Thank you so much for continuing with the tour of our Elizabeth Ministry Retreat and Resource Center. We told you you’d spend more time than you planned in the gift shop!
Come with us farther down the central hallway beyond that gift shop. This is the TEA Room (Oh, my!! A TEA Room???) with its five round tables and a large leather-couched seating area. Everyone who knows Jeannie Hannemann knows that most of whatever fills the EM building has been begged or scavenged from thrift shops or dollar stores, or donated, as were the couches. But a TEA Room? Another of Jeannie’s acronyms: “Time Encouraging Another,” so “TEA” room! (Well, coffee is also served there: COFFEE: “Connecting Opportunities For Friendship, Encouragement and Enrichment”!) When there are Mother-and-Daughter Retreats, the women and girls initially gather as a get-acquainted group in this area. Even when tea or coffee isn’t served, TEA and COFFEE happen there! Staff meetings happen there. Fun and laughter happens there. Prayer also happens there, as we present to the Lord the needs and concerns of our hearts and receive His support and encouragement.
At the end of the building and opening into the TEA Room is a fully-functional and well-stocked kitchen. (Remember: there are groups of a dozen or more who regularly gather here and need to be fed. Little girls can be found at the Mother and Daughter Retreats baking chocolate chip cookies and later concocting luscious sundaes.) When only the staff is on hand, the group of three to six or eight individuals gathers around the kitchen table for lunch and to share information and input on the various projects that are underway.
A sign on one wall sums up the atmosphere: “Kitchen Table Theology Spoken Here”.
In addition to the chapel, the back side of the building has business offices, a mail room, a shipping room, and storage and maintenance areas. The full second floor includes private offices and twelve cozy, but comfortable, femininely-decorated bedrooms, each with a pair of single beds to accommodate each mother/daughter pair. There is also, of course, a bathroom and shower area. Mother and Daughter Retreats are scheduled (usually spring and fall) according to the daughters’ ages: 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15. Each gathering involves an over-night from Friday evening to Saturday noon or Saturday evening to Sunday noon. Included are a scrumptious breakfast and loads of crafts and fun age-appropriate mother-daughter bonding opportunities and prayer times. (And, yes, there are occasionally other sorts of retreats that are held at the EM Center. Individual guests or private retreats can be arranged when space and timing are available.
Occasionally guests stay with us and then pilgrimage on to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, about an hour farther north.)
On the basement level you will find craft rooms and another gathering area, storage and inventory areas, a large laundry room (visualize 24 sets of sheets on a Saturday morning!) and the usual basement areas. One room is even designed as a ‘Man Cave’ for RECLAiM men’s meetings!
The focus of Elizabeth Ministry has always mirrored the visit and supportive relationship of Mary and Elizabeth–and in them, all women. As our “gotta rush, on the go” culture has developed, the convenience of digital interaction has made personal, face-to-face “time together” interaction even more rare, but more necessary and more significant. Those of us who are naturally more sociable and interactive — the “Intuitive Eves”, as opposed to the “Rational Adams”, especially need this personal heart-to-heart interaction — TEA or COFFEE — which is far more life-giving. Many women spend hours or days without having a meaningful conversation with another adult, but live with heart-wrenching sorrow and loneliness! It’s no wonder that depression has become so common!
It can be said that women deserve to be heard. What’s more important is that each person, especially each woman, needs first to be listened to by others. In the speaking and listening process, she often experiences healing through the validation, acceptance and understanding of others. This is something that women need. Women deserve it! Men do too!
One of the central themes of the Gospel according to John speaks of Jesus’ identity with us and with his Father. John 12:45: [Jesus says,] “Whoever puts faith in me believes not so much in me as in him who sent me; and whoever looks on me is seeing him who sent me.” Further along, in the washing of Jesus’ disciples’ feet–and the example could apply to any work of mercy — Jesus tells us, “If I washed your feet [‘listened to your story and dried your tears’] — I who am Teacher and Lord — then you must wash each other’s feet [‘…and dry their tears!’]. What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” (13:14-15) And further in chapter 13, verse 20, Jesus reminds us again, “I solemnly assure you, the one who receives anyone I send receives me, and in receiving me receives him who sent me.” What a gift we have been given! To bring about the healing of another as the Lord Jesus has done for us!
Those who are able to visit the headquarters of Elizabeth Ministry International are often impressed with the sense of comfort and welcome in spite of the busy-ness of life or the tasks at hand. Intentionally taking the time for TEA — Time Encouraging Another and COFFEE — Connecting Opportunities For Friendships, Encouragement and Enrichment, we meet one another, make an effort to listen to one another and are often forever changed by the encounter! As we welcome the one sent by the Lord Jesus, we welcome Jesus, and in welcoming Jesus, we welcome the Father who has sent us to each other. What a gift and a blessing!
So, today, wherever you are, have a spot of TEA; bring on the COFFEE! Reach out to someone in need! The simple effort of connecting, truly listening, and providing encouragement and enrichment can make a difference in the world around you! God knows it’s needed!