Weekly support groups meets Mondays in Land O’ Lakes
LAND O’ LAKES – Katie Laughridge didn’t expect her 28-year-marriage to end in divorce. So when she wound up single and approaching 50, confusion set it in. Grief stricken, she turned to Break Thru Ministries in Land O’ Lakes for help.
“I had no idea how painful divorce could be,” Laughridge said. “I was overwhelmed. Break Thru helped me to heal.”
Break Thru is a non-profit ministry offering weekly support groups ranging in topic from relationships to addiction. The groups meet 7 p.m. Monday nights at Heritage Christian Center, 21418 Carson Dr. Participation is free and open to all adults.
Ministry founder Dr. Ouida Walsh uses a faith-based approach to help participants conquer life’s obstacles.
“Anyone who is hurting can benefit from a support group,” Walsh said. “We accept people right where they are and let them know there is no reason to feel ashamed. We show them that other people are going through the same thing.”
Walsh, a former nurse, received her masters in Christian counseling from Beacon Bible College in 1991. For years, she operated a private practice in Tampa and led support groups part-time. In 2003, she shifted her main focus to group counseling and Break Thru made its permanent home in Land O’ Lakes. Since then, Walsh and volunteers have helped an estimated 5,800 people.
The ministry relies heavily on Biblical teachings. Groups follow a 12-step program derived from scripture and all meetings begin with a reciting of the serenity prayer. Some groups utilize workbooks and DVDs, depending on the issue being addressed.
“It’s a process and it takes time, but I’ve seen it transform lives,” Walsh said.
Laughridge experienced the effects first hand.
“I learned there is no quick fix but God can walk you through the difficult steps,” she said. “Only with God can you truly heal. Then you become whole.”
David Bamberry, senior pastor at Heritage, refers members of his congregation to Break Thru.
“The ministry really helps people,” he said. “When I meet with someone who is hurting badly, I tell them about the groups. The groups change lives.”
Steve Eichhorn, also divorced, remembers the first time he attended group.
“It helped so much to be around people who understood what I was going through,” he said. “I was able to talk things out and learn to rely on God.”
Walsh reminds her clients that all people, regardless of their situation, are worthy of God’s love. She invites people of all backgrounds to visit Break Thru. Judgmental attitudes, on the other hand, are not welcome.
“People are not perfect,” Walsh said. “In the Bible, we learn David was a great man of God. Still, he wasn’t so good at being a dad. He fought with his children and had trouble protecting them. He needed God’s help. There is no shame in needing help.”
Walsh believes, in addition to giving one’s problems over to God, it is important to open up to peers, friends and loved ones. Whether a person is dealing with addiction or working to overcome an anger problem, she asks that they speak openly with at least one other person.
“When you hide your feelings, you can’t get better,” she said. “It’s important to get it out and discuss what’s wrong.”
At meetings, participants can talk as little or much as they wish.
“I was leery at first about opening up,” Laughridge said. “Then, I met everyone and it wasn’t long before I was spilling my guts.”
Eichhorn had a similar experience.
“I grew to trust the people in group,” he said. “I built lasting friendships.”
Both Eichhorn and Laughridge have moved on to the last step in the healing process: giving back to others. They now help lead groups at Break Thru. They are currently overseeing the Divorce Care ministry, which meets Monday nights for thirteen weeks and is currently in its second week. New faces are welcome.
“This ministry helped me sort out my issues,” Eichhorn said. “Now it’s my chance to lend a sympathetic ear.”
Walsh hopes to focus more on giving back in 2010. She is asking groups to take on community service projects and become more active outside church walls. In December, Break Thru participants helped distribute food to the hungry.
“There are so many people in need and if they aren’t coming to us, I want to go to them,” she said. “Hopefully we can reach people who are hurting and bring them into the groups. We want the community to know we are a refuge for the broken. We are here to help.”
WHAT: Break Thru Ministries Divorce Care and Support Groups
WHEN: 7 p.m. Mondays
WHERE: Heritage Christian Center, 21418 Carson Dr. in Land O’ Lakes
HOW MUCH: Free
CONTACT: (813) 948-8860
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