By: Teresa Richenberger, Founder, Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch
About Rahab’s Retreat & Ranch: Rahab’s Retreat & Ranch is a voluntary, faith-based program serving victims of sex trafficking and women in the sex industry. Women who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused and those formerly incarcerated will find a safe haven at Rahab’s Retreat & Ranch. We serve women of all socioeconomic backgrounds as well as women who have children. We also serve those who face a combination of life-controlling issues such as self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, depression, unplanned pregnancy, and homeless and broken women.
Why did you decide to start Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch?
Personally, I was involved in the sex industry for about 12 years. When I left, my church played a big part in helping build me back up. Their generosity and willingness to help me when I needed it the most inspired me to do the same with others. Shortly after, I founded Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch with the understanding that even if I only reached a few people, saving just one life matters.
Before our facility was Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch, it was an old, vacant nursing home for 12 years. When we bought it, the building had to be totally renovated inside even though the bones and foundation were solid. It’s the same case with these women; they come in with strong hearts and a good foundation but need to be completely restored in order to become better.
How did you find the facility and design for the retreat?
Securing our facility was truly a miracle. The original asking price was $1 million, but I was able to bring it down to $200,000 with a down payment of $25,000. The only problem was that I didn’t have the $25,000, but I emptied my personal savings and prayed to God. About a week later, I got a call from a couple who told me that I had been on their mind, and they wanted to give me a donation of $25,000. The crazy part is they had no idea how much money I needed! That down payment check that we wrote all those years ago still hangs in our front foyer today.
What role has the community played in the creation of Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch?
The community has been such a blessing to our organization. Before we started work on the building, a pastor from Dallas called me. He said he found us from our website and knew a girl who needed our help. Even though our place was still rundown, I took her into my home. Soon after, we attended a local church and met a man who decided to donate $160,000 to us!
Later I crossed paths with a young mother who worked in the sex industry and was addicted to drugs. Her son was born with an addiction and she needed to find him a safe place to live. I also took him into my home. At that point, I was helping two individuals on top of an unrenovated facility. It was a difficult time, but I knew that no matter how much I give to the community, I can never out-give God.
Thankfully, we received some big donations during that time, including $110,000 from a fundraiser hosted by a woman in our community. After that, we were finally able to start work on the building and we did the “Adopt a Room” program. People from churches in the area came and personalized each room, and furniture stores also donated new furniture. It was a huge success and the community was able to come and be a part of something great.
With this retreat, we are changing these women’s lives forever, and giving them the chance to go back out into the community whole and healthy. For example, one of our residents is about to graduate from Kilgore College and is hoping to be accepted into the Social Work School at Stephen F. Austin State University to pour back into the community and make lives better.
What was the process like to renovate the retreat?
Staying the course – this was a two-year long process after I closed on the property. It was two years of relying on God to supply the funds for the new sprinkler system, fire alarms and other renovations. We had to gut the interior, tear out the existing walls and replace them with sheetrock. The whole place had to be burned, and everything needed to be replaced. Then we had to overhaul the exterior. The building had been sitting for 13 years so everything was overgrown. It was not easy, and definitely was not cheap, so I had to trust in God 100%, which increased my faith even more.
How are you using the funds from the Moody Foundation?
The Moody Foundation helped pay for the completion of one of the back wings. They also helped fund electrical and operation-type necessities like air conditioning, transportation and living costs. Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch is a 32,000 square foot house with six wings and houses around 100 women and children. Moody Foundation’s gift has helped immensely with our cause and for that we are very grateful.
Tell us about your most memorable day (so far) in your work at Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch.
I’ll never forget the day we opened our doors on Jan. 12, 2017, and took in our first resident, knowing that we now have a safe place for her. We were about to change this life and many more. We have had several graduations since then but that first day was definitely the most memorable.
How do you hope Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch and its programs will grow in the coming years?
We pray that in the next couple of years the ranch will be fully open and functional, which will allow us to open the Pet Therapy Program. Having arts, such as dancing and singing, is something that we are also focused on integrating into our program, and we think it will be beneficial to our ladies.
Our staff has learned through the years what programs have worked for the residents and ones that have not. We have updated some programs to continue enriching the lives of the residents here. We are praying to open a new home in another area eventually.
What is the most rewarding part of your job at Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch?
There are so many rewarding experiences, but my favorite part of Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch is being able to see these women accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. At the same time, watching them get their kids back is the most phenomenal experience, especially when the kids join our services with their moms. It just goes to show that Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch is more than a shelter—it’s a home.