RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Like Peter, James, and John made their way up a mountain and saw Christ transformed before their eyes, more than 200 women went to the mountains of North Carolina Sept. 26-28 in hopes of seeing the Lord in a new way themselves.
The Sisters Who Care conference, sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union and LifeWay Christian Resources offered the women an opportunity to see their lives, homes, families and world forever changed. Gathered at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C., the women participated in interactive workshops and listened attentively as both domestic and international missionaries led seminars.
Kim Hardy, a North American Mission Board missionary from near Detroit, counseled the women: “Get a divine focus. Remember that you have the power to overcome … because of access to a God who has all power.”
Esther Grissom of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park, Ga., said Hardy’s “Women of Purpose” session met a real need in her life. “I’ve decided to stop making excuses and just go with it,” Grissom said. “She [Hardy] said that God never calls you to do something on your own because he wants you to trust him. So I’m just going to trust him more.”
In her “Sharing Your Stories” session, International Mission Board missionary Janice Upton encouraged women to trust God and share testimonies about even their difficult experiences. “Even the things we think are the worst of the worst, God can take it and do something beautiful,” said Upton, who was herself a victim of childhood abuse.
“Through our stories, the Lord has given us opportunities to help someone else,” Upton said. “There’s something about women being able to share their burdens with each other. It gives you strength.”
Conference attendee Yvette Jones of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., said Upton’s session impressed upon her that “God wants to use us to touch other people’s lives.” Jones added: “We were encouraged by the testimonies. We were strengthened, blessed.”
Two new components to this year’s conference were interactive sessions, such as a poverty simulation and prayerwalking, and a youth track for girls. Elnora Grant of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., said she participated in the poverty simulation “because I have difficulty empathizing with poor people. I thought that if you worked, you get what you want.”
After her mock family of six was hit by a natural disaster, lost their home, and began renting, Grant said, “I had to go back to square one.” She said the activity gave her more empathy for hurting people. “I think I will go to them to find out what they need and help them,” she added.
Alma Smith of Foster Chapel Church in Roebuck, S.C. brought her 12-year-old daughter, Deanna, to the youth track as a birthday gift. “They [conference leaders] talked to us, not at us,” Deanna said. “They wanted to understand what we’re going through. It showed me that they do care.” Toni Booker, also 12 and a member of Foster Chapel Church, added, “I thought [the session] would be just teens, but it was about women wanting to learn how to reach out to teen girls. I would tell friends to come to the next conference.”
Maureen Johnson of Parkway Baptist Church in Miami came looking for ways to get others more involved in missions. Johnson, a breast cancer survivor, said she received WMU materials she would find helpful upon returning home. The worship service on Friday evening, she recalled, “was filled with the Holy Spirit; it was awesome.”
Parkway’s WMU director, Joyce Polack, said she came to the conference to be “reenergized and refocused.” Upon returning home, she said, “No matter what, I will do the work of the Lord. I’m hoping to take back the message of a deeper commitment to the Lord.”
Stephanie J. Blackmon is a writer for Woman’s Missionary Union. For information about Collide 2009, visit www.wmu.com.