A few years ago, no one would have blamed Chad and Melissa Villagomez for giving up.
The former St. Michael residents had just watched their home, which they had built, go up in smoke. Saddled with that grief, trauma and feeling of losing everything, the couple decided they had retained what was really important.
“Everything you thought you had loved is now gone. Imagine walking into Target and needing … well, everything,” Chad said. “It’s a helpless feeling. You just can’t explain that feeling to anyone.”
Instead of turning away, the couple turned to their faith. They realized they had nothing to fear, and that everything they really loved–and really needed–wasn’t lying in ashes on the St. Michael ground.
“We really had to start over,” Melissa said. “But we knew it was part of our journey.”
That journey now has led Chad and Melissa to join with three other people to establish Freedom from Fear, a faith-based program for people who, through any sort of means, feel as lost, or feel like they need a fresh start.
“Simply put, it’s giving hope to those who are hopeless,” Chad said. “Freedom from Fear is faith-based. It’s really about the power of restoring your relationship with Jesus Christ, and moving forward with him to find out what migh be blocking a solid relationship with God. It’s as real and raw as you can possibly think.”
Freedom from Fear was started with retreat weekends in the Alexandria area, but Chad and Melissa now team with Gary Van Eps, head of the James House in Willmar, and host it in the Willmar area. The weekend uses something similar to the “12 Step Program” established by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous with the help of Christian churches around the country.
“It doesn’t have to be drugs or alcohol that block a person from something, or chain them to the wrong things,” Chad said. “It could be resentment. Or anger. Or maybe that person is just afraid he’s done enough things that he’s not good enough. The Freedom from Fear program helps people work through those problems. It teaches fundamental blocks on how to overcome feelings of ‘unforgiveness.'”
This week, at InFit in Albertville, a fundraiser will be held for the Freedom from Fear program. Melissa has been an instructor at InFit since its days in the old Albertville City Hall, and calls the crew working there a “second family.”
The event will include class demonstrations, Herbalife samples, information about the upcoming Freedom from Fear retreats, and of course some old-fashioned socializing.
Freedom from Fear’s retreats usually welcome about 50 people, and the next one is set to start Halloween weekend in Willmar.
“It’s a weekend that’s aimed at anyone, really,” Melissa said. “Everyone has addictions or issues that block them from feeling really free. It’s about exploring that, pushing it aside and bringing in that higher power. It can be a very intense couple of days.”
“We talk about people who are sleeping through life versus people who are awake. I think it’s so valuable to meet other people-whose situations might be different-but the feelings you have are so similar,” Chad added. “People face so much judgement and condemnation these days. It’s so amazing to see people be changed. You can’t put a price on what it means to see someone get that fire in them. We come now expecting God to help, and to lead us to such great things.”
To learn more about Freedom from Fear, check them out online.
More on the open house and fundraiser at InFit this Thursday can be found right here on North Wright County Today’s events page.