Retreat invites women to Take Heart

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, July 18, 2017

By Susan Shinn Turner

For the Salisbury Post

LANDIS — In a few weeks, Jennifer Caraccio hopes to introduce her sisters in Christ to another side of Jesus.

A person who is willing to cross boundaries.

To touch the untouchable.

Who goes out of his way for the outcast.

Who loves people as they are.

“I want women to be able to come and start a conversation with Jesus,” Caraccio says.

She also wants them to take heart. And that’s the title of her free, two-day retreat: Take Heart: A Love Encounter with Jesus.

The retreat will be held at First Reformed Church in Landis from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 4 and 9-1:30 p.m. Aug. 5.

Participants are asked to bring their own bag lunch. Both days will include worship and creative response sessions.

Joining Caraccio in the endeavor are Roxanne Johnson, Bible history teacher at South Rowan High School and Corriher-Lipe and China Grove middle schools, and Pattie Castor Allmond, a worship leader.

The retreat is a fundraiser for the South Rowan Bible Boosters, a division of the South Rowan Public Schools Bible Teachers Association.

Several years ago, Caraccio was a senior executive director with Thirty-One, a home-based business that sells totes, purses and accessories. While sorting an order one day, she prayed for guidance about what to do next. She realized she would like to be a Bible history teacher, but she didn’t know how to go about it.

“I made the contacts I knew to make, and I attended the association’s banquet that same week,” she says.

There, she met Johnson and the Rev. David Franks, pastor of First Reformed.

“The Lord has led me here,” she told him, and he was thrilled with Caraccio’s enthusiasm and longtime marketing experience. The two later discussed creating a fundraiser in addition to the annual banquet and golf tournament that have been taking place for years.

“I told him, ‘We don’t have any event that points our community back to God,’” Caraccio says.

Why not a women’s retreat? she thought.

“He’s just let us roll with it,” Caraccio says. “I have a heart for women’s ministry.”

“Jennifer is a fantastic, excited lady of God,” Franks says. “She captures people’s attention quickly with her knowledge of scripture and biblical insight. The women who attend will not only have fun but take home a lot to chew on.”

Early on, Caraccio realized that she needed a co-teacher, and that person was Johnson.

“The community needs to understand the value of what she says,” Caraccio says. “You cannot convince the younger generation that this program is valuable unless you give them an experience they value. Roxanne will give these ladies a taste of what she does.”

“I’ll be rounding out and supplementing Jennifer’s presentation,” Johnson says.

Establishing context, custom and culture, she says, provides critical understanding of the text. “People can find importance and significance when we add richness to the story line.”

Johnson has taught Bible history in South Rowan schools for the past 27 years.

“The classes are taught from a nondenominational perspective,” she says. “Biblical literacy is my goal, to share information on biblical customs, culture, literature and music. We expose but we don’t impose. I hope that the women who attend this retreat will come away with an appreciation of the Bible. There’s more to it than you expect.”

The retreat will center on Closer Looks, two scripture passages in the New Testament in which Jesus encounters women.

Registration for the retreat is still open. A love offering will be collected both days. Take Heart T-shirts and bags — Caraccio designed the logo — will also be sold.

Local videographer Jonathan Weaver created a promotional video for the retreat, which is on Caraccio’s Facebook page under Jennifer Smith Caraccio or on the South Rowan Bible Boosters page.

Caraccio has a teaching background, having been a Title I teacher and substitute teacherduring the spring semester. She has long been comfortable in front of groups and hopes the retreat will serve as a springboard to speaking at others.

The team notes that Take Heart is a nondenominational program.

“We want it to be a gathering for all ages and stages,” Caraccio says.

To register for Take Heart: A Love Encounter With Jesus, go to by searching “take heart” under events. For questions or to contact Jennifer Caraccio, email