“Free Indeed” Texico Women Retreat Brings Healing
ALBUQUERQUE – More than 200 women from various parts of the Texico Conference came together in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 29 - Oct. 1, 2023 for the Texico Conference’s “Free Indeed” Women’s Retreat featuring general sessions, seminars and a communion service, along with a full Spanish program, a special program for teenagers and an engaging community outreach initiative.
During the general sessions, forgiveness was explored as a means to achieving freedom. The guest speakers spoke passionately about this topic, emphasizing forgiveness's transformative power.
Crystal E. Ward, executive pastor of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Md., was one of two keynote speakers for the English program alongside Melissa DePaiva-Gibson. Kathy Clifford, Texico Conference Children’s Ministries director and Rocio Rojas-McFadin, director of Sticky Mess Ministries, jointly led the teen segment of the retreat.
“We discussed being uniquely perfect and the girls hammered butterflies to a cross to show how they can be free by giving their stress and worries to Jesus. The sound of the hammers brought tears to the girls’ eyes,” said Clifford.
On the final day of the retreat, after leading a solemn communion service, Ward expressed that the weekend had undeniably been a blessed experience.
“Seeing the breakthrough in some of the women that were here, I know that God was in the midst, His Spirit was present. I, myself, have felt that freedom, and that release,” said Ward. “I pray that as these women go forward, they will feel free because who the Son has set free is truly free indeed.”
Spanish keynote speakers Sandy Reyes, a former educator and conference Women’s Ministries director, and Noemí D. García, a licensed mental health professional, were thrilled with the response of the women who attended the meetings.
“Women are becoming more open to being able to share and express what is really in their hearts and I have seen that this weekend,” said García. “My desire for them is that they can walk away knowing that there is a Father in heaven Who loves them no matter what they are going through.”
A significant highlight of the retreat occurred on Sabbath evening when the film “Return to Palau: A Journey of Healing and Restoration” was screened. This film recounts DePaiva-Gibson’s path toward forgiveness after the murder of her family, and throughout the retreat, she shared her testimony. She emphasized that, despite experiencing the horrific circumstances of a violent crime and witnessing the murder of her family, she found the strength, as the sole survivor, to forgive the perpetrator through God’s grace.
“I am really grateful for another opportunity to share my testimony and what God has done in my life through forgiveness,” said DePaiva-Gibson. “I have shared it many times, but I feel like everywhere I go, it is lived out differently and people’s responses make that different for me because they share their own experience. We are vessels that God uses to give forgiveness to others, and it is really a privilege to be able to forgive somebody the way God has forgiven us.”
A special blessing was experienced through the community outreach project which saw several participants deliver warm blankets and socks to a nursing home facility on Sabbath afternoon.
The women of Texico are eagerly anticipating the next retreat, where they can further cultivate connection, experience spiritual growth and strengthen their relationships with Jesus.
By Debbie Marquez