Four years ago I attended The Hope of Survivors‘ Hope and Healing Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Eighteen months after I reported my abusive pastor and left my church, I was still so wounded that for most of the conference I sat in the back row and wept. But I heard the beautiful words, “This was not your fault” not once but many times, from every speaker at the conference. Telling my husband about the conference later, I couldn’t speak these words without tears.
A year later, I attended Hope and Healing again. What a difference a year made! This time I was strong enough to participate and connect with other survivors, and I was healed enough to enjoy the beauty of the host city. Early on the last morning of the conference, I walked to the edge of Omaha and crossed the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge just to touch Iowa soil. The previous year I’d been too traumatized to take interest in my surroundings. Now, I was ready to enjoy life’s simple pleasures again.
I have good news for my fellow survivors! The Hope of Survivors is now taking registration for Hope and Healing 2015, to be held on Sunday, February 15 in Northglenn, CO. I urge all survivors who live within a reasonable drive (the conference is just north of Denver) to consider attending. Clergy sexual abuse is an intensely isolating experience. Most of us remain deeply in hiding as we heal; few of us have the opportunity to be with others who understand this experience. If you live anywhere near Northglenn, please consider attending. Spouses are more than welcome, because they need healing too. When Samantha and Steve Nelson share their story, survivors and spouses alike will find common ground.
If you don’t live near enough to attend, please keep the conference in your prayers that day. In return, I will pray for you.
Toward hope and healing!
UPDATE as of January 29: The organizers decided to cancel this event, which was part of a three-day series of talks and workshops on clergy sexual abuse. Samantha Nelson writes, “There are not very many registrants for this conference (unlike normal) and I suspect it is because it is a holiday weekend, it’s winter in Colorado, and it’s taking place in a church (which scares off some victims).” The events of February 13-14 will take place as scheduled. For survivors who need support, please consider visiting The Hope of Survivors’ Renewal Center.