Twenty-five years is a long time. The year 1997 was marked by the deaths of Mother Teresa in India and of Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris. It was also the year of an important birth for me: The first Healing for Women Workshop was created for female sex and love addicts, and that initial program eventually grew into what is now Bethesda Workshops.

The ministry recently marked its 25th anniversary with a special evening of celebration attended by around 85 current and former staff, board members, and Bethesda Workshops’ alumni. It was an incredible event – moving and encouraging and very humbling.

A highlight of the evening was a period of open sharing where anyone was welcome to talk about what Bethesda Workshops has meant to them. The time went late as person after person stood to share vulnerably about this place for healing and how they had been impacted.

I could write pages about the celebration and what it was like to hear the impact that Bethesda Workshops has had on so many people, including on each of my adult children. Wow!

I think, though, that the commemoration is best described by the email I received a few days afterward from a woman who was present. She and her husband had come all the way through Bethesda’s programs: the Healing for Men, Healing for Partners, and Healing for Couples workshops. She said that she wanted me to know what she had written but hadn’t said publicly, then she gave permission to share her words:

I remember when Bethesda seemed like a far-off recommendation.

I remember when Bethesda was a glimmer of hope in the distance that I could only hope for.

I remember when Bethesda was a secret ultimatum.

I remember when Bethesda became an option.

I remember when Bethesda’s doors welcomed my husband and when my spirit bore witness to change.

I remember when Bethesda’s doors welcomed me at a time when I could hardly put one foot in front of the other.

I remember being so excited at what the individual workshops had done in our lives that we couldn’t wait to come back as a couple.

I remember Bethesda’s doors welcoming us to the Healing for Couples Workshop. This time not so scary. This time safety. This time home.

I’ll remember Bethesda because I refer to my Healing for Partners workbook over and over and over again, and I probably always will.

I’ll remember Bethesda because of memories of my six-year-old holding one of our name tags and saying, “Hi, I’m —- and I’m from ‘Pathesda.’” Or when I open our cabinet and see four of the most expensive water bottles that I’ve ever purchased.

Bethesda is a place where miracles happened. It was an emergency room for each of us, and then, better yet, an ICU for our marriage at the most critical time ever.

Bethesda has provided such a testimony in my life, and the relationships and tools I gained here are undeniable and irreplaceable.

I am so grateful! Thank you, Bethesda Workshops!

Rarely does someone get to experience his or her own celebration of life, which typically is a ceremony that occurs after the person has died. On the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Bethesda Workshops, though, I got to be a front-row witness to the impact of my life’s passion and work. It was holy ground, and it was an extremely vulnerable experience to receive the words that flowed for almost two hours.

As I shared at the celebration, I would never have chosen this path. (I intended to be an English teacher and then a journalist.) I’m not the courageous one that many people believe I am; I’ve just put one foot in front of the other for a long, long time and responded with a Yes! until I’ve become old. It’s always felt like this path chose me, and no one has benefitted more from Bethesda Workshops than I have.

I will forever be grateful to all those who have made Bethesda possible and to those who have dared to show up and therefore have experienced the healing that happens here. What redemption!

Here’s to the future!

Marnie C. Ferree