RIDGECREST — More than 200 women gathered together, much like Peter, James, and John in chapter 17 in the book of Matthew, to see God in a new way during the Sisters Who Care conference sponsored by national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and Ridgecrest Conference Center, Sept. 26-28, near Asheville.
Through Friday’s relentless rain and, at times, great distances, the women made their way up the mountain. They, not unlike those so long ago, wanted to see Jesus transform — transform their lives, homes, families, and world for His glory. Many attendees came specifically to seek out ways to bring others to Christ and ways to live lives that are pleasing to him.
The women listened attentively to Kim Hardy, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary from outside Detroit, who told them, “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., attended Hardy’s Women of Purpose session, and expressed that she came to the conference “still trying to discover” her purpose. She continued, “I’ve decided to stop making excuses and just go with it. (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.”
International Mission Board (IMB) field personnel Janice Upton encouraged women to trust God when sharing testimonies from their journeys. Upton, a victim of childhood abuse, said in her Friday speech, “Even the things we think are the worst of the worst, God can take it and do something beautiful.” She also facilitated a breakout session on Sharing Your Stories.
Upton emphasized, “Through our stories, the Lord has given us opportunities to help someone else. 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.” She said, “We were encouraged by the testimonies. We were strengthened, blessed.” Jones’ fellow church member Alberta Brown said that she walked away thinking about the importance of “outreach.”
Two new components to this year’s conference were interactive sessions, such as a poverty activity and prayer walking, 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 a mock family of six, four children and two adults, a mortgage, and other bills, Grant and her “family” were hit by a natural disaster, lost their home, and began renting. She said, “I had to go back to square one.”
Literally, after making much progress in the activity, Grant really did have to go back to the first square of the game. After realizing some of life’s harsh realities, she said the activity made her have more empathy for hurting people. “I think I will go to them to find out what they need and help them,” she said.
The idea of gaining greater understanding at this conference is not an uncommon one.
“I came to the conference because I wanted to experience and learn more; you’re never too old to learn,” noted Shirley Beard of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Alexandria, La.
Alma Smith of Foster Chapel Church in Roebuck, S.C., brought her daughter, Deanna, 12, to the conference for the youth track as a birthday gift. “(Conference leaders) talked to us, not at us,” said Deanna. “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, expressed, “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.”
Joyce Polack and Maureen Johnson of Parkway Baptist Church in Miami were also excited about the conference. Polack, Parkway’s WMU director, and Johnson, a breast cancer survivor, came looking for ways to get others more involved in missions. Johnson shared that she received a lot of WMU materials that she plans to use upon returning home. As for the worship service on Friday night, Johnson recalled, “That place was filled with the Holy Spirit; it was awesome.”
Polack 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 (and share) the message of a deeper commitment to the Lord.”
From the Nannie Burroughs dramatization by Loretta Jones of New Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., about the African-American missionary’s dream of starting her own school and the dream’s realization in 1907 to the sessions and interactive activities, the participants left stating, as Peter did after his mountaintop experience with Christ, it was good for us to be here.