A few years ago, my friends and neighbors, Mike and Lois Nelson, encouraged me to look into a program called “The Journey”. They were local leaders in the ministry, had been doing “Journey Groups” for numerous years and felt like this would be a helpful experience for me as a person and as a pastor. I approached it more from the pastor perspective at first. I thought it was a program for people who needed extra counseling, who had been through significant trauma and were looking for a group therapy option. As a pastor, I would go to get first hand experience so I could more knowingly recommend it to people I came across in ministry. Of course, as a “normal person”, I didn’t have anything significant to work on in my life. Sure, I had some tough things happen as a kid, but I was confident I had dealt with everything and now was living a perfectly healthy life. I’d go and see what it was all about, give it a good ministerial looking over. But they kept saying that I’d get the most out of it if I really bought into the program and acted like a full-fledged participant. They said it could be life-changing.
I agreed to that but took their encouragement warily, especially because it all seemed a bit mysterious. They would do my best to answer my questions about it, but also said it was an experience you had to go through for yourself to fully understand. And they refrained from the normal hyperbole, like, “Oh, you’ll love it!”, and “It’s such a fun experience.” They described how it was “eye-opening” and one of the most beneficial things they’d ever done for their walk with Christ, emotional health, and marriage. But they also hinted that it was hard and tiring and maybe even unsettling. And they were right, on both counts.
What I learned is that the Journey is a program started to provide a place for women who had been abused to find community and healing. Over time, a curriculum was developed, heavily influenced by the work of Dan Allender, to assist in this healing process. It grew, and soon men were asking to join and people without “traditional” abuse stories also became interested. It is now a worldwide program offered through Open Hearts Ministry (ohmin.org), an international organization based in Kalamazoo, MI, with week-long resident options at retreat centers like Maranatha in Muskegon, as well as local weekly meeting formats.
The meetings are a combination of large group teaching, individual study and reflection, and group sharing. The process is very directed, logical, and instructive, teaching you not only how to look at your own experiences through the eyes of Christ, but to listen well and respond to others with compassion and truth. Participants are coached step-by-step in how to both share and respond to others. And as they begin to uncover some of the roots of their thinking and behaviors, they are given the option to move forward in repentance, hope, and openness to God and others.
As I came away from my first experience with The Journey, I found Mike and Lois to be right, that it was simultaneously one of the most eye-opening, educational, cathartic, and intimate experiences I had ever had, while also being scary, frightening, challenging, and corrective. I had to confront the fact that I was not as put together as I thought I was. I, too, had things from my past that were still affecting me today. And though I was a pastor and had been in ministry for numerous years, I wasn’t as compassionate and loving towards others as I wanted to be, including my own family. So it was disruptive and humbling, but in a good way; in a this-will-make-me-more-like-Jesus-even-though-it-hurts kind of way.
Since my first Journey, I have participated in several additional sessions, even co-leading, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, for EVERYONE. I think you will learn new things about God, about yourself, and about how to care for others. It’s challenging but worth it. It has helped me personally more fully experience the love of God, which without a doubt has helped me become a better person and by default, a better pastor, too.
The Spring Journey session begins March 10, 2016. Classes meet Thursday evenings at Center Point Church on 11th Street (except for one Saturday morning called “Fast Start”). There is an application and registration fee, but if you are a regular attender of New Hope and need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. I hope you’ll seriously consider taking this opportunity to grow.
Download the application form and the 2016 Brochure below: