On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!
After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
—Acts 16:13–15 (The Message)
Equipping Lydia helps Christians, especially leaders, experience the deep well of God’s love through spiritual direction and retreats. Laura Baber, founder and spiritual director, says this ministry focuses on social workers, pastors and advocates, who often become overwhelmed by the losses and cruelty seen daily.
“Hunger in the Wesleyan community has grown exponentially, especially among leaders looking for a safe place to deepen their relationship with God and those wanting to live in the means of grace,” Laura said.
Almost ten years later, Equipping Lydia has expanded from two guests to an international ministry that welcomes a steady stream of guests seeking renewal. As Laura meets with people in a quiet, gentle space, she helps them explore their journey with God. Oftentimes, people experience hurt or injustice, but don’t have the space to process their suffering. Laura’s ministry encourages leaders to intentionally release the grief seen and experienced on the front lines of ministry.
“We don’t give advice and we don’t fix,” she said. “We ask soul questions and let the Holy Spirit guide. We just encourage people to enter the Shepherd’s pen and be restored. Our time together helps them over the threshold to a place of quiet and rest.”
Laura herself practices grieving as a means of grace about 2-5 times a week through the study of Scripture and prayer. Others, who seek hope and healing, join Laura, as her own time of restoration pours out through Equipping Lydia. She calls these individuals the “modern spiritual widow.”
“These individuals have been overlooked and neglected,” she said. “Some have left organized religion, but long for a safe place to reconnect with the community of faith. We help them find restoration and renewal with Christ and His followers that provides a healing bridge back into community.”
Just as Lydia met Paul by the life-giving water and first heard Christ, so Laura received her inspiration for the ministry while studying at Asbury Seminary. This fresh new word of God’s love through Christ transformed Laura so much that she radically opened her life to others. Surrounding herself with prayer warriors seeking God’s direction, Laura received confirmation and launched the ministry that works in collaboration with the Office of Community Formation at Asbury Seminary.
“Compassion, healing, ministry to the least, and radical hospitality were trademarks of the way these early Christians lived,” she said. “It changed the world.”
With tears in her eyes, Laura shared one of the many moments of transformation she has seen. A missionary, who worked in a Muslim country, came to one of the Equipping Lydia retreats. Because of the spiritually dark environment, she lacked the strength to return.
“Her countenance was nearly dead when she came in, but by the end of the day, her face was filled with joy,” Laura said. “In one day of getting into that quiet place, she heard the voice of God, and He gave her the strength to go back.”
Laura believes God is continuing to open doors to work with leaders on the front lines of ministry who need a place of renewal. She recently published Rhythms of Restoration through Seedbed.
This resource provides tools and strategies for those needing space to grieve loss, whether death, divorce or daily stressors.
Laura Baber answers the question: What advice would you give to someone just beginning their ministry?
- Do not despise the little things. It is not the big things that make up Kingdom work. Rather, it is little acts of kindness, mercy and humility. Never ever focus on quantity. Focus instead on the quality of intimacy with God in each gathering. As we tend to the least popular, be willing to do menial tasks and lovingly offer little acts of grace throughout each day, something very large and beautiful occurs whether it is ever posted on Facebook or not.
- Never ever fret about money. Ask God in prayer and in community for what is needed. Trust that if it is really needed, the provision will come. If the provision does not come, trust that the timing is not right.
- Release control. Over and over and over again. Choose language of invitation rather than imposition (I want you to vs. You are invited to). Be alert about how often spiritual manipulation can creep into leadership. Keep it in check by welcoming honest feedback that is sometimes hard to hear. Ministry is not about building our ego. As leaders we are to be the least important person in the room at the end of any gathering.
- Crisis is not a bad thing. It is often the place where spiritual formation and growth is most likely to occur.
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