Years ago, Karen Ellison experienced an abortion. When she realized later on that she needed to heal from the experience, she joined a Bible study geared towards abortion recovery. She found that the format of meeting once a week for an hour over a period of six to 12 weeks was challenging for women seeking to go deep in their healing journey. Besides losing participants due to the length of the study, the process of “opening up” their hearts for an hour, and then seemingly “closing them back down” at the end of each meeting until the next week was a barrier to significant healing for the women.
Over seven years, Ellison and a team of like-minded individuals developed a weekend long abortion healing retreat format that they launched in 2008. Ellison spoke with Live Action News about what distinguishes Deeper Still among other abortion recovery options and about what participants encounter on a retreat weekend.
Ellison told Live Action News that Deeper Still takes a distinctively Christian approach. The Deeper Still team understands that healing from abortion is not just a matter of telling your story and grieving in a natural sense. Rather, healing from abortion requires a literal transformation of the heart that can only occur through the power of Jesus Christ. That heart-level transformation opens individuals first to seek forgiveness for the abortion but then also to extend forgiveness to others involved in the abortion decision.
Deeper Still weekend retreats are offered free of charge to both men and women. The team strives to “provide a safe space full of God’s presence,” and off-site prayer warriors pray for this intention throughout the entire weekend. Symbols are used throughout the weekend to help make the reality of each aborted child’s life concrete and tangible. Each participant receives a teddy bear, a universal child’s toy, to help them connect with their child or children lost to abortion.
Over the course of the weekend, participants are encouraged to name their children and to acknowledge the loss of an actual family member. Participants are also encouraged to acknowledge that abortion damages a mother’s heart or a father’s heart. As they heal, participants find that they can finally stop parenting their living children out of a place of guilt, shame, and/or compensation for the abortion(s) in their past.
Team members also lead participants to consider what made them abortion-vulnerable in the first place. They are encouraged both to take responsibility for those actions and to receive healing from those wounds as well. The weekend closes with a memorial service, where participants are able to acknowledge, honor, and grieve their children from a place of peace rather than restlessness, anger, guilt, etc.
Followup includes a reunion six weeks later, to which spouses or close friends are invited. Participants are encouraged to connect with a local church community, and are given a “Letter to Your Pastor” that explains the experience that they have just been through on the weekend. Referrals are also given as needed for local assistance such as counseling, since participants often find that abortion is a foundational wound, and that healing from it leads them to seek healing for other wounds that contributed to their abortion decision.
In 12 years, Deeper Still has grown to include 14 chapters in the U.S., plus a Spanish retreat in California and a Chinese retreat in Knoxville. They are also developing retreat teams in China and Taiwan. Each chapter’s team is trained by the Knoxville team to conduct retreats in their home cities and states. Their ministry teams are made up of people who have had an abortion as well as those who have not.
In addition to leading retreats and training other teams, Ellison wrote a book last year called “Healing the Hurt that Won’t Heal: Freedom for the Abortion-Wounded and Help for the Church that They Fear.” She told Live Action News that the book is for post-abortive individuals as well as for churches, to assist them in creating a culture of healing in their congregations. The book is available from their website, GoDeeperStill.org, or through Amazon.
Millions of men and women are abortion-wounded in our country. Whether they seek healing 5, 10, 20, or 30 years after their abortion experiences, Deeper Still seeks to meet their needs and to facilitate healing and lasting freedom.
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