Multiple flooding incidents at Crosslands, soaring COVID infections, and volunteers having to withdraw were just some of the challenges Sydney Adventist Women faced as we prepared for HOPE STAYZ 2022. But God, through a series of tangible miracles, enabled us to successfully deliver the HOPE STAYZ 2022 retreat. Twelve strangers became our friends after accepting our invitation, not knowing where they were coming to, braving the unknown, and allowing themselves to be loved and cared for the three days.
HOPE STAYZ is a special retreat funded and staffed by Sydney Adventist Women for women and their children experiencing difficult circumstances—domestic violence, anxiety and depression, financial hardship, and homeless. Guests are referred by agencies assisting women, including ADRA Community Centre Blacktown and women’s refuges.
Attendee Susan (not her real name) said that nothing was going to deter her from coming. She took a taxi to get to Crosslands. The taxi dropped her, her baby, and her luggage at the top of the hill, and she was prepared to walk the rest of the way. She said HOPE STAYZ was a new beginning for her, and lack of transport was not going to deter her from coming.
All seven years of the program, we have been amazed at the transformation of our guests, who arrive forlorn, anxious, and discouraged, and leave feeling renewed, positive, and hopeful.
Beautiful connections are made every year. The guests are blown away by the love, care, and acceptance that they receive in such a short time. The introduction of a health expo to the program has opened opportunities for follow-up programs, such as the Live More programs and Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program.
One of the volunteers shared, “I’d never volunteered at a HOPE STAYZ retreat before, so I did not go with much expectation. This was truly an amazing retreat, where I witnessed the power of God move through willing people without preaching through words. By the time HOPE STAYZ had concluded, I had witnessed the transformative power of love on 12 beautiful souls and their children. They were leaving with their hearts full, genuine smiles and ’go getter’ attitudes, ready to return to their circumstances with a new outlook and hope. The mother that I was honoured to be the companion of has been hurt deeply by people she trusted, and she is still getting hurt and let down. She was one that knew about Jesus, but she just hasn’t seen Him in other people. This retreat restored her hope in humanity and the possibilities that wait for her and her children. Love. It sure is a powerful and life changing thing, and I am forever grateful, honoured, and humbled by my experience at HOPE STAYZ 2022.”
“HOPE STAYZ is one of the most meaningful initiatives we are privileged to deliver,” says Beryl Landers, Director of Sydney Adventist Women. “Not only are our guests blessed, but the 63 volunteers who give their time, energy, love, and care all testify what a blessing it is to serve these women and make a difference in their lives.”