History of Emmaus


The roots of the EMMAUS ministry grow deep into the dimension we call time, planted by God’s own hand in the hearts and minds of those who would catch the vision and become involved as founders, directors, staff and contributors.


In 1965, Earl S. Tyson, a young United Methodist minister and his wife, Betty, (at the time, Director of Religious Activities for Virginia female correctional facilities) experienced a knock upon the door of their hearts and home. Lost, lonely and forgotten ones began to arrive__ two teenage girls from the reform school, a pregnant woman from a neighboring state, a deaf Native American woman from the prison, a woman and her two children from the Midwest. The number grew and quickly it became evident that God was calling this couple to establish a much needed ministry.


The vision was given of a Christian community designed to meet the needs of suffering humanity, in particular, those leaving correctional facilities. In the spring of 1967 a non-profit corporation, Christian Community, Inc. was organized with a non-sectarian board. In October of the same year, the corporation purchased a 65 acre farm, “Shelbourne”, in King George County, Virginia. The name, “Emmaus” was chosen for the new ministry. Betty’s parents, the late Rev. William Howard Benfield, and his wife, Nelle,  a Special Education teacher, (now ninety-eight years old) served as Resident Directors for many years.


The first residents were girls released from the Virginia Department of Corrections into a halfway house setting. As the years passed, EMMAUS also became available to many as an alternative to incarceration. During the seventies other child caring facilities began to care for troubled girls. This fact, coupled with an increased demand for residential care for women led to the ending of the teenage program in 1981.


The ministry to women in crisis was expanded in 1983 to include pregnant women and their children. The following year, EMMAUS WITH CHILD was founded by the Tyson’s daughter, Teresa Radford, a registered nurse and the wife of a United Methodist minister. This ministry, located in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, was designed for women overwhelmed by an unplanned pregnancy.


SHELTER ONE, a mobile home ministry to homeless families, was established in 1993 and expanded to house ten families.


In recent years a transition period has unfolded.  Old ministries have closed, opening the way for new programs for veterans and the vision of a center for peace. 


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