSENTIALS curriculum, they are actively teaching SRA for five to ten days in each school, ranging from fourth grade through high school seniors. One of the ten days in the classroom includes a visit from the Veracity Team, a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative led by Veracity Coordinator, Maureen Nolan. Maureen recruits and trains these high school and college volunteers, equipping them to talk about what it’s like to navigate life in high school and answer questions. All of this classroom work is made possible by Prevention Coordinator, Ashley Denker, who prepares materials, collects and inputs data, maintains records and keeps the team up-to-date with medical and culture research.
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Welcome Home

Clients who come to us facing a pregnancy decision are often experiencing a variety of personal situations. It is an opportunity for God to work in their lives and we have the privilege of seeing that happen.

On February 21, 2017, we sent out the following prayer request to our prayer list:

Please pray for a client who has recently moved here from out of state. She is pregnant and is currently in an unsafe living situation. Please pray God will guide her to the help she needs for her living situation and with this pregnancy.

While we were asking you to pray, the staff at Mary’s Inn, a maternity home in Dubuque, was asking God to send them residents.
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We Survived the Flood

2016 Cedar Rapids Flood

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

On September 22nd, our staff shared reflections of God’s faithfulness in our morning prayer time. Little did we know how that day would unfold. Just five hours later, I would be hovering over my computer listening to our mayor share a message that I hoped never to hear again in my lifetime. Both locations, Bridgehaven Pregnancy Support Center and Treasures Quality Resale Shoppe, were just inside the projected flood zone and decisions had to be made.

We chose to evacuate both locations but it had to be done quickly. So many people came. I am still blown away by the love, persistence and determination of those who showed up to help. If you were standing in the middle of the center on Friday afternoon, you would have experienced a whirlwind of people rushing past you with hands full of items and furniture on its way to our second floor. You would have seen people from all over; young people from Kennedy and Xavier High Schools, faithful volunteers who know our ministry inside and out, new volunteers who were just getting to know us and even people right off the street who were just walking by and decided to jump in and help. We had approximately 130 people over a two-day period between both buildings working with us to protect our ministry.

God is so good! Cedar Rapids was spared! He gets all the glory for uniting our ministry through a very difficult experience. Everyone played a role, from helping hands-on with the efforts, to praying every day that Bridgehaven and the city of Cedar Rapids would be spared and protected. Thank you to all who played a part and are yet to play a part in our recovery as we continue to put things back together.

We experienced the joy in knowing that our hope was in Him because we knew the miracles He performed for Bridgehaven in 2008. We were patient through our time of waiting to see what the flood waters would do. And we will continue to be faithful with our prayers of thanksgiving and worship to our all-powerful, all-knowing and faithful Lord God!
Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

Volunteers make a difference

At Bridgehaven, our volunteers are the life-blood of what we do and how much we accomplish. In just the first six months of 2016, our volunteers have put in an astounding 10,153 hours, which correlates to 10 full-time staff! We consider our volunteers an amazing gift for which we are very grateful.

Leanne Rezac welcomes and supports volunteers in her new role of Volunteer Relations Manager

Leanne Rezac welcomes and supports volunteers in her new role of Volunteer Relations Manager

In 2015, we began to notice the many changes in the organization affecting the volunteer experience. To get a better handle on this and to ensure our volunteers were well taken care of, Leanne Rezac, formerly Volunteer & Special Events Coordinator, was transitioned to the role of Volunteer Relations Manager.

As Volunteer Relations Manager, Leanne has three focus areas: Recruiting, Engagement and Retention. In addition, she is responsible for on-boarding, training, connecting with and organizing volunteers for various projects. Currently we have 218 active volunteers, working out of two locations (Treasures Quality Resale Shoppe moved to a new location on 8th Ave. SE in 2014). A network of this size needed full-time resources allocated to their care and support. We are blessed to be able to make this happen for our dedicated and loyal volunteers.

In an effort to stay connected with each other throughout the year, we recently launched Friends 4 Life. This new group will provide opportunities for staff and volunteers to come together periodically outside the walls of Bridgehaven and Treasures. We had a great turnout at our first event, a Backyard BBQ, held on June 24 at Bridgehaven which included food, fun, fellowship and some great music.

On behalf of all our dedicated staff and volunteers, I thank you for your support. Without you, we would not be able to make changes like these that benefit the operations of the entire ministry. These changes are strategic and in the end make for a life-changing experience for our clients.

Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

A Place to Heal

RV blog
Women facing a pregnancy decision choose abortion for many reasons; a child might complicate their lives and relationships, it is just not part of their plan for the future, or they are feeling strong emotions such as fear and shame (just to name a few). If she chooses to abort her child, often times there can be an initial sense of relief. She might feel as though she has solved her problem and life can go on. However, as time goes by, women, men and others involved with the decision can experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, emotional numbness and more. In many cases, years and years after the abortion, a person can still feel the effects and see the path of pain that has followed them throughout their lives. So many people experiencing this pain are silent. You would not know about the abortion from their past by looking at them or even getting to know them. There may not be anyone that knows and they are alone in their pain. Because there is often a reluctance to talk to anyone about what has happened, it makes it challenging to reach and help those who need healing.

Bridgehaven has offered Post-Abortion Support for many years with an eight-week class and one-on-one mentoring. We are now pleased to be offering our first Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend Retreat. “Once a post-abortive woman gets past the hurdle of allowing herself to seek healing, it can still be difficult for some to continue through a multi-week class,” explains Haley Brimmer, Bridgehaven Director of Client Advocacy. The weekend retreat provides an alternative that allows the person seeking healing to get away from the daily pressures of work and family to focus on a painful time in life and to begin healing.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats started in 1995 and today there are over 1000 retreats held worldwide. Bridgehaven will host a retreat at Prairiewoods in Hiawatha over the weekend of July 22-24. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is a beautiful opportunity for any person who has struggled with the emotional or spiritual pain of abortion. Participants are led through a very intentional and spiritual process designed to help them experience the mercy and compassion of God. It is also an opportunity to surface and release repressed feelings of anger, shame, guilt and grief. If you or someone you love is hurting from an abortion, please call 319-364-8967 and ask for Haley or download our brochure to register.

Improving our Client Focus

We are excited to announce that a remodel of the first floor of our building is currently underway! In November of 2014, we moved our Treasures Quality Resale Shoppe from Bridgehaven to its own location on 8th Avenue SE. This left us with a significant space to expand the ministry and services.

The process for this decision was not easy as there are many ways this space could have been used. We started by sitting down with each director to discuss their areas of focus. We listened to their successes, their goals, and their wishes. We listened to how they’ve adapted to meet the needs of our clients and to fulfill God’s calling. Our directors have always done their very best to keep our clients’ lives at the very heart of all we do. At the end of the process, we found two things that we could truly impact through this remodel: (1) improving the overall client experience, which includes improving client confidentiality, and (2) giving each department a space that allows us to better envision what God has planned for the long-term.

Bridgehaven 2016 Remodel  Plan
As shown in the diagram, three of our departments will be housed on the first floor and will now have their own separate spaces (Prevention offices will remain on the second floor). Here are highlights of the major changes:

  • The current Client Support area will move to the old Treasures space. This will give clients more space to collect their groceries and clothing and allow us to organize and distribute donations more effectively.
  • Administrative offices will move to the wing where the Client Support department currently resides.
  • Moving Administrative offices out of the Client Advocacy area improves confidentiality for our pregnancy test clients. This also provides Client Advocates and Men’s Ministry Volunteers with private space to follow up with clients.
  • The remodel will leave us with two separate entrances; one (the current main entrance) for our pregnancy test clients and a second (the old Treasures store entrance) for our clients attending classes and shopping.

These are just a few of the many benefits we are anticipating. Please join us in prayer over the next few months as we walk through this process; for our construction crew, staff, clients, and volunteers. A project like this comes with ups and downs, and unexpected twists and turns, but through it all our Lord and Savior will be by our side, guiding and teaching us with every step.
Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

You are our Ambassadors

Martha Bruce, VolunteerMartha Bruce has been volunteering with Bridgehaven for 12 years. She started in 2003 as a Client Support Clerk and can be found there every other Wednesday afternoon distributing food and material assistance to clients who attend classes in our Earn While You Learn program.

Martha is a member of Oak Grove Church in Shellsburg. When she first heard about Bridgehaven’s Baby Bottle Boomerang campaign eight years ago, she thought the idea was silly. Others introduced it at Oak Grove, and when Martha saw how people embraced it, she became a supporter and now is the Ambassador.

