Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Women of Faith Conference

A couple of weekends ago, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Women of Faith Imagine event in Tampa, FL as  a guest of World Vision.  Since the event was a couple of hours from my house, I asked for an extra ticket so a friend could go with me.  We drove over on Friday and went straight to the St. Pete Times Forum.  We were amazed to walk into the Forum to discover our seats were on the FRONT ROW!!

Aja sitting in one of our two seats

Us before the event started
I had been to one other Women of Faith event just weeks before my wedding in 1999.  So, I knew a little of what to expect.  I had also heard some of the speakers at various events.  But, this was Aja's first time to a Women of Faith event or to hear any of the line-up.  As I talk about each speaker, I'll give you bullet points of the things they shared that spoke to me.
Nicole Johnson
I was especially excited about hearing Nicole Johnson.  She was a staple around the Mississippi Youth and College scene around the time I graduated from high school and during college.  Her ministry was HUGE in my life so I loved seeing and hearing from her again this weekend.  Her ministry is Fresh Brewed Life. 

  • When we are ground up, what is released from us?  (using coffee being ground and then brewed as the example.)
  • It matters when we suffer.  God is near to us when we are broken.
  • Anger is never buried dead.  It is always buried alive.  Gary Smalley
  • When you are in the battle of your life, you need God's people to walk beside you, not throw stones at you.
  • I can be safe and broken but not destroyed!
  • No other God has wounds!
  • I don't stand here because I know anything but only because I know HIM.

Natalie Grant singing
Natalie Grant was one of the musical guests for the weekend.  I was most excited about hearing her sing "Your Great Name."  That song was written by a former member of our church, Michael Neale and we have really come to love it around Stetson.  
Natalie Grant
Our seats allowed us a direct view of "The Porch!'  All of the speakers were there in the midst of all the sessions rather than in a Green Room somewhere.  In the age of social media, it was an interesting thing to see them tweeting as the other personalities were on stage then to see the things they wrote.  It is always interesting to see if what you take from a speaker is what other people take away.
Luci Swindoll and Sheila Walsh on the porch

Angie Smith on the porch during her introduction
Aja and I were both very excited about hearing Angie Smith.  Since we are both bloggers, we have followed her story long before she was ever so "public" with it.  We kind of felt like we walked it with her over the last couple of years.
Angie Smith

Luci Swindoll and Sheila Walsh

Nicole C. Mullen and her dance troupe

Ken Davis was a special guest Friday night.  He is a Christian comedian who recently walked through a difficult time in his life.  I enjoyed hearing what God has done in his life and how to apply some of that to my own life.

  • Joy belongs to you.  It was created by God.  Satan hates laughter because it happens to open up the heart of God.
  • Perfection is not a requirement.  
  • A good marriage is not the absence of conflict.
  • God will not leave you or forsake you.  He is with you all the way.
  • Go home and DO NOT BE AFRAID!  God promised he would never leave you.

After a stop at Starbucks early the next morning, we arrived to the Forum early and expectant!  We started with a wonderful time of worship and then Sheila Walsh took the stage.  

The Porch Pals during worship

Angie Smith and Natalie Grant

She seemed to speak directly to my heart and to this season of my life.  I'm still processing some of the things God said through her.

  • We all long to be covered with friendship.  (He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.  Psalms 91:4)
  • Using John 16:33 (I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.) as her launching point, she made this point.  God CAN take our fear and trouble away but sometimes he chooses to walk to the darkest places with us.
  • The shepherd always knows where to find you!
  • My new life came based on nothing I brought to the table.  It is based only on the love of God.
  • You have never had an unloved moment in your life!  Max Lucado

Lisa Harper and Nicole C. Mullen's daughter quoting scripture

This was my first time to hear Lisa Harper.  I got a little caught up in her story and forgot (oops!) to take good notes!  But, one thing I really took away from her was that the best thing to plug the holes in your heart is God's word.

  • The Bible isn't a textbook, it is a love story!
  • God loves messy people.

Nicole Johnson came back again to speak.  I summarized all of her talks together at the first of this post.  I'm still so amazed by her story of brokenness and the humility and grace she showed.  Her ministry spoke to me as a senior in high school and then resonates now as a wife and mom of two kiddos.  

  • Peter was underwater and had a split second to decide what to do.  He had to make a choice in the exact moment.  His friends were behind him.  His savior was in front of Him.  He was in a storm.  He called out to His God...not his friends! 
  • "Where is your faith" is a completely different story in the midst of a storm.  

