Below you will find testimonies from professionals and survivors who support Racheal’s Rest or have benefited from Racheal’s Rest’s retreats. The names of participants have been changed to protect the privacy and rights of each retreat participant, but nothing else has been altered.
I am excited about my life and what is ahead, but it hasn’t always been that way. Many painful experiences in childhood left me feeling alone and heavy burdened. Having a special needs sibling produced challenges and pain within the family; however it was the endless turmoil of being pulled into constant fighting that took its toll. It left me screaming for help on the inside. I yearned for someone to notice and to take time with me and care about what I was going through. All the past hurts over the years mounted into this heavy load that I had gotten used to carrying.
I was not raised in church but I loved going whenever I could. At 8 years of age I received Jesus as my Savior during Vacation Bible School. Around that t same time, I was sexually abused by a stranger who gave me some nickels afterward. I convinced myself that nothing bothered me so I could detach from the pain the abuse was causing. The nightmares stopped. Separating from all the trauma and chaos seemed to work, I thought.
But as the years went by I began getting into trouble in school and was using my lunch money to buy pills. I started smoking cigarettes, marijuana and drinking alcohol. I became promiscuous and battled with a long term sex addiction. Closely held pride, rebellion, and the need to control was wreaking havoc on my life and to those around me and I engaged in illicit relationships that hurt families. I suffered with anxiety, anger, depression, and the effects of PTSD and became defensive and overly self-conscious. I felt rejected, emotionally abandoned, and had a negative and low self-image. As soon as I turned 18 years old I had an abortion. It seemed like an easy solution to avoid being screamed at for being pregnant. I told the assistant that I would NEVER do this again, but just before my 26th birthday I found myself there again for another secret abortion.
God led me to a place of opening my eyes and that’s when things started to change. I began to see the connection of my past in relation to how I had been living and I began to feel again. For a while, I didn’t know how to manage those feelings, emotions, and the overwhelming pain I felt. The nightmares returned. I started cutting in an attempt to divert the pain away from my emotions because I could no longer bury them. Questions and beliefs I’d held deep down for a long time surfaced. I wrestled with why God allowed those men to sexually abuse me. I had doubts of His love for me, convinced He chose and loved others way more than me. Consuming thoughts of planning my suicide began plaguing my mind again. I felt deeply hurt towards God and couldn’t trust Him to get close to my pain, even though I knew He was the answer. I went through a season of not being able to pray, held God at arm’s length, and rejected His voice. Yet He never stopped wooing me to Himself, showing His faithful and unfailing love for me over and over again, slowing tearing down the wall I had build around my heart.
God pulled me up out of my brokenness and led me on a journey of healing towards a life of hope, purpose, and freedom in Him. He replaced the lies I believed with the truth and has shown me that He is a good Father and trusted Friend. And I saw His tender love as far, far greater than any pain ever endured. He has given me what I needed so that I can now honor and embrace the lives of my babies lost to abortion, along with continuing to work in the relationship with my daughter and three grandchildren. God doesn’t withdraw or turn us away until we can get ourselves together. NO, he steps in closer!
Racheal’s Rest is one of the ministries God used for His healing work in my life. I attended the week-long retreat in 2013 and I am so glad I did.
My Story - from a retreat attendee
Karen and Susan,
I committed to attending Racheal’s Rest not exactly sure what to expect even though I had read the information online. I was nervous, a little afraid of the topics we’d discuss, and that it would be intense. Both of you were supportive in everything we did and said, and it helped to be affirmed and to be able to share any personal information and know that it was a safe place. Your personalities, the set up of the “classes”, your personal experiences, and your professional experience helped me be able to share much more than I thought I’d be able to before arriving. Thank you so much for the activities away from the lodging and for being available to talk with us individually any time we needed. Thank you too for the creative ways we were able to share our story and helping us be aware of messages we’d been given by others. That part was especially helpful for me- the outline of our bodies with specific information was a different way of telling my story. The paper bags and whatever came to us as we looked through magazines to share more. All the activities and sharing time were appropriate for our situations and the ways and words you used were effective and confirmation of our thoughts and feelings. Thank you for taking the time to search for a counselor in my area- something I didn’t ask you to do, but something you willingly did because I needed it. The really great thing is I can take the activities I completed and share them with my new counselor to help me share information he needs to know. I have a session tomorrow and that’s my intent. Racheal’s Rest was definitely worth the investment. I’m so thankful I came across it and didn’t allow all the road blocks before me to stop me from being a part of that week. Thank you for every part of the week. I pray that others who’ve experienced or are experiencing trauma will make their way to the retreat. It was good for all of us even though we came from a variety of circumstances. Another thank you for following up and checking on me. …and congratulations on the property you’ve acquired for Racheal’s Rest. Many blessings to you as you work on getting everything ready, and for your interest and desire to help many other victims.
Racheal's Rest Retreat Participant
Karen and her Staff are highly recommended in this delicate and difficult topic of sexual hurt…. I have known her for many years and she has both the competence and compassion to bring warmth and wisdom to the victims of childhood sexual abuse. Their Retreats cover it all in actually transforming lives! I have learned much from her and you will too….
