By: Theresa Unrau
My family’s past was not something that took up much of my thoughts until my grandfather took his own life on my 39th birthday. The reality of the pain of generational abuse and sadness for the loss of what could have been started to grow inside me. Bitterness took root as I watched my mother suffer from what she felt was so shameful. Bitterness toward my grandfather for not being who God created him to be. Bitterness towards an entire people group just because of where we came from. It snuck in and remained below the surface, unarticulated.
The idea of a women’s retreat weekend where I could participate as a stranger with no expectations of responsibilities or performance drew me in. So I registered and went to Pender Island on a MARK Centre retreat. As we left the ferry to drive to our retreat home for the weekend I was put in a van with 4 women from Paraguay. God’s sense of humor strikes me sometimes. My grandfather was from Paraguay. I could feel myself on the verge of being quite uneasy, but only 2 of the women spoke English so they were busy translating introductions and asking questions about the island until we arrived at our destination. Trying to focus on the quiet I was hoping for during the weekend we settled into our rooms.
The retreat was filled with love, teaching, quiet times, creativity, wonderful meals together and listening to God speak to us in personal ways. Everything was all translated back and forth, English and Spanish. A bond was quickly growing. A softness was replacing the bitterness. And my eyes were opening to a people group that had nothing to do with the choices my family made and the wake of abuse that was left in my heritage. These 4 women were loving, authentic and easy to love back. By the end of the weekend I confessed how I was feeling about them and how grateful I was that they were what God chose to use to change me. Ruth, Lucia, Ingrid and Gloria travelled from Paraguay to Pender Island looking for a place for God to fill them with his love. But the truth is they were drawn here because I needed them. I needed the peace that they brought to my soul in order to be able to forgive my grandfather. Thank you ladies, until we meet again!