Luci Swindoll was the main push for World Vision.  I certainly appreciated her honesty about going on a World Vision trip with no intentions of sponsoring any children.  I think we tend to feel bad if we aren't pricked by the feeling of obligation when we hear the stories and see the faces of so many children in need.  She shared how it took her looking into the eyes of a child in Guatemala before she knew child sponsorship was something she had to do!  She shared so much beyond the push for child sponsorship.

  • Live fully in this moment.
  • Life is a gift.  Don't miss it by always wanting something else.
  • 85% of Ethiopians live below the poverty level yet they are happy!
  • Do something that will make life richer.
  • It isn't about having more but about being content.
  • If you enjoy the world, then you will improve the world.
  • Be you.  Be now.  Don't wait to live.
  • The only way to truly live and experience life is with Jesus in your heart.

After a concert by Natalie Grant, each speaker (except Shelia- she had to fly home early for a family commitment) came back to the stage for a brief time to leave us with final thoughts.  

Nicole Johnson-

  • Invisibility is a great costume given to your choicest of servants.
  • Give me joy in doing things that no one sees.
  • I want my children to want to come back home one day.
  • It isn't about "if I were to die tonight...", but more about if I do wake up tomorrow, is there anything to help me live my life with purpose?
Lisa Harper-
  • All addictions are a disorder of wrong worship.
  • He isn't a far away redeemer.
  • You matter to God!
Angie Smith-
  • You will always have the son of God in front of you waiting to pull you out of the water!
Natalie Grant
  • When words fail, music speaks.
  • You are a beautiful reflection of your creator.
  • You are not an accident.
Lucy Swindoll
  • There is a full cup in front you called "the rest of your life!"
Now, for the real reason for my post.  When I was contacted by World Vision, I already had a stirring in my heart for child sponsorship.  It began this time last year just before the birth of my second child, Micah.  

I wanted my boys to grow up knowing the world was more than just what they could see.  I wanted them to do more than pack a shoebox once a year for Operation Christmas Child.  I wanted them to have a connection.  I wanted them to be aware of needs of someone their own age.  I started investigating the possibility of sponsoring children with their birthdays.  But, because Micah isn't a year old yet, that became a little difficult because there weren't any babies listed. 

But, after this experience at Women of Faith and hearing the stories of the work of World Vision, I came home and started the conversations with Jonah.  We talked about the needs of children in other countries.  We talked about their living conditions.  We talked about their lack of food, clean water and education.  I saw God began to work in his little heart that is sometimes very selfish.  (He is five!)

One afternoon, while Micah was napping, I went to the World Vision website and plugged in Jonah's birthdate.  I hoped he would choose a little girl since we don't have one in our family but he was adamant, he wanted another brother.  So, we searched for a boy who was born on July 27, 2006.  And we found Andy.  Andy lives in Nicaragua.  Andy has sad eyes...just the opposite of Jonah.  But, Jonah was drawn to him.  He said "that's him! that's my new brother!"

After taking all the required steps online to sponsor Andy, I let Jonah help me choose one more child to sponsor who shared Micah's birthdate.  Since he isn't quite a year old yet, we had to call World Vision directly to obtain information about a waiting child with Micah's birthday.  We were quickly introduced to Brayan from Honduras.  And, just like Andy's eyes were so opposite of Jonah's, Brayan has almost a frown on his face.  As we all know, our little Micah smiles 97% of the time.  So, I was intrigued with the immediate differences of the two.  It just showed me the great need in the lives of these children.

Child sponsorship really is minimal.  $35 a month provides these kids with life changing basics like nutritious food, clean water, health care and education.  It helps entire families lift themselves out of poverty.  All for just $35 per month, per child.  For our family, that is dinner out once per month or a smocked outfit for Micah or a fun afternoon doing something as a family.  It really is a small sacrifice for such a big cause.

We specifically chose the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua because we felt those were countries we could possibly visit in the future.  It would be easier to access those countries than some of the others listed.  I'm excited about the future with these little ones.  I'm excited that Jonah has a new friend/brother to pray for and think about. I'm excited that Micah will grow up never remembering life without these two in it.  

I'm grateful to Women of Faith and World Vision for this incredible opportunity.  It was a blessing to my weary soul to hear God's word during the event.  I was challenged and encouraged.  I left convicted and inspired.  And, most of all, I was reminded of my purpose and got to help two little boys along the way.  I call that a win!


Beppa said...

Catching up on old blog posts, it's been forever since I looked at the blog! What is the difference between World Vision and Compassion International? We have a girl that we have sponsored for about 4 years now thru Compassion.

The Glenn Gang said...

I did a search and found this...



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