Updated: Nov 15
I can still remember the inception of Be Free Revolution back in 2011, which is where we began answering the call God was putting on our lives. We weren’t exactly sure how it would all shake out, but we knew that He was calling us. We put our hearts, souls, time, and money together and started BFR right there on my turquoise kitchen table. We trusted God step by step, moment by moment. We did our best to plan and look ahead, and so often, God reminded us to stay in His leading and in His will. We loaded more planes than I could count, tagged hundreds and hundreds of pieces of jewelry, sat and listened to stories that wrecked our hearts, we ate goat and drank tea in mud huts, we laughed, we cried, and we took action as best as we could. We brought what we had, and God multiplied it… a story of loaves and fishes. ☺️ He brought people together to broaden our reach and to bring aid to more people, all with the foundational purpose of spreading the love and Gospel of Christ. He allowed us to be part of miracle after miracle-globally and within our teams. We felt His presence deeply as we prayed with teams during trip preparation, as we walked the streets of Kibera Slum, as we sang and danced with all the kids to “Welcome, Welcome, to myyy schooool” and as we cut debilitating jiggers out of feet and hands in Western Kenya. God was with us and was teaching us that He is El Roi, a personal God that sees us. He sees the little girl in the village in Western Kenya desperately needing aid, the team member fighting for their faith, the destitute child praying for a way to go to school, the mother struck from post-election violence now with 3 kids trying to make ends meet-He saw us all and met us right where we were.
As BFR grew and several years went by, we felt God nudging us to open our doors in a more public way in Memphis through The Rev. That was a labor of love and God provided. 771 Brookhaven Circle housed so much life change, passion, and love for the Lord. It was a place where you could learn about Jesus, sign up for your first mission trip, have a cup of coffee, and buy a giveback gift all in one visit. I think back to all the faces in and out of those doors, and I’m humbled. Young and old desiring to make a real impact and live differently. And yet again, a beautiful piece of God’s story that He allowed us to be a part of.
It was within those walls that I began learning more about a contemplative way of Christianity. God’s movement is always right on time because as I was learning this, it was becoming apparent that I was exhausted and close to or already in burnout, and Michael and I had just got the exciting, yet surprising, news that I was pregnant with our third baby. In it all, God met me and BFR. He was gently showing me how to get away and meet with Him and that led me to really understand what “laying down in green pastures” from Psalm 23 really meant. After Hughes arrived, I decided that I needed to take a sabbatical, a time away from work and ministry to be with God, hear from Him, and rest in Him.
It was on that sabbatical that my faith was put through the fiery furnace. Much like gold that must be put through the fire to bring forth its beauty and value, I too headed into the burning sanctification that this season brought with it. God was present and faithful. He met me over and over and over. He didn’t need anything from me, just to BE with him. All the doing and striving ceased and all I could do was try to be present to The Presence and let His Truth wash over me.
During the sabbatical God impressed upon Lacey and me that it was time to close the doors of the Rev. While heartbreaking and confusing, God knew what was awaiting our entire world in just a year and a half. Then on the heels of a leadership trip to Kenya in January 2020, Covid hit. The closing of The Rev made more and more sense and we praised the Lord for His provision and protection that went before us, Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider.
Because of this protection and the constant support of the BFR Family, we were able to bring tremendous aid to our families in Kenya and Uganda during this time. This aid saved our Kenyan brothers and sisters. It sustained families that literally didn’t know how they were going to feed their house full of children home from boarding school. BFR stepped in, you all stepped in and as always, God was faithful.
As Covid continued, so did our spiritual formation and love and practice of contemplative time with God. Holding action and contemplation in tandem gave an even deeper purpose to our lives. Henri Nouwen says it well, “Christian life is not a life divided between times for action and times for contemplation. No. Real social action is a way of contemplation, and real contemplation is the core of social action.” It was being with God in the silence that fueled work for Him in the ministry. I’m reminded often of the story in Luke 10 of Mary and Martha and how, for so long, I was Martha bustling around working hard and Jesus was gently calling me to sit with Him, to choose Him. There would be time for work but for now, “BE with Me, choose the greater portion”. Recently in talking about this with my Spiritual Director, he gave beautiful insight saying “Britney, we need to live with Mary hearts but Martha hands and at times we have to focus on one to appreciate the other.” That was my story for years, I lived in the Martha world yearning for Mary’s portion. But that experience, the grit that it took to build BFR helped me truly understand the beauty and necessity and joy of truly resting at the feet of the Savior.
Early on in this journey, I had been attending half day silent retreats at St. Columba Retreat Center and while on one retreat I felt God showing me a vision. In the vision Lacey and I were there along with Allison Bradsher, a fairly new friend at the time and we were leading retreats. As the silence of the day closed I told Lacey (who knows me all too well) about the vision, and I was met with an “Oh gosh here we go!” sheepish yet hopeful smile. Then separately I shared the vision with Allison and was met with a curious “oh interesting” and that was really the end of that conversation….. Until about 4 years later.
Contemplative Christianity became a new way of life and ministry for Lacey and me and many around us were asking questions and wanting to experience some of these practices. With the slower pace of Covid and no travel, we began hosting half day silent retreats in my home, leading and teaching others what we were learning. We were seeing a shift in ourselves and others from busyness and doing, to peace and stillness with God. These half days led to our first overnight, then the second and the third.
God was stirring in BFR’s heart this idea of leading retreats, but in a bigger, more consistent capacity, more than just an overnight here and there or a monthly half day retreat. This was a stirring for a place for people to experience God's loving attention, in order to become aware of Him in the midst of all things.
Meanwhile, Allison Bradsher and I remained connected and had a series of after-school playground chats realizing that God was also stirring within her heart a similar vision. Allison, Lacey, and I decided to sit down together and see what God was up to. Over the next couple of weeks, we were talking, dreaming, and sharing ideas. One evening Michael and I were talking about these ideas and were browsing around on realtor.com and BAM we saw a property. Something came over me and I thought “We have to see this!”. I texted the girls and the next day we met our great realtor friend Tara Airhart out there, and the spark turned to a flame.
For the next two months God would be igniting our curiosities, building a team and preparing our hearts. We just kept putting one curious foot in front of the other and kept saying yes to God’s promptings. Promptings to have meetings and ask questions about multiple properties, promptings to invite Lauren Winchell and Adam Stluka to get involved on the Core Team, promptings to start sharing this vision with trusted friends and mentors and through those and other promptings God started to solidify this vision. He was preparing for the harvest.
Once again we found ourselves around a kitchen table, praying, planning and casting vision for The Retreat House. It felt nostalgic and invigorating to look around the table seeing the comfort of Lacey and Adam and the years of trust and memories we have built over the years of BFR and then feeling excitement seeing Allison and Lauren’s passion and new energy. Only God, in his loving kindness, could bring together this powerhouse team with a balance of gifts, love, energy, and beauty. We are all overjoyed, slightly nervous, and beyond excited to see how God is putting these pieces together. We have stepped out in faith time and time again in BFR and have seen God move and we feel deeply that we are right where God wants us, in the palm of His hand trusting. We know that this is big and that we cannot do this in our own strength.
We envision The Retreat House as a collective space of care and connection offering guided retreats, counseling, coaching, workshops, spiritual direction, and marriage support. We desire to create a thoughtful and beautiful space that welcomes anyone to meet with God in a way that may feel new or like an old friend who is wrapping their arms around you. We hope that through this place and space we can take your hand and gently guide you towards Jesus.
We moved in faith and put an offer on the first property and by God’s divine intervention and grace the offer was accepted with the contingency that we could raise the funds needed by April 5, 2023 (Which just so happens to be Passover!). The proposed location for The Retreat House is set on 10 acres in Eads, TN near Macon and Pisgah Road, conveniently located near the city but nestled in the woods. It has beauty and charm with great potential to house retreats for years to come. As we walked the grounds and prayed for the Lord to lead us, we could picture each element.
Through a collective of professionals, The Retreat House will offer:
Spiritual Direction, Counseling, and Coaching
Half-day and overnight retreats for grief, life transitions, marriage, burnout, parenthood, spiritual formation, etc.
Workshops & Christian intensives
Grief seminars and groups
Family connection, worship nights and rites of passage
Support to church staff, school faculty, and ministries
Weekly open hours for prayer and silence
We have a big picture dream of bridging BFR global and local through mission trip preparation, international exchange programs and providing a refuge for our missionaries returning from the field. As we continue our work globally, we are encouraged to see God actively moving on the home front as well. We plan to continue taking and sending mission teams, empowering and educating our kids and scholars in Africa, and utilizing the people that God has strategically placed to continue our mission and programs in Kenya and Uganda. While these ministries will have some overlap- the running, finances and organization of each will be separate. This helps to stay within our giving model where donation funds go directly where they are noted and intended, it is not one pot. The funds are differentiated and allocated according to the donors intentions and desires.
God is truly bringing people together to make the dream of The Retreat House more and more of a reality. From our Core Team to our Board of Advisors to our Advocates to you all who know the need for a place like this. A place for healing and connection, for grieving and growth, for learning and worship, all in the presence of the Great Counselor, the Great Healer, the One that weeps with us-Jesus.
We have seen now more than ever, our city and communities need a safe haven like The Retreat House. A place to move from confusion to clarity; from busy, distracted lives to slowing down and savoring goodness; from loneliness to a beloved community; from self-soothing to the God of all comfort. We would love for you to come alongside us to make this a reality. Together, we can build a beautiful refuge where God welcomes men and women to receive care, have space to heal, and experience the presence of God. You can learn more here and you can follow the Road to The Retreat House on Instagram. We are more than happy to answer any questions and would love to hear from you! We serve a big God that leads us pole pole and when He is ready to move, He moves. (Pole Pole is a Swahili saying meaning slowly, slowly or carefully, pronounced po-lay, po-lay.)
Follow me to The Retreat House.