Dave & Debbie Sanders

We have embraced two practices for many years: taking personal retreats of solitude and meditative reading of scripture called Lectio Divina. The slow process of reading a passage of scripture allows our lives to think deeply about the passage and to slow just enough to be fully attentive to the Holy Spirit’s prodding. As you read the passage slowly several times, God may draw your heart to certain words or thoughts.

By providing a retreat farm, we hope to be a resource of aiding servants in the Church to lead and to minister well from the overflow of their relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus. We hope to offer it as a place for restoration of soul and soil.

Dave and Debbie on the Cliffs of Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Dave Sanders

Growing up in Richmond, VA, as the middle child of three, I used to have dreams of flying; well, doing the breast stroke into the air. When I entered the Army as an armor officer, I had the chance to also fly helicopters, which a dream come true! 

My dad used to take us to historical sites around Virginia (there’s a ton of early American history within 2 hours of Richmond). This developed an interest in the Civil War, and now, the closest city to The Shepherds tavern is Appomattox, where General Lee surrendered to General Grant. Where we live now is also only about 25 minutes from Green Bay, VA, the small town where my grandparents lived and my mom and 7 siblings grew up. I have great memories of Mother’s Day picnics and softball games with all of my cousins, Aunts and Uncles and grandparents. I remember riding along washboard red clay roads in an old truck with my granddaddy and Uncle Bob to visit the farm where tobacco and soybeans were grown. It’s where I met my first hogs and piglets as well as watching a chicken lose her head. Somehow, that farming connection settled in my soul and was formative in our decision to move to the 26 acres of The Shepherd’s Tavern.

I went to Va Tech and majored in Political Science (yuk), but most of my time was focused on the regimental band, the Highty Tighties. By my senior year, I wrote all of the halftime shows for a band of 100 members. It was also at Tech that I met Jesus in a very personal way while on a weekend retreat with Campus Crusade (Cru). Most of my discipleship was through Cru and Navigators on campus. I still know some of those memory verses! I remember as a new follower of Christ asking God for wisdom, and I’ve watched that prayer come true.

I married Debbie right out of college (I had recently graduated, she was a sophomore!). Nothing has shaped my life like this decision and long-term commitment! Two lives following Jesus and merged together over 45+ years brings about an amazing ministry focus and investment. We have clearly entered a new chapter in our lives that we openly invite people to enter into.

I love watercolor painting and am drawn to them whenever I’m at an art exhibit/sale. I’m not very good, but I still love the movement of the paint on the paper. I like physical labor and sweating and working out. I love the early morning and have since I was 15 when I realized that it was so quiet before the day starts. I’m an extravert and derive personal energy from being around groups of people. I love mentoring young men and have enjoyed doing that while a professor at Judson for 15 years. Some of those relationships continue even now.

Some of my all-time favorites passages in scripture involve the absolute freedom we have in Christ and the depth of his love for us; like Romans 8:1, John 15:1-8, Galatians 5, and Psalm 139: 17 and following. His word is life giving!

Moving to The Shepherd’s Tavern in rural Virginia is clearly God’s leading in our lives. PLEASE come visit! Come for rest. Come to work. Come to share a talent. Come to be alone. JUST COME!

Debbie Sanders

I grew up in Northern Virginia enjoying the woods near my home and the museums in nearby DC.  During my high school years, I explored and researched religion and the history of the church.  It was during this exploration that I ventured into the world of Young Life.  The lively singing, skits, talks and sweet relationships all were used by God to draw me to a saving faith in Jesus.  From this radical step of faith, I explored and sought to understand deeply what it meant to follow Jesus and to love God with all my heart.  Marrying the cadet from VPI, Dave and I began a life of travels and nomadic living with the army and then with Young Life staff.  While living in Atlanta Georgia, we had our two daughters, Becca & Megan.  Living in Sicily and in Germany with Young Life / Club Beyond for 15 years were amazing years.  It was during this season of European living, that I began practicing various spiritual disciplines like meditation of scripture, silence and solitude.  Though skiing the alps and hiking trails in Scotland are a delight, nothing seemed to thrill me more than serving in women’s ministry and orchestrating events for the Club Beyond staff in Europe.  I used my hospitality gifts to provide retreats for the women stationed overseas with the military and for the staff.  I volunteered and worked with the service center team to offer enriching conferences and experiences for many people.  Returning to the States in 2004, we landed in the Midwest at Judson University.  After helping with the church’s women’s ministry, I pursued a Master of Leadership in Ministry (MLM) degree and then a spiritual direction training from Leadership Transformation / Selah.  My passions are with soul care, hospitality, creating welcoming spaces for people to connect and to enjoy God through spiritual disciplines.  From my MLM studies, the idea of creating space for sabbaticals and to encourage ministry leaders to practice disciplines like sabbath and solitude emerged.  The farm is a perfect spot to practice silence and solitude or maybe have a spiritual direction session.   Listening and learning to rest are so important for those of us in ministry.  We serve our gracious God out of the overflow of our relationship with the Trinity.  My favorite verses are Phil 1:6 “For I am confident that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus,” and lastly Psalm 46:10a “Be still and know that I am God.”