Sometimes your paths cross with someone in such a serendipitous way you know immediately it’s a God connection. This is definitely the case with my friend, Andy Janzen. Andy is a single dad of two boys and lives in Cedar Rapids, IA. He lost his wife, Tiffany, to Leukemia last October. The way his story and my story intertwine is nothing short of providential. Let me back-up.
One night in early March I was lying in bed trying to decide if I was going to pick up the novel on my nightstand to read until I fell asleep or scroll through Instagram. It had been a particularly busy day and my brain was too worn out to engage in reading so I opted for the latter and began catching up on the highlights of everyone else’s day. While scrolling I came across a post from a guy I had just begun following named Carlos Whittaker (http://carloswhittaker.com/). I met Carlos in 2009 while I was working at NewSpring Church in South Carolina and he was working at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA but I was sure Carlos didn’t remember me (by the way, Carlos will be our guest on The Nothing is Wasted Podcast in October).
At the moment I stumbled upon Carlos’ providential Instagram post, he was in Cedar Rapids emceeing for Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest concert tour.
This was his post:
I immediately sent a direct message to Carlos . . .
I remember how many random folks reached out to me after Amanda passed. I mostly remember those who had walked through something similar and made it a point to reach out to me — folks like Pastor Levi Lusko. Since receiving such timely love and support from these folks, I vowed to do the same for people whom the Lord brings across my path.
A few minutes later I received a message back from Carlos:
A few days later I was on the phone with Andy talking about Jesus, his kids, and how he was doing after the loss of his wife. I was so inspired by this man’s faith! Here I was, the one further along in the journey, trying to offer hope to this man who had recently gone through Hell, and he was breathing hope into me with his steadfast faith.
At the end of an hour long conversation I invited Andy and his boys to come hang out with Weston and me in Indy anytime he wanted. I remember how life-giving it was to hang out with the Lusko and FreshLife family in Montana for a weekend in May of 2016 and I wanted to offer the same thing to Andy. I didn’t know if he’d really take me up on the offer, but a couple months later I received a text from Andy asking if he and his oldest, Karsten, could stay with me over July 4th weekend.
“Absolutely!” I responded and immediately began making preparations to love on this dude and his son that weekend.
July 4th weekend arrived and it was one for the books. We cooked out, swam in the pool, took the kids to a local minor league baseball game and to see the new Despicable Me 3. Before church that Sunday, Andy and I made it a point to drop by my Crossfit box. I discovered that not only was Andy a Crossfit fanatic (which I have recently become) but he was also former college baseball player and competed on the German National Baseball Team. Andy and I even played the exact same position growing up—shortstop—and made the exact same switch to 3rd base in college. This guy was certainly a "brother from another mother” and, once again, The Lord had shown me that he connects His people through the most unlikely divine and often times painful circumstances. The entire weekend we shared our recent struggles, temptations, victories, griefs, and most importantly our hope in Jesus that had tethered our soul in the midst of the storm.
You see I truly believe The Lord does something powerful through relationship and connectivity. I believe it’s one of the main ways he shows us He’s in our situation with us. I believe it’s one of the best ways to show us He’s walking through the valley of the shadow of death with us. Although we can’t tangibly see God and not many of us have actually heard his audible voice, He places His representatives—His ambassadors—other Christians with similar stories in our paths to remind us he sees us and knows our situation. He wants us to know He hasn’t left us alone but that he’s working it all out for our good in His master plan.
After Andy left that weekend I began kicking an idea around with my team ...
“What if we could offer this same kind of retreat for more people going through a tough time? What if we could plan a healing retreat where we gather a group of folks together and spend time chatting over coffee, meals and round tables. We could have some worship services, some workshops taught by some experts in the field, some intentional counseling sessions along with fun activities that breath life in to people who feel dead.”
As soon as I presented this we all knew it was something we had to try it. It seemed so perfect.
So, that’s why I’m telling you about it. I want to get your opinion. If we offered a 3 or 4 day retreat for anyone across the country who is walking through some type of trial would you be interested in coming? If you had the chance to come hang out with me and some of my closest friends who have walked through similar things and we could equip you with the tools to walk through your own trial would it be of some benefit to you? Enough to get on an airplane, or hop in a car to come?
Ultimately the weekend would be one where we help to equip you with the tools to not just survive your trial, but thrive in it. We’ll share with you everything we’ve learned as we’ve walked through our own trial and grief process.
So, what do you think? If you’d be interested in attending something like this, would you help us know that by filling out this form? Or, if you know someone who would benefit from being a part of something like this ... will you share this post with them? It certainly doesn’t commit or obligate you to it but it helps us gain an understand of how needed this type of retreat may be for people.
Thank you! Hope to see you soon at our first Nothing is Wasted Healing Retreat!