I had never been to a Single Moms Retreat. Which makes sense, since I’ve never been a single mom. Instead of coming to receive and get refreshed, at this retreat, I was there to serve as a volunteer.
I had heard about the Bridging the Gap Single Moms Retreat (SMR) during a ladies event at our local church. We had raised funds to provide scholarships for some of our single moms to attend. We had also learned about the SUB Project.
SUB Isn’t a Sandwich
SUB is an acronym for Socks, Underwear, and Bras. Churches around the state of Minnesota participated by purchasing new undergarments in every size. When I arrived at Lake Geneva Christian Center on Thursday afternoon, I joined dozens of other women setting up the “SUB” shop. But that was just a small portion of the free shopping experience we were preparing. There were racks and racks of clothes, piles of purses, an extensive collection of bling, and even shoes and boots of all sizes and styles. I was amazed at the generosity being displayed in the lower level of the dining hall.
As I worked at laying out pairs of socks, I got to connect with some of the other volunteers that had paid for the opportunity to be a part of this event. (That’s right. People PAY to volunteer at this event.) Several of the volunteers have served at the event for several years. Some of them had attended the event as single moms in the past, and were no longer single, but wanted to give back to other single moms.
A Place for Everyone
There were several volunteer positions to choose from. With hundreds of women arriving from all across the state (and even some from Wisconsin and Iowa), many volunteers were kept busy just giving directions and answering questions as the campground flooded with women. Other volunteers worked in the boutique or in the evening spa event. During the meals, volunteers scattered throughout the dining room to connect with the single women, living out their title of “Befriender” volunteer.
I chose to volunteer for the prayer team for the retreat. What a privilege! We all had allotted times serving in the prayer room, and were available to pray with anyone who came for prayer, but also to spend time interceding for the women attending the event. We also stood available to pray with women at the front of the chapel at the end of each session. On Friday evening, the prayer team served in the spa giving hand massages. It was in these scenarios we heard the personal stories and struggles of these women.
Demonstrating God’s Love
Most of the mothers I spoke to worked outside the home. Coming to the retreat often meant considerable financial sacrifice. One woman told me the only reason she was able to come was because her church had paid, not only for her registration, but also gave her funds to replace the missed hours at work. They also arranged for childcare for her during the retreat.
When you think of single moms, you generally picture a young mom with small children, but that is just a small part of who we saw. Some of the women attending were actually grandmothers, raising their grandchildren on their own. More than one woman told me that she had driven there with expired tabs on her vehicle, because she didn’t have the funds to pay for them.
Over and over in the Bible, we read about God’s compassion for women who parent alone and for their children. He understands their struggle. Serving as a Befriender volunteer at SMR is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and compassion in a very real and practical way.
The theme of SRM is “Dare to Dream.” By volunteering your time for this ministry, you can help single moms regain the hope they need and give them the space to dream again. If you know how to be a friend, you are qualified to volunteer at this special event. You can sign up here.