Thursday, January 7, 2010

A story out of the Manitoba Cooperator ~ "Women's Retreat Centre To Be Built" by Sheila Braun, Freeland Writer ~ December 2009 Edition

Women’s Retreat Centre to be Built
BY SHEILA BRAUN  – freelance writer
Joy Klassen, a mother and former farmer  has experienced valleys in life and now wants to create a restful place for women who are facing challenges or difficulties.  She looks forward to the new year (even though it will probably include moving from her farm which she has called home for 26 years) and opening and operating her new business.
Klassen and her husband  began their farm near Anola, MB in 1983. “We had a cow/calf operation and also made hay for our cattle.  We farmed while both working full-time jobs in the city.  What began with one cow as a hobby expanded into 70 cattle. Then the BSE crisis hit just when we had wanted to get out of farming and the rest is history,” said Klassen. They let friends use their pasture for cattle summer till fall,  and Klassen said, “I’m still walking through cow pies and even chasing calves back into the fence.”
Klassen enjoyed her time farming and will always cherish memories of new life in spring when calves were born. “I am glad that our children got to see creation on a daily basis and remember bringing calves into our mudroom when they were born in winter, and blowing them dry with the blow dryer.” She is grateful that her children learned the value of hard work through assisting with chores on the farm.  The children had experiences that many children would only dream about while living in the city.
However, with the sale of the animals, she would not miss the stress of  trying to get the hay baled when it rained constantly and not knowing if they would get enough feed to last all winter.  Klassen said, “Often, it seemed like as my husband was going into the city for his night shift as a firefighter, there would be a calf about to be born. I wasn’t so happy about the night visits outside to check on progress.” She also recalls the challenges of the long days when they often ate supper together at 10 p.m.
As a mother, Klassen has also experienced events in her life that seem to “make no sense.”  She says one of the most challenging times in her life was July 2008 when her grandson Jay Benjamin Klassen was “born silently”.  “He was healthy and alive up until minutes before his entry into the world and it was the worst of nightmares when he entered the world lifeless, without a heart beat. The medical team worked hard to try to revive him, but couldn’t.”  She said their hearts felt like they were literally blown into a million pieces. Naturally, Klassen had many questions for God as she struggled with grief. Her faith sustained her as she tried viewing this difficult time as a catalyst for growth in her own life. “I believe I learned two things from my grandson’s birth and death: how to care for others and that I needed to move forward with the idea of the women’s retreat home.”
Klassen said, “It began simply with the idea of a place where women could go to be refreshed and then the idea grew and grew.” She felt that it was time to retire from her position as a day care director at Sugar-N-Spice Kiddie Haven Inc. that she and her father began 20 years earlier. After 25 years in the childcare field, Klassen switched lanes to explore a women’s retreat center.
A few years after the initial idea in 2000, Klassen penned the vision statement which began, “It will be a home, located near Winnipeg, that women from all walks of life can retreat to—to be renewed through the time away, refueled through the quietness that the home has to offer, and refreshed in a retreat setting away from full and busy lives.”
Klassen embarked on her dream by first meeting with a real estate agent. Then she filed the article of incorporation which was approved as “Women Refreshed at the Well”. She formulated a business plan and met with a lawyer to work through by-laws. Another important step was applying to become a non-profit organization with charitable status in addition to creating a board of directors.
Klassen’s dream simmered on the back burner for seven years while she filled a pastoral role at her church in Winnipeg. She had the opportunity to work with women of all ages and again saw the need for a women’s retreat home in the province. “I have seen too many women who do not know how beautiful, how precious, how loved and treasured they are in the eyes of the One who made them,” said Klassen. Originally Klassen had envisioned the retreat to be located in the city of Winnipeg close to a bus stop. However, her son suggested to build one building that housed both their personal home and the retreat center. Klassen remembers him saying, “Mom, people don’t come to your house because of the way you have it decorated. They come because it feels warm here – warm because you live in it! You will never get that feeling in a retreat house that you come and go from as needed!”
Last summer, 19 acres of land was purchased on Henderson Hwy. 13 km north of the perimeter, in the community of Narol. The 3,700 square foot home and retreat center will include five guestrooms, a library, an exercise room, a creative room and space for a counselor and a massage therapist.  The living area will have plenty of room to “sit in your pajamas and read,” says Klassen, and the grounds will feature prayer paths and gardens. Keeping with their rural roots, the unique barn/shop on the property will primarily house her husband’s tractors, vehicles, and tools while the loft over the barn will be designed for large group sessions or parties.
The retreat will be available for women who aren’t necessarily “escaping from reality” but just need a short break.  Each woman can book the time that she feels she needs.   Klassen said, “Maybe a mom of four children just needs a few hours to sleep” or  to process events or decisions in life. There will be five rooms available for women to stay overnight similar to bed and breakfast arrangements.
Klassen’s husband and adult children are strong support and encouragement in this adventure toward the planning, building and running of the retreat.  As she continues to meet with the architect and as they make plans to begin construction of the house in Spring 2010,  her goal to create a retreat center that feels warm and inviting is at the forefront of her mind. She aims to offer a place of peace where women can rest from the hustle and bustle and simply “be.”
For more information contact

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Feeling a little like a big long freefall!

