At the Emmanuel Baptist Church’s annual Women’s Friendship Luncheon, women of the congregation gathered to support each other and recognize the blessings in the unexpected. Together, they explored the significance of the Bible verse Jeremiah 17:7 in their own lives: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”
Tables celebrated unexpected blessings in many different forms, including family, travel, and for Hyrum Mayor Stephanie Miller, the love and support she found after moving to Hyrum years ago. She decorated her table with prints from the city’s photo contest.
“I wanted you to be able to see through the eyes of others some of the beauty of our community,” Miller said.
Marlys McGrew, a member of the planning committee, themed her table around books and travel. For McGrew, the luncheon is a chance to celebrate faith and friendship by reconnecting with old friends.
“This is really where we get back together,” McGrew said. “Each year, we add new friends.”
As the women talked about the designs for their tables, they shared their recent life events with their friends: experiences with sickness and health, births and deaths, and the unexpected blessings they found along the way.
In the past, attendees could vote for their favorite table displays, but this year, the contest was cancelled.
“Every table is such a winner,” Corrine Ekstrom told the group. “We thought this year we’d put the focus on the unexpected blessing of a gathering of friends.”
The luncheon featured a speech by Hope Hansen, a member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church congregation. Hansen told her community about how unexpected blessings helped her through one of the biggest challenges of her life, when her son, who became addicted to opioids after an injury, overdosed on heroin.
Ekstrom gave Hansen a glowing introduction as a dedicated mother of five with a full-time job, in addition to being a beloved member of the congregation.
“She and her family are so important to this church,” Ekstrom said. “Seen or unseen, they do so many things people don’t even realize are getting done.”
As Hansen took the stage, she said she was also impressed by the introduction.
“I want to meet that woman,” Hansen joked.
On the day of the luncheon, it had been 18 months and one day since Hansen’s son Zachary overdosed. The day before the luncheon, Zach surprised her with the progress he had made toward recovery.
“Yesterday was the first time I got to see him walk without a walker,” Hansen said, tearing up.
Hansen started her story from the December day in 2015 when she found out about her son’s opioid addiction. He was 23 years old then. He and Hansen had always had a close relationship.
“Some of my kids will tell you he’s my favorite, but he’s not,” Hansen said with a smile.
Zach asked her to go for a walk with him. As they walked, Zach told her he was addicted to heroin. They sent him to a local rehabilitation facility, and with time, Zach made strides toward recovery. He graduated from the program in March of 2016 and came home.
After returning home, they realized Zach’s home community was too tied to his old habits for him to stay clean. Hope Hansen’s parents lived in Ohio, and were getting old enough to appreciate having a young person to help out around the house. The family reached the decision to send Zach to live with them.
“We needed to get him out of this valley, away from his triggers,” Hansen said.
Zach was in Ohio when Hansen got a feeling that something was wrong and decided to call her mother.
“That mama’s instinct in me kicked in, and I knew something was wrong,” Hansen said.
Hansen said when Zach was home, she could tell when Zach was using; she knew the symptoms, which included sleeping all hours of the day. In Ohio, Zach was working late shifts, so sleeping during the day was normal. His grandparents didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary.
When Hansen called and asked her mother to check on Zach, she found him slumped over in his room and unresponsive. Later, doctors would estimate Zach had been there for more than 12 hours before he was found. It’s believed his dealer gave him meth laced with either gasoline or rat poison.
“We’ve been told if I had called even 10 minutes later, it would have been too late for him,” Hansen said.
Hansen, who had recently had surgery on her Achilles tendon, wasn’t sure she would be able to fly to be with Zach in the hospital. Over the phone, she asked one of his nurses what she should do.
“She told me, ‘Get here before it’s too late,’” Hansen said.
After making the decision to go, Hansen began to see all the unexpected blessings that came from one of the biggest trials of her life. The father of her two oldest sons, Zachary and Stephen, had been completely absent from their lives.
“He doesn’t write, he doesn’t call, no birthday cards or Christmas cards,” Hansen said.
After Zach’s accident, they had the chance to reconnect. Stephen saw his father for the first time in six years. In Zach’s hospital room, his family was brought together, including three separated couples.
“We kind of packed that ICU room. The nurses were not very happy with us,” Hansen remembered. “All of us together in that room and nobody fighting, because we all had the same purpose: to love and support Zach.”
Hansen concluded her speech by asking the women to join her in singing a song that was especially powerful during her difficult journey: “Mended” by Matthew West.
At the front of the room, Hansen sang proudly: “When you see broken beyond repair, I see healing beyond belief. When you see too far gone, I see one step away from home.”
Hansen urged the congregation to share their challenges with their community.
“If there’s something you’re going through, don’t hide it,” Hansen said. “Don’t be ashamed and look for those unexpected blessings.”