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A Sacred Space

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I was an Alliance Women director in the Great Lakes District when I first heard about Life-on-Life Formation training. This commitment consisted of a series of nine retreats over three years—on the other side of the country. Could I afford it? Could I get time off work to go? All of my concerns were met with solutions and I felt God urging me to go deeper with Him, so I said yes and began a journey that would change the course of my life.

Life-on-Life Formation was founded in 2009 by Richard Bush, a former Alliance pastor and district superintendent (learn more at www.lifeonlifeformation.org/). The training was birthed out of Richard’s passion for discipleship. He was willing to be used to fulfill Christians’ need to address the vacuum existing beneath the surface of the heart, soul, mind, strength—and love for others (see Mark 12:30–31).

By the end of the first retreat, I knew I was part of something wonderful. The teaching was rich in biblical truths, and the Spirit’s presence was evident and powerful. Over the next three years, with 11 others in my cohort, I experienced significant spiritual growth and healing in my soul.

Through Life-on-Life, my understanding of God deepened as we removed the misconceptions and false beliefs about who He is. Layer by layer He revealed lies I had believed about myself and showed me who He made me to be. God uncovered my wounds, revealing and healing them one by one. I had been deeply wounded while in a 30-year marriage to a man who struggled with multiple addictions. In the last year of Life-on-Life, my marriage ended in divorce.

Understanding my need for counseling because of my deep-seated wounds, Richard kindly referred me to Jamie Norton, a licensed counselor who directs Circles of Grace Ministries—a counseling ministry affiliated with Grace Church in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. I met with Jamie and later attended her Making Peace retreat, where God continued the healing He began in Life-on-Life Formation.

By the end of Life-on-Life, I was praying that God would use me as He had Richard and Jamie to bring growth and healing to many in the Body of Christ who are emotionally wounded and spiritually stagnant. So I began a counseling degree at Nyack College. But God had something else in mind.

THE CALLING WAS CLEAR

Late in 2019, I sensed God leading me to open a retreat center. This took me by surprise since it would likely involve a move and I had purchased a fixer-upper home 15 minutes or so from my three sons and their families. My real estate career was going well, and I was not looking for any more change.

But the calling was clear. I told God I didn’t think I could do it. He lovingly responded, “You can’t, but I can through you. And I’ll bring others to help.” I sat with it and prayed for a few weeks. The burden intensified, so I spoke with our district superintendent, Thomas George, to get a “sanity check” and his wise counsel, which I had come to depend on. He encouraged me to continue praying and, if the calling was confirmed, to start networking. We agreed if it was of God, it would be obvious, and if not, I did not want any part of it.

TRUE TO HIS WORD

Over the next several months God began to faithfully gather the people and resources needed to make the center a reality. I just kept doing the next thing He put before me. I formed a board with others who saw the need and were willing to be used to meet it, just as Richard had. Early in the journey, I became aware that Richard’s health was failing and he would be unable to continue the Life-on-Life Formation training. I felt the Lord urging me to reach out to Candy Anderson, Richard’s daughter and co-leader of the training.

I told her I believed one of the purposes of this renewal center was to continue the Life-on-Life training. We wanted to honor the work God accomplished through Richard and continue his legacy of discipleship and facilitating growth and healing in the Body of Christ. When I started this journey, I had no idea how many people Richard impacted for Jesus. As it turns out, I was just one of many. Some of those he had impacted gave generously for the down payment.

A few months after I sensed God’s calling to open the renewal center, I reconnected with Jamie Norton to ask for some advice. I was surprised to learn she had almost opened a renewal center years before and had experience in the preliminaries of how to do so. This, of course, was no surprise to God.

Candy Anderson, Jamie Norton, and Kirk Schneemann, an Alliance pastor who also completed the Life-on-Life Formation training, joined me on the board early on and have walked alongside me in this journey. I am so thankful for each one of them and everyone else God has used to bring this renewal center to fruition. It is His, but He has used many to accomplish this mission.

I thought it would take several months to even begin looking for a facility, much less find one that we could afford and would meet our needs. However, shortly after I asked Kirk to join the renewal center board, I learned his wife, Heather, had a similar passion. As a realtor, I had been keeping an eye out for potential properties, but it was Heather who found a lodge-style bed-and-breakfast for sale online and brought it to my attention. She and I looked at the property. We knew right away—this was the place.

LAUNCHING THE CENTER

The Richard Bush Renewal Center opened on March 1, 2021. Naming the center after him came naturally. Currently, we are still operating the lodge as a bed-and-breakfast when retreats are not taking place, which provides income and allows us to connect with people who do not yet know Jesus. Both believers and nonbelievers have commented on the serene setting and the peace they feel here. One believer said she feels it’s “a holy place, sacred and set apart from the world and all the craziness going on.” A nonbeliever told us, “I just feel so at ease here.” Churches and small groups are welcome to host retreats and gatherings at our facility, and we will have material available for self-guided retreats. We plan to host Life-on-Life Formation training, with our first cohort starting in October 2021, and Making Peace retreats, with our first retreat in August. We will also open the center to pastors and international workers needing a sabbatical. An international worker couple who stayed here recently said, “Our visit to the center was restful and helped us create a space of renewal in our lives in the midst of busy ministry demands.”

ALLOWING GOD TO HEAL OUR WOUNDS

In our busy U.S. culture, we are so easily distracted and pulled in many different directions. As believers, we pour ourselves out continually, doing God’s work, often not taking time to allow Him to refill and transform us. We pretend we’re fine while carrying deep wounds we’d rather not deal with. But as with physical wounds, soul wounds can fester and infect other areas of our lives.

In Psalm 46:10, the Lord challenges us to “be still, and know that I am God.” Proverbs 8:17 (ESV) says, “those who seek me diligently find me.” Stillness and a diligent pursuit of God are best accomplished in a place of serenity, surrounded by creation with dedicated time set apart for God to do the work He desires to do in each of us.

This is what the Richard Bush Renewal Center offers—a sacred space where Christ has opportunity to transform and heal us to accomplish His good purposes in and through us. I am so thankful for the people God has brought into my life to bring transformation and healing— people like Richard Bush, who entered his heavenly home on June 25, 2020. I am honored that God would use me to provide a place where He can bring healing and wholeness to others.

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