In Awe (IA): Why do you think your church has participated in the Baby Bottle Boomerang each year?
Martha: It is simple to explain and is something parents can encourage their children to get involved with as well. I would encourage every church to give it a try as the response may surprise you, like it did me!
IA: How do you present the program to the church members?
Martha: We have our annual meeting in January or February. I announce the date for the Baby Bottle Boomerang at that meeting and invite everyone to participate. I also remind them what the donations will be used for and describe how it will help with the different programs at Bridgehaven. Then I set up a table on the Sunday that we kickoff the campaign so people can stop by and sign up to take a bottle home.
IA: How long does your Baby Bottle Boomerang campaign run?
Martha: We usually give people 3 to 4 weeks to pick up and bring back the baby bottle.
IA: How many people attend your church?
Martha: On average, we have around 160 in attendance each week.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us.
(2 Cor. 5:20a)

Thanks to Ambassadors like Martha and the generosity of church members, Bridgehaven’s 2015 Baby Bottle Boomerang has surpassed expectations, raising over $67,000.

The 2016 campaign begins January 17, 2016, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, but you can kick-off any day throughout the year. If you are interested in serving as an Ambassador for your church, business, or small group, please email or call 319-364-8967 to learn more and to schedule your launch date. We will provide you with everything you need to present this opportunity to your members and will even send a Bridgehaven representative to your church to speak about the ministry.

A Front Row Seat to God’s Work

During these twelve plus years as your Director of Client Advocacy (initially termed “Counseling Services”), I’ve been blessed with a front-row seat watching God work miraculously in touching lives, changing hearts, providing for needs, and seeing volunteers bloom in their giftings as they’ve ministered the truth in love.

After considerable prayer and thought since last fall, I’ve requested that Bridgehaven’s board accept my notice of retirement. My last day will be September 15, 2015. This has not been an easy decision, especially in light of all the staff changes that have occurred during this past year. But I’m encouraged by the way God has provided for Bridgehaven with each position that has come open. What an amazing group of God-chosen women who are skilled, talented and called to this ministry.

I want to thank each of you who have supported this ministry through your finances, through prayers, by being ambassadors for us to this community and being on site to help out in so many ways. You are amazing!! You have made it possible for us to minister to the scared and hurting, to advocate for the unborn, to reach out to the bruised and broken-hearted, to the angry and rebellious, to those holding a grudge against God and those who represent Him. What a privilege to be trusted to listen to such personal stories and to be able to offer hope. I can’t count the number of times a woman became teary as she read Jeremiah 29:11-14 with me and other client advocates. He truly is the God of all comfort, the God of all hope!

Romans 15:13

Marilyn SchneidermanMarilyn

Director of Client Advocacy

Bridgehaven 2015 Banquet Report


Our hearts are still beating for life after our banquet on Monday, May 11. Nearly 550 people gathered to enjoy a nice dinner, learn the meaning behind our theme “Tell your heart to beat again,” listen to an inspiring keynote speaker, and raise money to support the ministry. These are the facts about the evening, but there is so much more to the story.

If you joined us that night, you saw the faces of those whose lives have been impacted through our work. You were reminded by our keynote, Gail McWilliams, that we are not stuck in our circumstances, but we are positioned in this time and place to make an impact during our lifetime, and for generations to come. You were challenged to imagine our community without Bridgehaven, and the lives that would be dismissed, forgotten, and lost. It was a glimpse into the life-affirming, life-changing, and life-saving work that God is doing through Bridgehaven. At the end of the evening, we asked this question of all in attendance: “What will your response be?”

In James chapter 2, it is made clear that faith without action is dead: Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

We are personally challenged by these verses. Yes, believing that all life is God-given and each person is of tremendous worth to Him is essential. Having empathy for those facing an unplanned pregnancy or families entrenched in difficult circumstance is necessary, but if we do nothing, give nothing to physically help, emotionally support, spiritually encourage, or somehow improve their circumstances, then what have we truly done?

If you were unable to join us May 11, we invite you to view the two short videos we showed that night. After viewing, take a moment to think about the question we asked: “What will your response be?”

A few ways to take immediate action are to give a one-time donation, set up an on-going monthly gift, volunteer, give to Bridgehaven’s endowment fund at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, or join our prayer support team. Questions? Give us a call anytime 319-364-8967. We’d love to connect with you!

Jessica Bass

Development Director