CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- For the second year in a row, 180 women from across the Korean Peninsula gathered, March 3-5, at the Dragon Hill Lodge, Seoul, for a retreat to build connections and strengthen spiritual resiliency. The event was organized by three Camp Humphreys women, Evelyn Gee, Allie Newman and Monica Guthrie.
“The vision came from having a sense that military women, both service women and spouses, were feeling very disconnected when they are so far away from home,” said Gee, who was the retreat coordinator and whose spouse serves in the Eighth Army. “So not only needing the connection to Jesus, but a connection to each other.”
Newman, whose husband is in the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, served as the administrative director, and Guthrie, who works for U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, served as the marketing director. Chaplain (Col.) Karen Meeker, the chaplain for the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, returned to Korea as the main speaker. Meeker, who was previously the Eighth Army chaplain, was the speaker last year and flew in from Washington, D.C., to participate in the event.
“I was here last year and it was an incredible weekend,” said Meeker. “We had commanders, we had sergeants, we had junior enlisted attend this weekend. It’s really important to come together and for this community to be encouraged in their faith. It’s a hard environment to be in, so far from the United States, serving here with a real mission and a real enemy to the north, North Korea, China, Russia, so this event is really critical.”
Registration for the event opened Jan. 18 for active duty service members, and then Jan. 25 for all others. While service members were the target audience, the event was open to military spouses, government employees and dependents 18 years and older. The theme for this year was “Grow Up” a progression from last year’s theme and namesake, “We Grow Together.” Gee said one of the goals of the retreat was to reach those women who may be in more isolated locations.
“This retreat reaches out across the peninsula and we really wanted to reach into areas where we didn’t have as many ladies come last year to make solid contact with them, connect with them, and to help that area grow,” said Gee. “Last year for instance, we had one woman come from Busan and she commented to me that this year they tripled and they had three, so their goal is to next year is to triple that. That’s the way we want to go forward every year, doubling and tripling the numbers that come from each area and growing those connections.”
The event attendees included service members from the Army, Air Force and the Navy. Attendees participate in worship, interactive games and crafts, discussion and heard from a special guest, Kim Hye-won, who gained attention for her work with serial killer, Kim Dae-do.
Su Cobban, who works as the director of religious education in Daegu attended for the second year and said she hopes more service members attend next year.
“I will strongly advocate to bring more green-suiters to make sure they attend this wonderful event,” said Cobban. “I think for these Christian ladies in Area IV (Daegu), this is a wonderful opportunity for them to come here and get connected with other sisters in Christ and share their faith and their experiences as they stay overseas. It’s also a great opportunity for them to come in and get revived.”
Gee said planning for the event takes a full year, looking for locations and coming up with the theme and details. Both Gee and Meeker said the success of the retreat was only made possible by the support of the command teams and the religious support office. Keeping the event affordable was a priority for Gee who considered the potential financial limitations of junior service members who may want to attend.
“We’ve gotten tremendous support based off how the RSO and the garrison hear how the ladies connected with the chapel and each other,” said Gee. “The RSO and the chapel communities gave us (funds) to make it possible for the ladies to go to Dragon Hill and experience a great weekend without having to spend a lot of money.”
“I’d like to say thanks to all the commands that supported, and to the chapel congregations that put their support so that 180 women, from all over, could attend,” said Meeker. “It takes everybody to have such a large event like this. Thank you.”