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Kathy Roosma has been a pastor’s spouse for 17 years, and she’s learned a lot along the way.

One hundred women attended the sold-out Pastors’ Spouses’ conference.

“I’ve learned that my first [responsibility] is to my husband and my children, and after that come the people of the church,” she said. “I’ve learned that we need to be ourselves and use the gifts God has given rather than fit into the mold a church may want.”

But even with that healthy perspective, Roosma said that attending her third Pastors’ Spouses’ conference in November was important to her well-being. One hundred women attended the sold-out event.

“This time it was the validation of the complexity of feelings that one might not be able to share in our own church, both the difficult things and the joys,” she said.

This year the Christian Reformed church’s Pastors’ Spouses Conference was themed “Journey of Joy.” Keynote speakers for the event were Jerry and Renee Ritskes, who, after experiencing pastoral burnout and recovery, began a retreat center to help other pastors and their families.

“I liked [this conference’s] emphasis on joy and the celebration of the special role that pastors’ wives play in their husband’s lives and in the community,” said Robin Winter of Fredricton, New Brunswick.

“There was much laughter and shared glances that communicated, ‘I can relate to that,’” said Lis VanHarten, program director for the CRC’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence division. “There were also tears as deep, honest sharing took place. Most parishioners don’t understand or aren’t aware of the role the pastor’s spouse has and the challenges that go along with that. At the conference, encouragement and support from fellow spouses can build up those who need it.”

That was Monica Groothof’s experience. “With shared experiences and advice layered with encouragement and prayer . . . a special bond is shared that is unique to the time and setting of the conference.”

Perhaps the impact of the conference was summed up best by Yvonne Vanderveen: “Once you go to a Pastor Spouses Conference, you simply don’t want to miss the next one!”

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