Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Raises Money for Lighthouse Family Retreat By Carmen C. Abernathy The partnership between Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Lighthouse Family Retreat began with a little girl named Alexa. Diagnosed with a form of cancer called neuroblastoma right after her first birthday, Alexa and her story have touched so many lives. The impact continues today, almost 10 years later, as the East Cobb church perseveres in its commitment to support this ministry. Lighthouse Family Retreat serves families living through childhood cancer at seaside retreats, enabling them to laugh, restore family relationships and find hope in God. Founded in 2000, Lighthouse has prospered from its first retreat of six families to 15 retreats scheduled in 2014 that will serve around 170 families. To date, the week-long retreats have been held at Florida Panhandle beaches. But for the first time this year, one of the retreats will be held on the North Carolina coast. Scheduled from April to October, the retreats are in rented or donated beachside vacation homes. Julie Fesefeldt, Retreat Family Manager, has a history with the ministry. As a Holy Trinity member, she first became acquainted with Lighthouse in 2005 through Alexa and her family. Because the retreat had been such a life-changing experience for the family, Alexa’s grandparents, John and Alice Rohrbach, introduced the ministry to Holy Trinity. A church group, which included Fesefeldt’s teenage daughter, volunteered to serve at a retreat. “My daughter returned from the retreat and told me that not only was it life-changing for families dealing with childhood cancer, but it changed her life forever as well,” says Fesefeldt. “She said I would love it, and she was right.” After years of retreat volunteering, Fesefeldt joined the Lighthouse staff in November 2012. Fesefeldt goes on to say that the ministries’ volunteers have become such a vital part of the overall experience that they are now called family partners. Holy Trinity sends a group of family partners each year to the one of the retreats. They perform daily tasks, including meal preparation, housekeeping and general pampering so the families can experience a sense of relief and retreat away from the everyday struggles of childhood cancer. About 70 family partners are needed to serve at a retreat. These usually consist of 35 adults, with the rest being children who minister to the children with cancer and their siblings through gifts of love and companionship. Family partners pay their own expenses and usually cover the cost of several retreat families. When the 14 June/July 2014
ss Karen, Scott & Brooke Stephan, members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, volunteer at the church’s yard sale to raise money for the Lighthouse Family Retreat.
retreat families and family partners depart, the motto is “See you later.” Many forge relationships that continue either in person or through other contacts such as Facebook. And as a faith-based ministry, “See you later” also refers to seeing each other in heaven one day. Holy Trinity sponsors fundraising activities to support the ministry. An annual yard sale is held on the church property at the end of April. Also, Holy Trinity has recently decked its halls with a Tree of Hope, which is a Christmas tree decorated in Easter colors that displays photos of Lighthouse families. Church members make donations in honor of these families, taking the family photos with them and praying for the family daily. Children 18 years and younger with cancer, who are currently on therapy or have been off therapy for less than one year are eligible to attend Lighthouse with their immediate family members who are living at home with them. Families can apply online at www.lighthousefamilyretreat.org. There is no cost for a family to attend. As the Lighthouse Family Retreat ministry has become a beacon for families that have children with cancer, Holy Trinity members have, in turn, become beacons through their dedication as family partners. Alexa’s inspiration has created a solid alliance between these two faith organizations. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 2922 Sandy Plains Road in Marietta/East Cobb.