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‘Wounded’ ministers & wives to receive help at ‘Heroes’ retreat

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Thirty couples who have spent their lives in ministry to others, but who now feel in need of a caring touch themselves will be the objects of ministry during a Wounded Heroes retreat at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center Feb. 8-12.
The 30 couples, selected from hundreds who have made inquiries about the retreat, will be treated at no charge to five days of encouragement and fellowship with some of the most widely known people in Southern Baptist life and to counseling and therapy from Christian psychologists and licensed and certified counselors and therapists.
The retreat is the fourth in a program begun in 1998 by evangelist Freddie Gage to minister to the thousands of Southern Baptist ministers, missionaries and evangelists and their families who find themselves in crisis but often have no one to turn to for help or no money to pay for it.
“More than 6,000 Southern Baptist ministers walk away from their ministries each year,” Gage said. “Some 1,200 are fired. Almost eight out of l0 pastors and their spouses are discouraged or deal with depression, and half of those are experiencing burnout. Few of them have anyone with whom they really can share their burdens.”
Gage, who has suffered from clinical depression himself, began the Wounded Heroes retreats in 1998 to try to help with the problem. Two retreats and a luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention to highlight the need were held last year and offered help to more than 50 pastors and their wives from 23 states and three foreign countries.
The 30 couples who will attend the Ridgecrest retreat have been selected from thousands who have contacted Gage’s office in Euless, Texas, since the ministry was begun a year ago.
“Our phones ring daily with cries for help,” Gage said. “There is a world of hurt out there among Southern Baptist ministers and their wives and families, and there has been no place for them to turn for help. Wounded Heroes has become the paramedic for the bruised and broken in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The passion God has given me is for the stressed-out, burned-out, worn down, depressed, discouraged, broken, bruised ministers and missionaries who are afraid to seek help because of the stigma Baptists have placed on those suffering from emotional problems,” Gage said.
“I have been there. The Wounded Heroes ministry is my way of giving back to all Southern Baptists who were used of God to help me.”
Gage raises the funds to underwrite the costs of psychologists, counselors and therapists who offer professional, confidential help at the retreats in group and individual sessions. He thanked James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, for donating funding for the meals and lodging for the Ridgecrest retreat.
He also thanked the dozens of people who have volunteered their help as “encouragers.” They will give personal testimonies of triumph over adversity.
Encouragers at the Ridgecrest retreat will include Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, and his wife Bobbye; Dick Maples, director of church/minister relations for the Baptist General Convention of Texas; Fred Lowery, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La., and his wife, Leigh; Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and his wife, Janet; Michael Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, S.C.; Ike Reighard of NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga., and his wife, Robin; Millie Cooper, wife of Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas; Jerry Spencer, evangelist based at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Dothan, Ala.; and Phil Lineberger, pastor of Williams Trace Baptist Church, Sugar Land, Texas.
People interested in attending future retreats or in paying the expenses of participants to attend can contact Wounded Heroes Inc., P.O. Box 156, Euless, TX 76039; 1-800-880-0264.

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  • Toby Druin