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    Jacquie Coles was just looking for an opportunity to connect with others when she and a neighbor attended a single-parent retreat at Sandy Cove more than 25 years ago. The event turned into a life-changing experience for Jacquie and her 10-year-old son Tristan.

    “Tristan said he never thought we were a real family until that retreat,” says Jacquie, who lives in Bowie, MD. “I knew he had issues with his dad not being a part of his life, but I had no idea he felt that lonely; he has no other siblings. When we left that retreat I was like, ‘Oh God, thank you.’”

    For Jacquie, that single-parent event ignited an affinity for the ministry that continues today. She volunteers at Sandy Cove in a variety of roles, and she regularly attends the Hope for Me Women’s Wellness Weekend (a partnership event with First Place for Health), which she credits with putting her on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

    “I never enjoyed exercising until that First Place for Health conference. I came away with a renewed desire to be healthy God’s way, and I met women who understood the struggle, and gave me hope,” she explains.

    First Place for Health helps individuals pursue wellness by looking to Christ as the ultimate sustainer. It was a game-changer for Jacquie.

    “I learned that I am not in this alone, and God is concerned about my every struggle."We often think Jesus only cares if we sin or don’t sin, but He cares about every aspect of our lives. It taught me that I am so much harder on myself than Jesus ever is.”

    Since then, Jacquie has shed more than 100 pounds and started a First Place for Health group at her church, where she reports that a number of women have given their lives to Christ. “I tell the woman at church that First Place for Health saved my life, and I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t attended that conference at Sandy Cove.”

    She says the tools and resources she’s found through Sandy Cove program events have intensified her walk with the Lord, and made His love for her more tangible. “With the teaching we get here, you walk away with tools and resources that are personal to you, that help you change your life for the better. He never just heals us for us – it’s so we can be a blessing to someone else.”

    Blessing others is a catalyst for her volunteer work. “I have met so many people here through conferences and guest relations who have poured into my life, and been a blessing to me. Now I get to be a blessing to them.”

    Early last summer, when Tristan was called away with the Coast Guard, Jacquie became the caretaker of her grandson, Gabe, and registered him for The Marsh Day Camp.It was an opportunity for Gabe to make new friends, enjoy outdoor activities and overcome his fear of bugs, laughs Jacquie. In turn, Jacquie volunteered during the busy weeks of Family Camp, filling gaps caused by an employee shortfall.

    “I love it here,” she says. “It’s a safe place where all of us who are striving to please God can be restored, refreshed, and rejuvenated. People care and it’s from the heart.“When you put your trust in Jesus, He has a way of making up what’s missing,” she adds. “God has always made up any lack. It wasn’t easy but it was doable because I was never alone."

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