Meet our Founder

Sheryl Gehrls: Mother of three married adult children, Grandma to nine amazing grandchildren, and now a widow. This was a role she was unprepared to play when her husband of 50 years died of cancer in March 2019, launching her into the unfamiliar world of widowhood. Like many women of the early Baby-Boomer generation, she grew up in a two-parent family with evangelical Christian values. 

During her college years, she married Dave Gehrls, and they subsequently raised three children. During the first 25 years of their marriage, Dave and Sheryl pastored churches in Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa. They joined Christ for the City International in 1995 and served as urban missionaries in Omaha until Dave’s death in 2019.

During those years in Omaha, Sheryl also served as the Director of Pastoral Care Ministries for a large local congregation and was responsible for the training and oversight of more than 200 lay ministers who cared for them. Over 50 years of ministry, she has gathered a library full of valuable resources and has worked extensively in mentoring and leadership development.

After more than a year of chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries, Sheryl’s journey of fulltime caregiving for a husband battling deadly cancer ended, and a new season began. Like every widow who walked this way before her, she found herself facing new situations and making decisions she had never made before. And that mountain of paperwork…!

While exploring available resources, she became aware that while there were many grief-support groups available for widows, there were very limited resources to help a widow pivot from asking, “God, why did you take him?” to asking, “God, why did you leave me here?” This is the crucial question, after all. At some point every widow must ask, “What comes next for me?”.

One day while pondering on this gap in the grieving process, the picture of a kaleidoscope came to mind. Life moves along in a well-established, beautiful pattern, and suddenly everything shifts! Out of the chaos emerges a new pattern – just as beautiful, but completely different. This is how the idea for Refocusing Widows was born.

Sheryl began to discuss possibilities of forming a new ministry initiative with the leadership team of Fresh Hope, and in August 2021 moved from Christ For the City to become part of Fresh Hope’s international staff. Fresh Hope is the parent ministry for Refocusing Widows, and provides the research supported peer-to-peer group structure that will be such a significant part of the ministry. In addition to years of experience, and a plethora of leadership growth tools, Sheryl is also certified to coach
individuals in the Gallup Strengths Finders assessment.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As we explore the “What’s next?” question, women will begin to find their new identity and move confidently into what God has prepared for them!


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