The Resilient Faith Project...
was born out of the most difficult season of my life. My husband, Stephen, and I were serving as missionaries to Italy a few years ago and all at once, everything began to fall apart. Our financial resources dried up, our kids were struggling to make friends and acclimate to a new culture, and our marriage was being tested in ways we had never imagined.
Then Stephen went through a medical crisis that had us navigating a foreign health system and eventually landed him in the hospital. With limited language skills and no real answers about what was making him so sick, we felt scared and helpless.
However, the clincher came when our daughter, who had been deeply depressed for months, tried to take her own life. Suddenly we realized that this call we had believed in for so long and fought tooth and nail to follow was wreaking havoc on our family. Little did we know at the time that God had a much bigger plan than we even realized.
Brandy and Stephen Verner
Back to the States
After much prayer and soul searching, as well as seeking advice from wise counsel, we made the heart-wrenching decision to move back to the States. Stephen and I felt like complete failures in both ministry and family, but we were determined to get our daughter the help that she needed to heal and begin to pick up the broken pieces of our life.
Within a few weeks, we tied up all the loose ends on the field and boarded a plane back to the U.S. with no real plan on how to start over. Our family was coming back to nothing – no house, no jobs, no cars, no furniture. We had sold almost everything we owned to follow God’s call.
Thankfully, Stephen was able to get started with freelance work almost immediately and we rented a house in our old hometown of Athens, GA. When we moved in, the collective belongings for our family of 4 barely filled the back of a pickup truck. Between scouring thrift stores and being given hand-me-down furniture and household items, our house began to feel more like a home. Slowly, life started to get back to some sense of normalcy, at least on the outside.
On the inside, I was devastated by everything we had been through. For months, I grieved all the losses of what we had given up - the culture we had come to love, the church that we had been a part of, the people we had done life with, the vision that God had given us many years before that we had worked so hard to make a reality.
But no one really understood the grief I was feeling. Well-meaning people would say, “I bet you guys are glad to be back home!” I would just smile and nod because I knew I could never fully explain how the heart can love a place so deeply that leaving it behind felt like ripping yourself in half. Laying down the calling that we had dedicated almost a decade of our lives to felt more like a death than just a trans-continental move.
But most of all, I wrestled with the toll that following the Lord had taken on our family. At times, the guilt I felt for how our ministry had impacted our kids was overwhelming. The "what if" questions haunted me. What if our daughter's suicide attempt had been successful? If we had not followed God's call, would our son have escaped being bullied? Watching our kids continue to struggle even after our return from Italy, knowing their faith was slipping, led to many sleepless nights and a hard knot in my stomach that just wouldn’t go away.
Searching for Significance
Through all of this, I was desperately trying to make sense of what had happened and figure out how to move forward. Even though I didn’t understand why God had allowed things to turn out the way they did, I still loved Him. Sometimes it felt like He had forgotten us, but I still longed to serve Him.
Searching for a way to reconnect with God and my calling, I thought a short-term mission trip might help me feel useful again. For so long I had mistakenly entangled my worth with what I was accomplishing for the Lord. Stumbling across a ministry online called Beauty for Ashes, I signed up for a domestic mission trip in NE Georgia, just an hour away from our home.
I went on the trip intending to serve my way back into feeling good about myself and God, but that week I encountered the Lord in a way I had not in a long time. Surrounded by a group of supportive, godly women, I realized how my view of God had become distorted over the years and how that had wrongly affected my identity.
That revelation started me on a journey of deep connection with the Father and a true understanding of who I am in Christ. It also led me to discover the healing that could be found in belonging to an authentic community that allowed me to be vulnerable about my struggles and encouraged me to look to God for answers. I began to lay down the unrealistic expectations that I and others had placed on me and embrace the freedom and unrelenting love that God has for each one of us.
As I experienced restoration and greater intimacy with the Father, He lovingly revealed how He had used the difficulties my family had gone through to bring us closer to Himself and to each other. What I thought would destroy my faith became the foundation that will allow me to love and serve God over the long haul. And it gave me a new passion - to help others seek God’s redemption for the hard parts of their stories.
A New Vision
Over the last several years, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of people, both in the U.S. and overseas, seek healing and wholeness through the ministry of Beauty for Ashes.
During that time, I've encountered countless ministry leaders struggling with burnout and brokenness. As they have shared their stories, parts of them were like echoes of my own. Slowly the Lord began to reveal a new vision…
A vision for a ministry that would give missionaries, pastors, and other Christian leaders a place of belonging with others who understand the challenges of ministry.
A place to process what they are experiencing and be authentic about their feelings.
A place to connect with God in ways that bring refreshment and transformation to weary souls.
A place that would allow leaders to cultivate faith that can withstand all the challenges that ministry brings.
And so, Resilient Faith Project was born.
Maybe your journey has been similar to mine. Or maybe your calling has brought about other difficulties. Whatever your story might be, there is a place for you here.
I invite you to join us as we seek to know God and ourselves better and help other leaders do the same. Please feel free to connect with us in one or more of the ways below.
May God bless you abundantly as you seek to serve Him from a place of wholeness.
For His Glory,