"An emergency room for hurting people"
Church launches divorce care ministry
By Aaron Epp | Friday, December 18, 2009
Pam Richert leads the new divorce care ministry. PHOTO: RIVERWOOD CHURCH COMMUNITY
WINNIPEG, MBA Winnipeg church is giving new meaning to its slogan"Faded jeans and broken people welcome"with a new recovery ministry aimed at people dealing with addiction, grief, depression and divorce. The ministry at Riverwood Church Community begins Thursday, January 7 with a series on divorce care.
Lead pastor Todd Petkau says the creation of the new ministry comes from his realization last year that the church needed to do more than just welcome people with faded jeans and broken lives.
"We need to offer them life transformation, and recovery ministry seemed like it was an approach that has teeth," he says. "We decided divorce care was as good a place as any to begin."
Pam Richert, who began attending Riverwood with her husband Vic a year ago, is leading the new ministry.
A retired paralegal, Richert knows what she's talking about when it comes to divorce. Ask her how she would characterize her life eight years ago, and she'll tell you she was in a dark place after the end of her third marriage.
Married and divorced by the time she was 21, Richert entered a second marriage marked by physical and emotional abuse. When her third relationship ended after 16 years, she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
Eventually, a friend invited her to a divorce recovery group. Richert didn't like the fact that it was at a church, but she was relieved to know she wasn't the only person experiencing the agony of divorce.
She went back the next week and eventually began praying with the group. That's when her relationship with Jesus began.
"I didn't feel numb anymore," Richert says. "I began feeling alive."
But one night, after a particularly bad argument with her 19-year-old son, Richert drank three bottles of wine and swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills.
The next morning, a friend from her divorce recovery group called, wondering why she wasn't in church. The friend took Richert to the hospital where she stayed for three days.
"I remember hearing the doctor say I should have died with the amount of drugs in my system," Richert says.
When she returned home and entered her bedroom, there was broken glass and spilled wine everywhere. Richert says it was then that she realized God had fought not only for her physical life but also her soul that night.
"For the first time, I felt love," Richert says, her eyes welling up with tears. "He taught me love."
She describes the divorce recovery group at Riverwood as "an emergency room for hurting people."
Each week, participants will gather to watch a DVD on a particular topic (facing anger, facing depression, facing loneliness, new relationships, single sexuality, forgiveness) and then break into small groups to discuss what they are going through.
Listening is key, Richert says.
"I think that's what people should do in anyone's crisis. Listen to the person, avoid giving advice and make sure the person knows they're loved. There's nothing worse than feeling abandoned when you're in crisis."
Through its community newsletter, Riverwood has invited anyone who wishes to attend to check out the divorce recovery program. Healing isn't something you rush, Richert stresses, and people can stay in the program until they feel ready to leave.
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