Joy here!  Thank you for checking into the blogspot to find out the latest.  I have been somewhat occupied, as we just welcomed our second little grandSON into our family!  Everett John Klassen was born on December 19th.  If you wish to see some very cute pictures, you can check out my personal blogspot at
However ~ I am assuming that you are checking into the Women Refreshed blogspot to find out what is new, or what has happened lately.  So, allow me to bring you up to date.
Here are a few details to chronicle the journey up to now.
In September we hosted the come, walk and pray on our land that will be the future home of WRATW and our personal home.
October 1st we put our home/land in Anola, Manitoba, up for sale.  We were thinking that perhaps we were already getting into a bad time of year for home sales, but we are trusting God on it all.
At the same time, October 9th to the 16th, I flew to Colorado Springs, Colorado to take a week of intensive teaching/interaction under the direction of Dr. Larry Crabb (New Way Ministries).  I was one of 30 students in the School of Spiritual Direction, class #33.  It was an amazing week ~ simply amazing.  I firmly believe that this is where God wanted and needed me to be.  I also believe that God is going to use this time for His purposes when it comes time to operate the retreat centre.
However when I returned home, and found out that our house had not been shown yet ~ I felt somewhat discouraged.  It just seemed that we were hearing God on what we needed to do, and now we were ready to sell ~ ready to move ~ and no one was interested.  I will be honest, I struggled with the “non-sale” of our home.  I walked, and walked… I talked with the Lord, I wept, I prayed some more…
At the same time we were experiencing one of the nicest falls ever!  Alvin was hoping that he would still be able to pour the foundation of our barn/shop before winter.  However, we were waiting for the plans for the shop and also for the house.  The municipality needed both at such time as we went for a building permit.  Jerald was working hard on the plans.
Meanwhile Lori Mayer who does graphic design, willingly worked on a logo as well as on letterhead for the ministry.  Lori donated her time to this and I was so grateful!
We decided to dig up some trees from our land in Anola, and plant them on the land on Henderson.  But where do we plant them so that they won’t be run over when the big trucks eventually begin coming onto the land with building supplies?  Regardless, it was fun to plant a few trees.
Right around this time, my daughter-in-law Leah said to me ~ that it seemed that God moved, and we followed.  Then he moved some more, and we followed some more.  And then God told us to jump, and we did, and now it seemed like we were in this big long free-fall.  That is really how I feel ~ but that being said, I know that I am not going to hit the ground and be splattered all over the ground.  I know that God has his hands on us, and on this ministry, and while we do not understand his time line ~ we know that HE DOES have a timeline for Women Refreshed at the Well!
During the fall, I had the joy of getting a few more financial donations!  This is so wonderful ~ to see a tangible affirmation of God’s hand on this ministry!  Little by little (a hundred dollars at a time) our bank account is growing!  We have come to dream about the furniture that will be needed for instance, to furnish the five bedrooms for retreat use, or the furniture in the chapel, library, sunroom and so on.
It was also a real answer to prayer, to have Wayne Schellenberg take over the role of treasurer.  Wayne comes from a long banking background, and while our books are very simple – it was nice to turn them over to him!  I praise God for Wayne’s interest and willingness to be involved!
As November wound up, we decided to take our house off the market.  At this point Alvin and I were really okay with this decision.  As I walked the perimeter of our land in Anola, I continued to give our home and land to the Lord.  The bottom line is:  we need to sell our house in order to go forward on building our home/retreat house in spring.  Financially, selling our house is a must! So as I walk, I have been “giving it to the Lord” and praying in advance for the person/persons who will buy our home after winter when we re-list it.
As far as our plans go ~ our barn/shop (which we had originally thought we would be able to build in fall) ~ we are still waiting to have the plans finalized.  And our house/retreat house plans, we are still going over with Jerald.  We are trying to keep our plans to a size that we can afford to build, and that stays big enough for 5 women to stay at one time, but the right size to feel “warm and inviting”.  Blue Jay Family Works has talked a little about when building will begin, etc.  Please pray about these plans, and about the guys as they plan on the build, Lord Willing in Spring.  Somehow it doesn’t seem too far away now that it is January 1st.
Last but not least, there was an article written by Sheila Braun for the Manitoba Cooperator.  She had read the article in Christian Week, and after we talked via email a bit – she asked if she could write an article, and I am so pleased and grateful again that God has opened one more avenue. Today when I checked I was pleasantly surprised to find an email in response to the ChristianWeek story, as well as an email in response to the Manitoba Cooperator.  And – both writers did not live in Manitoba currently!  It is very exciting to see how God is working in all of this!  I am so excited!
So please pray:
  • for Jerald as he fine-tunes the house plans
  • for the person/persons who will buy our Anola house and our land.  We are praying that whoever buys our place will love it as much as we have.  We are also praying for the “right selling price”.
  • for the guys (Josh Klassen, Michael Thiessen and Alvin Klassen aka Blue Jay Family Works, as they make plans for the build)
  • for those willing to donate financially toward the ministry
  • for a couple new board members to join the board
  • for God to continue to use the articles to his glory!
Thank you for reading this long post!  I just wanted to bring you up to date finally, on where things are at with the ministry.