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Story by Brenda Gibson. Photos by Rick Henshaw and Susan Brown.

DRWAnn-Ralph2015For 25 years First Baptist Church has offered the Divorce Recovery Workshop (DRW) under the guidance of Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor, Ministry of Christian Invitation. As we began the opening night of DRW in October 2015, I thought of the more than two thousand participants helped through the devastating pain of divorce and broken relationships. They found a safe place to express their feelings and to find healing.

DRW 25th

The DRW has saved many lives, according to these participants, and has brought the Kingdom of Heaven not only to Richmond, but to Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, Colonial Heights, Petersburg, Farmville, South Hill, and many other areas of Virginia.

DRW 25th

As I looked at the greeters, guiding participants to Flamming Hall to meet their small groups, providing hospitality to all, I remembered being at FBC eight years ago. My marriage of 27 years was over, and I felt broken, ashamed, and alone. I felt fear as I had never been by myself and worried if I could survive financially and mentally. I was able to talk about my failures and to accept the part I played in the break-up of my marriage. I found care and concern and made many wonderful friends. I attended FBC, and the members welcomed me, making me feel accepted, valued and loved.

DRW 25th

Geri and Robin Hale-Cooper assisted Ralph as key coordinators of DRW for 20 years. Under their mentoring I joined the many participants who become volunteers. Divorce, separation, or a significant breakup is a major loss, very much like a death. There is no instant healing or solutions to problems. Recovery is a journey. Volunteers are friends who walk on this journey with participants, representing the love of Jesus Christ and His restoring forgiveness.

Editor’s note: For information on Divorce Recovery Workshop, visit FBCRichmond.org/recovery or contact Ralph Starling.
Watch a short feature produced by Allen Cumbia.


Brenda GibsonBrenda Gibson has attended First Baptist Church since 2008. She is active in Radical Grace Sunday School, is an usher, volunteers in the Compassion ministry, serves on the Divorce Recovery Leadership Team and as a mentor for Legacy of Leadership. Brenda has a son, Brandon, and a granddaughter, Teeghan. She works for the State of Virginia as a compensation analyst.

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By Stephanie Kim.

I remember the feelings well when my husband of 10 years decided to leave our family – shock, devastation, overwhelming grief, fear, anger, rejection, brokenness, hopelessness. My two daughters, then seven and three years old, were confused, sad, but hopeful of his imminent return.

calloutIt was my faith, the little bit that I had back then, that brought me through that terrible time. Throughout most of my life, I had what I once heard someone call an “accessory” faith, a really nice religion to go with my really nice life. But when my perfect life and the things I held most dear – my husband, my family as I knew it, my friends, my hopes, my dreams of growing old together – shattered suddenly, I realized that my faith and relationship with God were very shallow. It was during this dark time that I truly experienced God’s comfort and love, learned to trust Him like never before, and grew immensely in faith. My “accessory” faith has become a “necessity” faith: I can’t live or even breathe without God.

Even this works together for good.While it was heartbreaking to see my kids go through this, it gave them the opportunity to learn so many lessons that will serve them well later in life. This adversity gave us the chance to talk about things that we might not ever have had the time or reason to otherwise. We had so many “pillow talks” about love, forgiveness, obedience, repentance, healing, grace, and trusting God. We talked about how important honesty is and how the choices we make often have consequences on others.

As I walked through what seemed like the valley of the shadow of death, I experienced Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” While I never seemed to have enough time to read God’s word before, now I thirst for more. I have learned to be quiet, listening for His still, soft voice. I have learned how important it is to share my burdens with friends and to accept their loving help in times of need; it provides healing to me and an opportunity to minister for them. I have discovered my purpose in life and understand the awesome responsibility God has given me to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I have learned that I must let go of all I hold dear and only hold on to Christ. As painful as this whole experience was, I am grateful that I have renewed life and have once again found strength and joy, healing and forgiveness. I had forgotten what was most important and was just rushing through life. My younger daughter Julia, who is intellectually disabled, is a daily reminder to celebrate every little success and not to worry about what the future holds because God has a good plan for us. I have learned to seek God’s wisdom for every decision I make.

I was touched by God’s miraculous healing power when I was broken. I met the Great Comforter while in such deep sorrow. I found strength in Christ when I was completely helpless. I understood God’s unfailing love when I had failed and been disappointed. I learned patient endurance for His time when I lost complete control of making things happen in my time. I discovered His peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of a terrible storm. I learned to place my faith and trust in God after others fell short. As I help others caught in the devastation of divorce using the experiences and skills God has given me, I realize now that He has caused even this to work together for good.


Stephanie KimStephanie Kim is Director of Finance for the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. She is an active member of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and often participates in worship services as flutist. She resides in Mechanicsville. She can be reached at flute2tr@comcast.net.

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