The thistle is a resilient plant. It’s strong enough to take root through concrete, has a prickly exterior that surrounds a colorful bloom, overcomes adverse growing conditions yet continues to thrive.
So too do the women of Thistle Farms. They are all current residents or graduates of Magdalene, a residential community of survivors of prostitution, human trafficking and addiction in Nashville, Tenn.
Magdalene and Thistle Farms were founded by the Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopalian minister, humanitarian, social activist, entrepreneur and author. Stevens will be the special guest at Raleigh’s Christ Episcopal Church Women’s Retreat on Saturday, April 18, and during worship and Sunday School on Sunday, April 19.
Stevens will be preaching, teaching, talking and sharing about the healing power of love.
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“The story of healing is a story of hope,” Stevens said.
Magdalene House was founded in 1997 to offer hope and healing to women who had been through some of the worst experiences life has to offer. It is a residential program that provides women with two years of housing, food and medical and dental care at no cost to them.
The program does not receive any government money. It is funded through donations and grants and the handmade bath-and-body products sold through Thistle Farms.
The women from Magdalene House work at Thistle Farms in all aspects of manufacturing, packaging, marketing, sales and administration. They learn skills that will help them make a living. In return, proceeds from sales are returned to the Magdalene community.
“When we do this work, helping women who are survivors of trafficking, and we make these healing products and we go out and share the message, it’s healing for all of us,” Stevens said. “It is a way we can all participate in the healing of our world. When you heal women, you heal the whole community.”
Stevens encourages people to embrace love and healing in tandem.
“The simple phrase ‘love heals’ captures the depth and the entirety of the lesson we learn about being human,” she said. “Healing isn’t an entity one person gives another, it is the grace that washes over all of us. We participate in the healing of our world.”
Stevens plans to continue to grow the business side of Thistle Farms. The program has added a cafe in Tennessee, as well as a paper and sewing studio and a global shared-trade initiative.
“We are growing at about 30 percent a year as a company,” Stevens said. “We were able to put more than a half a million dollars back into the pockets of the women who work at Thistle Farms, women who were survivors, last year alone. This message preaches in churches, but it also preaches in the marketplace.”
Stevens said her group has helped launch more than 25 sister organizations around the country working to provide help for survivors using the housing-first model.
Despite the growth in avenues for assistance, she said, there is never enough space for every woman who needs help.
Stevens said that while many women’s stories are heartbreaking, real healing is happening.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I have never met a woman coming off the streets who hasn’t been raped,” she said. “Everybody’s coming with trauma. You’re dealing with people who are coming off a battlefield. To watch the light come back in someone’s eyes and be able to both laugh and cry and express themselves and feel hope and joy – the work is inspiring, so I keep doing it joyfully and gratefully.”
The women of Christ Episcopal Church booked Stevens more than two years ago for the spiritual retreat they have sponsored for 25 years. It’s a retreat that is based in the four Rs: renewal, relationship, relaxation and refreshment.
“We all ... need the renewal of mind, heart and energy, and the same goes with relaxing or refreshment,” said Anna Ball Hodge, co-chair of the Christ Episcopal Church event.
The Saturday retreat, known as Raising Spirits, includes preaching by Stevens and breakout sessions about prayer, yoga and essential oils. Thistle Farms products will be available for purchase.
Stevens will also preach during the Sunday services at Christ Church at 9 a.m and 11 a.m and take part in adult Sunday School in between.
Registration for the retreat is available on the church website at christchurchraleigh.org.
“It is amazing what she is doing, because she is healing on so many levels,” Hodge said. “I can’t wait to meet her.”
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh will continue its series of Contemplative Prayer Services at 7 p.m. Monday, April 13, in Poteat Chapel. The theme is “Celebrating New Life” as part of the congregation’s journey through Easter season.
The service includes music in the spirit of Taize, prayers, reflections, movement meditations and silence. Organizers say contemplative prayer offers a time to quiet ourselves in the midst of busy lives, find our spiritual center and open ourselves to God’s movement in our lives.
All are welcome. The church is located at 1801 Hillsborough St., Raleigh.
Remembering Holocaust victims
Temple Beth Or will host an all-day reading of names of those who died in the Holocaust on Sunday, April 12.
The event is open to the public, to both listen to and read the names published in books from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Reading begins at 7 a.m. and will continue uninterrupted until 7 p.m.
Visitors are welcome to come and go during the day from the sanctuary at 5315 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh.
The reading is part of the worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name.”
To sign up to read names in 15-minute segments, go to http://bit.ly/1CC3UCc.
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at firstname.lastname@example.org.