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Pastors’ wives get pampered

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“It’s been like a cleansing,” Kim Wesson said toward the end of a Saturday “spa day” at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

Wesson, an assistant pastor’s wife at New Covenant Baptist Church, said she had looked forward to the day “ever since my husband told me about it. I deserve it! It’s a treat in the hectic day-to-day life we all lead.”

For Joanie Gestes, whose husband Jackie is pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Metairie, “One of the best things is to just get away — and with women who are in ministry.

“We heard about this at the [associational] annual meeting, and my husband encouraged me to go,” Gestes said. “He looked on the calendar and this was the only day in May that we didn’t have something going on -– the only day in the entire month.”

The six-hour spa day, attended by about 70 wives of New Orleans-area pastors and other ministry leaders, was pieced together with donations from Florida, Virginia, Arkansas as well as Louisiana. The women were treated to a massage, hand therapy, “girl stuff” treats, door prizes, counsel and prayer for those who wanted it, plus stirring messages, comedic interludes and pure-toned worship.

For many of the pastors’ wives, however, simple chit-chat with their peers was what made the day so special. Massages ran a close second.

Unlike other working women, a pastor’s wife’s “job” comes into her home on a 24/7 basis at times. The demands on her time from a dozen or dozens of people who want “just this one little thing,” plus caring for her husband and youngsters, often leaves virtually no time a pastor’s wife can call her own.

“Not having to think about anything -– I needed that,” Wesson said. “Just clear your mind; that’s what I’ve been doing [during the spa day].”

Rebecca Hughes and Kathy Frady -– both married to ministers in the New Orleans association –- came up with the idea in January after attending the association’s weekly fellowship meeting.

“When we went, we were almost the only women there,” Hughes said. “We got to thinking that the pastors had this group, but what about their wives? And that’s how it started.”

The first task after setting a date was to find the wives of pastors and ministers.

“That was a challenge in itself,” Hughes said. “Everything has changed since Katrina. Nobody knew where anyone was. We’ve moved three times ourselves!”

They talked with the association’s director of missions, Joe McKeever, who connected them with the associational women’s ministry director, Terri Dickson, and after hundreds of phone calls, Hughes and Frady were satisfied they had done all they could to find correct home addresses so invitations could be mailed.

Next, they contacted people they knew to see if they could help make the day as special as possible.

Fairview Heights Baptist Church in Portsmith, Va., provided “girl stuff” such as eye shadow, sponges, nail polish and fingernail files. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention gave money. Christy Salee in Lakeland, Fla., provided boxes of her private-label “hand therapy” -– foaming milk bath, sugar scrub and lotion in two scents: Bahama Mama and Honey-Kissed Jasmine.

“Christy prayed over each box as she packaged it,” Hughes recounted, “and guess what? She calls her business ‘Kiki’s Suds.’ ‘Kiki’ means ‘home’ in Cree, [a Native American language]. So these products named ‘home’ are for women some of whom aren’t yet in their homes. That was a real special moment, when she told me that.”

The money Arkansas Baptists gave provided lunch, snacks and decorations to make the association’s Baptist Student Union room feel like a high-end spa. Laywomen from Riverside and Celebration churches ministered to the women by administering spa treatments, serving food and being ready with hugs and smiles to make each woman feel noticed and special.

Plan A for Hughes and Frady was that one woman would be getting a massage between large group sessions and another would receive hand therapy while a third would have opportunity to meet with someone for prayer and a fourth could visit with a counselor.

“We didn’t think that every woman would be wanting a massage,” Frady said. “But they did…. [T]hey wanted that touch. That’s what people have been missing ever since Katrina. Everyone’s been holding themselves in so tightly, to maintain control I guess, that they haven’t been reaching out and touching.”

Amber Barone, a professional massage therapist and missions student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, found time to give 10-minute massages to each of the women at the six-hour conference by not taking breaks or lunch.

“This has been definitely fun for me,” Baroni said at day’s end. “Everyone I touch, I hope God touches them the way He touches me.”

While waiting for her massage, Fran Chatham said, “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing for pastor’s wives.” Her husband “Skider” is with the North American Mission Board-sponsored initiative to rebuild 1,000 homes in the New Orleans area.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute,” Chatham said. “Just getting to talk with other women in ministry is a real treat.”

Barone said many people in ministry may think they have dealt with Hurricane Katrina’s impact and have begun moving on, but their bodies tell a different story.

“I didn’t have a lot of time with anyone, so I’d ask them what was most bothering them,” Barone said. “It wasn’t just one thing. It was everything: pain in the lower back, shooting pains, migraines. Nobody had just one thing that was hurting.”

Hughes talked about that in her three messages to the women on rest, rejuvenation and recovery, beginning with the exhortation to learn to live in a constant state of resting in God. Rejuvenation, she said in the next message, comes from being in healthy supportive relationships, finding joy in simple everyday things and in rejoicing over one’s identity in Christ.

The women were riveted through Hughes’ third focal point, recovery, as she talked about the need to feel the pain of life rather than denying it.

“We ministers’ wives like to make sure everything is OK, and sometimes we ignore problems, hoping they will simply disappear,” Hughes said. “… Forgiveness takes the knife out so that our wounds can begin to heal…. We are recovered when we, like [the Apostle] Paul, can boast in our weaknesses and sufferings because they make way for Christ’s power in us.”

Angela Foy, wife of Pastor Kenneth Foy, who is restarting New Life Ministry in New Orleans with a fragment of his pre-Katrina congregation, breathed an audible sigh of relief as Hughes concluded her third message during the day.

“What she said was so refreshing,” Foy said. “It was like she was walking through my life. I identified with a whole lot of what she said. Ministers’ wives don’t know what it’s like to rest. I needed what I got here today.”

Foy said worship led by Katie Boudreaux, a teacher at Crescent City Christian School in New Orleans, “definitely ministered to my soul.”

“There’s nothing like praise and worship. That’s between you and God.”

Kathy Frady stirred the audience to laughter as she caricatured the life of a pastor’s wife.

In character as Betty Lou Maconohey, a 1950s-era pastor’s wife, Frady spoke with comedic timing about the joy she had in serving the church with no thought of herself.

“So I said of course I’d volunteer to watch 27 two-year-olds in our nursery,” the comedic dramatist said. “It was such a blessing!”

Hughes and Frady said after the gathering that they have begun developing ways of ministering to pastors’ wives across the nation, now that they’ve seen the response they’ve received locally. Their websites: Frady, www.thecreativedramatist.com; Hughes, www.womanontheedge.org.

“For now, I have a satisfied smile, sort of like the cat that ate the canary,” Hughes said. “I am overjoyed at the privilege I had of speaking to these women, looking in their beautiful, sometimes teary eyes, and cheering them on. I know well the burdens they carry, and it is wonderfully satisfying to know that Jesus loved on them through … all the women who were there to minister to those who usually do the ministering.”