More than 220 women gathered together for the Embrace Women’s Ministry retreat at Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro on Oct. 27-28.
The attendees arrived to see the colorful leaves among the Uwharrie Mountains nearing the end of their beautiful life cycle. While many leaves had begun floating through the brisk fall air to the ground, the trees’ roots remained strong.
BSC photo by Joshua Barkley
“Shallow sips in God’s Word leads to scanty roots,” said Katie Orr, creator of the FOCUSed15 Bible study, blogger and pastor’s wife.
“Roots are what anchors that tree,” said main speaker Katie Orr.
Katie Orr is the creator of the FOCUSed15 Bible study method; a prolific speaker, author and blogger; and a pastor’s wife from Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
She passionately spoke about the importance of being “Anchored” in God’s Word, which was the theme of this year’s conference, based on Psalm 1.
“Shallow sips in God’s Word lead to scanty roots,” said Orr. “When we [focus on the outside] and not on our roots – that’s how we end up being Christians for decades but babies spiritually.”
Furthermore, the women were given time to ask God to intercede on behalf of their families, trials, grief, the nations and more, rotating through different prayer stations.
While most women met with the Lord privately with their heads bowed and hearts open, others hugged and prayed over one another with tears streaming.
In between main sessions, attendees were able to choose and attend four breakout sessions among a variety of 10 topics offered, many of which were drawn from the prayer emphasis of last year’s Embrace women’s retreat. The topics included Bible study, spiritual disciplines and scripture memory on Friday and marriage, family and worry and anxiety on Saturday.
“[God has been] teaching me that it’s not me – it’s His Word,” said first-time conference attendee Jane Gravely of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.
Gravely said she enjoyed attending breakout sessions and the musical worship, led by pianist and vocalist Kimberly Merida of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and violinist Tasha Via of Journey Church in Raleigh.
The women also enjoyed a time of fellowship in the evening through several events offered, including a flashlight hike around the lake, s’mores by a fire pit and board games.
With participants from more than 60 N.C. Baptist churches, Amy Faust of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Raleigh said a highlight of the conference was the fellowship with other believers from all across the state.
Faust also said how she had been encouraged to abide in God’s Word, through which fruits would naturally flow.
“Shortchanging my quiet time is starving myself,” Faust said.
This reflected Orr’s main session teaching that described an anchored woman as one who delights on God’s Word and deliberately follows His ways, yielding fruit.
“We don’t naturally float closer to God,” Orr said.
Rather, we have to fight to be close to God through obedience, Orr said, adding that we can’t attain this on our own as our hearts are wicked and only made righteous by Christ.
“The fruit of the Spirit is not something you do,” Orr said. “It’s something the Spirit does in you. What you do is nourish your roots.
“How do you nourish your roots? You read God’s Word.”
Special testimony speaker and author Esther Burroughs, who serves and directs Esther Burroughs Ministries: Treasures of the Heart, affirmed this as she held her Bible and said, “This really is the only book you need.”
After hearing Burroughs share her testimony of how God used older women to mentor her, many women who attended the conference were inspired to start praying for “an Esther Burroughs,” or an older woman, to enter their own lives and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.
The participants, ranging in ages from their early 20s to 80s, were given an additional opportunity to unite in prayer as the younger women were called to the altar to be prayed for by the older women attendees. As the younger women humbly knelt before God, the older ladies prayed wisdom over them, binding the separation of years in the everlasting Kingdom of God.
“That was powerful,” said participant Nancy Evans of the Sandy Creek Association.
Embrace Women’s Ministry senior consultant Ashley Allen and her team had been praying for moments like this for months before the conference – that God would be glorified and that women would leave with a desire to “delight in the law of the Lord” as written in Psalm 1:2.
Allen said she believed the Lord answered those prayers as she heard from women attendees and the teaching faculty that they had sensed the Lord’s presence among them and were leaving with “a desire to be in His Word and make application in their lives.”
Certainly, many left with the hope that is an anchor for the soul.