By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BETHEL SPRINGS — Judy Hollaway knew that her family which included her two wonderful sons and her husband, Mike, a Baptist pastor, was complete. But she still regretted not having a daughter.
Then one day God spoke to her and told her that she would have many spiritual daughters.
That was years ago. Since then God has given Hollaway hundreds of spiritual daughters as He led her to begin holding retreats for ladies. She and others have held 12 annual “Refining Ladies” retreats. A recent retreat drew 366 ladies from 23 churches, mostly small churches in West Tennessee.
It all began, said Hollaway, about five years after God spoke to her about providing spiritual daughters. She had begun to get to know two young ladies at Ward’s Grove Baptist Church, Milton, where Mike was pastor. She and her new friends decided to hold a retreat for ladies of the church. The retreat was held at a state park where about 45 ladies stayed in cabins but enjoyed going back and forth between the cabins to get to know each other. The attendance was very good since the church was small, observed Hollaway.
Then the Hollaways were called to Mount Gilead Baptist Church, Bethel Springs, which is located between Selmer and Bolivar in southwest Tennessee. There Judy met fellow member Betty Gail Garrison who shared her “desire to help women find Jesus for salvation, guidance, hope, and healing,” explained Hollaway.
Hollaway and Garrison developed an annual ladies retreat for the church and the second year invited other small churches. The retreat ministry evolved into the Refining Ladies Ministry. The retreats are held at Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce. In the early years, they operated on a shoestring budget, but God provided, Hollaway said.
Over the years programs have developed and have included a black light performance team, a comedian, and wonderfully talented speakers, described Hollaway. A month ago Rita Sweatt of Mississippi was the featured speaker for the 2017 retreat. Sweatt used drama to teach about Ruth which illustrated the theme, “Best Friends Forever.”
“Our prayer is that women everywhere will understand that God is always working through our lives to refine us.
“God still gives dreams and visions which come true in His time,” Hollaway observed in written comments.