The September issue of "Vine and Branches" from Rachel's Vineyard Ministries is out. It isn't posted on their webpage yet, but it has been sent out to those with email subscriptions. The lead article is about the growth of that ministry in Australia and I am reprinting it here.
RACHEL'S VINEYARD IN AUSTRALIA
Julie Kelly flew from Sydney, Australia to Seattle, Washington in February 2000 to attend a Rachel's Vineyard retreat, 44 years after her abortion.
When Kelly returned to Sydney, she approached the bishops of the three dioceses in Sydney and told them of the great need of women who are suffering post-abortion trauma. The bishops were very supportive, and the first retreat in Australia was held in Sydney in December 2000.
There are now six other dioceses around Australia in various stages of introducing Rachel's Vineyard, as well as two in New Zealand. There has already been a retreat in Melbourne and one will be held soon in Adelaide.
The most enjoyable aspect of Kelly's ministry, she says, "is seeing the blossoming of post-abortion counseling that's happening in a number of centers. I also really love presenting on the subject and have the chance to do that in lots of different arenas. This week I was guest speaker at my old alma mater where I started my counseling training 18 years ago. It felt great."
Kelly and the clergy who work on the Australian retreats are in the planning stages of a national conference on post-abortion healing and reconciliation for priests, counselors, and pastoral associates that will be held in February 2004.
With the permission of those involved, Kelly has shared with "Vine and Branches" an exchange of letters that resulted from a recent Rachel's Vineyard retreat in Australia.
You do not know me, but you have touched my life tremendously by your kindness and generosity. My name is Linda. I am 26 years old and I have spent the past seven years torturing myself after making the painful decision to have an abortion when I was only 19 years old.
I know that some women who have made such a choice apparently suffer no ill-effects -- whether these effects be physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual. It was, however, very different for me.
Following my abortion, I fell into an awful spiral of self-destruction. I became severely depressed to the point of wanting to take my own life. I still wonder now how I managed to stay alive. I lost all joy in living and I began to punish myself in various ways - from taking drugs to becoming dangerously anorexic and then bulimic. I became a workaholic, trying in my job to heal others but finally even felt that I could no longer do that.
All of these things I suffered in silence and no one knew my pain. No one. My parents were horrified when years later I revealed to them what I had gone through. Many special friends still cannot understand why I did not turn to them for support. I have always buried my own needs in order to look after others.
A few months ago, I finally felt as though I was getting my life back together when ... WHAM ... I found myself curled up in bed, feeling the same pangs of torturous pain that I had suffered seven years ago. I spent an entire night alone, crying softly and wanting to end my own life. It was as though the past had come back, saying loudly, "Deal with me now! You must share your pain in order to heal. You can no longer carry this burden on your own."
I spent the next morning sobbing with my mother, telling her how close I was to ending my life. She mentioned Rachel's Vineyard. I phoned and met with Julie Kelly that afternoon, with no idea how much that visit was going to change my life.
Ron, I have carried the huge burden of having had an abortion for seven years. It has nearly killed me. And suddenly, there I was with this gentle woman who had suffered a similar experience and who was helping others recover from the pain. She was like a life-line in the midst of a dark storm. I remember thinking to myself, "I don't know what I can do to take away this pain. I don't know how to make it stop." And then Julie mentioned Rachel's Vineyard Retreat. To my astonishment she said that the next retreat was in three days time and there was one space
left! It was like a gift from heaven, as though God himself had reached down and said, "Here is your salvation. Here is how you will heal this pain."
I did not have any money to pay for such a retreat but Julie assured me that there would be a way for the expenses to be covered. Ron, your donation arrived the day the retreat began. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your generous gift has changed and touched my life. There I was, on the verge of an emotional collapse, when along came a series of guardian angels to lift me up. You are one of these angels.
Rachel's Vineyard Retreat was one of the most special gifts of my life. The work that Julie is doing is phenomenally powerful and touching to the spirit. And you, Ron, are a similar gift in my life. You may have thought your gift to be a simple donation of money, but believe me, it was much more than that. Your kindness, in many ways, helped to save my life.
Although I know your gift was given with no intention of being repaid, I also know that life works in some amazingly mysterious ways, so it is my hope that your gift will be repaid to you in some precious way when the time comes for you to receive.
With love and deep gratitude,
And here is the reply she received:
I was so deeply touched by your letter. I wish I could write the correct words to express my feelings. Maybe if you were sitting alongside me on a plane going to, say, Perth, I could find the right words.
I want to thank you for your letter, but I also want to tell you that you were wrong when you said you could no longer "heal others" (I take "heal" to mean "help"). Your letter has helped me more than you could imagine. My wife and I wept as we read your words. I would love to be able to explain better but you will just have to take my word for it.
God bless you, Linda, and Rachel's Vineyard, too.