Refresh Your Soul

Conference inspires belief in God, heaven and healing

By Jeanne Palcic MGS, RN
Program Manager, Episcopal Retirement Homes Parish Health Ministry

Upon asking a number of attendees for their reflections on the 2014 Refresh Your Soul Conference held in March and how it changed their approach to ministry and/or life, I was inspired. Hearing the attitudes and impressions of these people gave me hope and lifted my spirit; a welcome after-conference renewal for my soul.

Lisa Hughes, a member at St. Andrew’s, Evanston, reflected on the keynote speaker, Dr. Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife . “Dr. Alexander’s talk and vivid stories about his near death experience of heaven and the audience response to him was one more confirmation that God loves, cherishes and forgives us, no matter who, no matter what. I spoke to a friend after the conference, I told her about an Esquire  article questioning the validity of his story and how receptive the people at the conference were, a group of intelligent people in a variety of jobs and professions. They are believers. They know the truth of what he says. I am a believer too. I believe in heaven and that we all go to heaven, that God forgives, and that heaven is here on earth. I experienced it in the people at Refresh Your Soul, all present to each other, sharing their stories, helping each other out, all were friends and friendly, kindred spirits.”

“I believe in heaven and that we all go to heaven, that God forgives, and that heaven is here on earth. I experienced it in the people at Refresh Your Soul…”
Lisa Hughes, conference attendee

Angela Horne of Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming, stated, “I read Proof of Heaven  prior to the conference and was both intrigued and inspired by the fact that Alexander is a neurosurgeon and that his experience was different from most near death experiences. I believe these are the facts that made his presentation so impressionable. He was very clear and honest about how difficult it has been for him to digest, understand and interpret what he experienced, despite his extensive base of medical knowledge.”

Pam Ward, Parish Nurse at Knox Presbyterian Church, shared, “Connecting heaven and healing is something I believe in and the information that was shared at the conference validated and strengthened that belief for me. When I encourage people who are suffering anxiety due to a new diagnosis or difficult transition to pay attention to their thoughts, and if they find themselves visiting those darkest, scariest possibilities that they are sure to do; to remember that a good outcome may be equally possible. To give the dark and the light at least equal time. These are not just words coming from me, I believe it, and they can tell. Hearing of Alexander’s experience has strengthened that for me and has given me another tool to share when encouraging and nudging hope for those I serve.”

Sandra Morrow, an ERH staff member, stated, “As Christians, sometimes we tend to have a very polarized view of life, with science on one end and spirituality on the other. Alexander suggests that science can be used to support the idea that there is a spiritual existence beyond our physical existence.” She adds, “Another thing I took away from his talk is the idea that difficult people and difficult circumstances are designed by God to be our greatest teachers in our life’s journey, so we should embrace them and try to learn the lesson that God is trying to teach us through them. These are both things that will influence the way I live my life and how I engage with others in ministry.”

“Difficult people and difficult circumstances are designed by God to be our greatest teachers in our life’s journey, so we should embrace them and try to learn the lesson that God is trying to teach us through them.”
Sandra Morrow, conference attendee

“What I learned from the Refresh Your Soul Conference is that it is vital to our well being to ‘live in the moment’, that is, to appreciate each and every moment of our lives and to not waste any of the precious time allotted to us. I also learned that each of us has a purpose for our lives, given to us by God, and we have to search for it in order to fulfill our true lives,” said Horne. She adds, “How this knowledge will change my life/ministry is to reinforce for me the necessity of being present/empathetic to others in pain, sickness or other troubles confided to me and to try to step into their shoes momentarily to envision a way to be of help, support to them in their earthly journey. Also important is to not forget to share in their joys and accomplishments in overcoming perceived obstacles in their lives.”

Hughes adds, “The harmony of the speakers’ messages continue to resonate. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I pray ‘on earth as it is in Heaven’ with more gusto. I’m a little less fearful, a little more confident, have a bit more courage, faith and trust. I am more likely to see life as ministry, that God has gifted each of us spiritually. My job is to polish those gifts and shine them as part of God’s healing light in the world. I invited a friend and colleague who treated this as part of her Sabbath because the experience and speakers fed her; according to her she feasted and will be back next year.”

The Refresh Your Soul Conference is sponsored annually by Episcopal Retirement Homes Parish Health Ministry. The 2014 conference was partially funded by a Faith in Life grant of the Diocese of Southern Ohio.