Dr. Sam Serio
Author of "Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting" www.HealingSexualHurt.com
As a nurse I have witnessed the devastating effects that sexual abuse has on girls and woman. I remember one girl in particular. She was 16 when I watched her die from anorexia. I believe that had she had a safe place like RR to talk, grieve, share, and heal, things could have had a much better ending for her and her family. We are mind, body and spirit, so when a woman is violated and left with no support; her mind, body and spirit are at high risk to become sick. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Dr Karen is highly trained to help woman navigate through the trauma, into the light. No woman should have to suffer alone with shame, fear and/or guilt. Dr Karen knows how to help restore their dignity and confidence. With proper help, there is life after abuse. ?
I highly recommend RR as a safe place to heal and take back control of your life. Dr Karen will guide you along the path to wholeness. She will journey alongside of you and gently point you in the right direction, till you remember how to shine again, or perhaps for the first time.
Lauren DeMarco, BSN
My experience during my week at Racheal’s Rest Retreat: Upon meeting all attendees all kinds of fears flooded my mind – where do I fit in? There was fear in not knowing what God would reveal to me. Yet without a doubt I knew that it was the Lord who planted me right then and there-knowing that I would come out at the end of the week being better for it.We all seemed to have an unspoken, yet overwhelming compassion for each other – ALL of us – staff and attendees alike. Mere strangers…loving, laughing, compassionate and respecting each other’s own internal world of pain.I was safe. What a feeling! And judgment? No matter how hard I searched, there was no judgment towards me or my other new-found friends there.There definitely is (not “was”) abounding hope for me for once. For the first time, I felt as if everyone there stood beside me hand-in-hand, brave enough to help me confront my pain and my abusers… and helped me begin the process of shaming my abusers and realizing I have been carrying all the shame and guilt they should have been bearing all of these years. Praise God! I learned that being in nature; it’s sounds, it’s smells, the warmth of the sun and the breeze as it consumed me – as if God himself reached down caressing my face – reassuring me His peace is always with me. There was no pressure, no expectations and a great amount of understanding.LAUGHTER-SO WONDERFUL TO SHARE IT! I’ve learned I sometimes use it as my mask, yet how humbling and freeing it is to share with others. I thank God for Racheal, for the Bible Study she attended and for the legacy of her life of pain; now helping me. Thank you to all who provide for the scholarship funding and for Karen and Susan allowing God to work through them.
Taking my daughter to Karen McDonald was the best decision I could ever make following her abuse. We tried several other avenues that were recommended we follow through the police protocol, and none were helping or therapeutic at all. It was only when we met with Karen that my daughter began healing and being able to process her confused and hurt feelings from the abuse that was sadly placed upon her. Karen is so gentle with children and encouraging with them. My daughter was able to process scary and dark feelings, without even realizing it, through art or gentle discussion or games. She never felt afraid to see Karen and yet was afraid to see the so-called state-funded centers that were supposed to support her after abuse. It was only in the hands of a truly loving and Christian counselor that she was able to finally begin the process of healing. She is now far more adjusted, far more open and has hope again, thanks to Karen and her wonderful way she has with children.
Mother of an eight-year-old
I came into counseling full of shame and with a history of broken relationships. I learned that only when I love and value myself would others give me the respect I deserve. Now I have hope and anticipation for my future.
Missy, Age 22
Racheal’s Rest is a safe place where healing begins. We shared our stories of abuse and the effects on our lives. It was a week of healing and getting closer to God. You will be forever changed. Thank you for the love and support.
Racheal’s Rest was amazing. I was a little hesitant in coming because I’d never done anything like this before. But it brought out feelings and strength that I didn’t know I even had. The setting was perfect and the blend between sessions and fun was awesome. Karen and Susan made me feel so comfortable. I made a bond with the other ladies that I will keep forever. The tools and coping skills I learned are just what I needed to begin healing. I now know that I deserve to be happy and that God has an unwavering love for me. Suggestion……REUNION NEXT YEAR!!
It’s never too late to get a life. I spent 65 years with my secret, but no longer! I feel free for the first time ever!
Martha, Age 70
I cannot say enough about the counseling program at Crossroads/Racheal’s Rest. I brought my six-year-old for counseling after she tolerated a year of undisclosed sexual abuse. It has been a slow journey, but I feel like I got my little girl back. The family support is incredible. I can now release some of the guilt I felt as a mother for not knowing and doing something sooner. I also learned how to “abuse proof” my other children.
Juanita, Age 36
Coming to this retreat was so good for me. I was able to speak about things that I have never been able to.
Racheal’s Rest was a blessing. It was a joining of people from different walks of life and their struggles and journeys of their darkest moments. It was an acceptance of one’s life and recognition of one’s pain that allows us to move forward in life. Hearing others’ pain and struggle allowed me to feel less isolated, as though I was not the only one going through life with these terrible experiences. It provided me a union of sisterhood.
Mother of 3
I want to come here every day. It’s fun, and I feel safe. I learned no one has the right to hurt me and if they do, it’s not my fault. I’m a superhero because I told, and now the bad guy can’t hurt me or any other children anymore.
Antonia, Age 4