Sharing faith and fellowship to overcome challenges
By Susan Baldani
Faithfully Restored Women, a faith-based group, was started by four close friends who have experienced more than their share of adversity. Recognizing the comfort they found in each other and from their faith encouraged them to seek ways to offer hope to others.
“Our friend group, for being in our 30s, has really gone through some pretty major life events,” says Executive Director Jamie Heard.
In the summer of 2015, Heather Milburn, the development director, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30; she relapsed in 2017.
“When I was young my mom passed away from breast cancer; it’s hereditary,” she says. “Then my father passed away a year later.”
With two young children of her own, she is thankful for her faith and trusts in God’s plan.
“My mom knew where she was going and that one day, we would all see each other again,” says Heather. “And now being in the situation that I’m in, I cling to that.”
Jamie has also relied heavily on her friends and faith to persevere through tragedy.
“When I was 25, three months before my wedding, my dad committed suicide; that was the first thing that kind of rocked my faith,” she says.
Having grown up in the church, she was initially angry at God. But a few years later, after having moved to Nashville with her husband, she found Fellowship Church in Brentwood.
“That really helped me have a really strong foundation.”
This foundation would be paramount in getting through one of the greatest losses a parent can suffer.
“In December 2015, we had a daughter named Madeline and a son named William,” says Jamie. “When he was 2 ½, William choked at lunch and later on passed away.
After that happened, I was in such a different place in my faith that I could look back and really see that God was preparing me for losing William. I trusted Him and no matter what happened, I knew it was going to be okay.”
Six months after William died, Jennie Rebecca Springer, the secretary of the board for Faithfully Restored, lost her 7-year-old son, Hayes, in a car accident.
“That’s how we connected,” says Jamie. “We had a mutual friend who called me and told me what happened. I reached out, sent her a book, wrote her a note, and we met, and that relationship has been so sweet because you each know the depth of pain you’ve experienced. As much as my friends were there for me, they don’t really know what it’s like.”
So today, through Faithfully Restored, the group sends encouraging notes and care packages. They also try to match prayer partners with people who have gone through similar situations.
Jamie Hamilton, the president of the board, has dealt with her own struggles of infertility. She and her husband eventually adopted Jack and Stella to complete their family. Today, the group helps support adoptive and foster families as well.
Faithfully Restored provides many other services to help women. Now that the organization has grown a bit, it can do more than ever before.
“At first, it was the four of us meeting once a month at our homes, writing encouraging notes,” says Jamie. “Any money we spent was out of our pockets. It’s been neat now to have donors walk alongside us and kind of dream of what else we can do. We’re so blessed and thankful.”
Just the other day, she says, she met with a 44-year-old woman who had witnessed her son being murdered. This mom decided she was going back to school to get her counseling degree, but she was short $1,500.
When Jamie told her the group would give her that money, the woman broke down in tears.
Faithfully Restored held its first fundraiser in April. Because of COVID-19, it was a virtual event. The focus was not only on raising funds but also on telling William’s story and how, after he died, his heart was donated.
“We were presented with the gift of organ donation, and we said yes,” says Jamie. “His heart went to an 18-month-old girl named Ava. Within 24 hours after surgery, we had connected with her family. It was undeniably God’s plan.”
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who is one of Jamie’s friends, interviewed her and Amie (Ava’s mother) during the event.
“We also had three amazing songwriters (Luke Laird, Lee Thomas Miller, and Jordan Reynolds) sign up, and we called it ‘Stories from the Heart,’” Jamie says. “We did it live from the Loveless and broadcast it on YouTube and Facebook. We had $136,000 come in for Faithfully Restored.”
Their goal for November and December will be supporting families who have experienced loss. They’ll be expanding the group’s Amazon wish list and holding Giving Tuesdays. In addition, they have an ongoing monthly program called Hope Builders, and donations can also be made by texting the word “Give” to 615-551-3737.
To find out more, go to https://www.faithfullyrestoredwomen.com/ or look on Instagram and Facebook under Restored Women.
Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.