Celebrate 60 Years!

2015 brings the 60th anniversary of Global Women Connecting!

The reality of Jessie Trout’s dream for Restoration Movement sisters, the World Christian Women’s Fellowship was voted into existence at the World Convention assembly held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, August 20, 1955. Since that time, this organization has served as a channel for all women members of the Stone-Campbell heritage churches and of the United churches who share that heritage to join in fellowship and, through prayer, study, and service, share the gospel to the ends of the earth. A complement to the World Convention, the ministry of Global Women Connecting has focus in Christian unity.

Throughout this upcoming year, both historical documentation and dreams for our future will be explored. You will find in the Global Women Connecting archives (formerly World Christian Women’s Fellowship) Jessie’s invitation to women to broaden their horizons to a larger world view, program information of quadrennial meetings held in conjunction with World Convention gatherings, and photos and stories of the women who help bring about this unique sisterhood. Initial posts are found here – http://globalwomenconnecting.org/world-cwfgwc-history/  Please go to the GWC History tab for more detailed links.

You are invited to share your photos, stories and dreams in celebration of our past and in preparation for our future! Send your contributions to Julia Keith, Women’s Desk Liaison, World Convention of Churches of Christ, PO Box 50998, Nashville, TN 37205, or email Julia @ julia@worldconvention.org

To Pray What You Care For

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Be careful what you pray for.” The admonition suggests that you could be overwhelmed by a holy response to your less-than-prepared conversation with The Almighty. And if the one who prays is unskilled or somehow out of practice, the phrase doesn’t make it clear whether the effect will be positive or negative. It can stall the heart that seeks authentic conversation with God.

Abiding God, I see your creation. I sense your presence, and it makes me feel. 

We walk our spiritual walk (sometimes more focused, sometimes wandering off the path) and we want to be sure our style is effective. We want to be sure that God will hear us and that we cover all the important issues. When we turn toward God in response to our lives, we are urged to pray about the things and people we care for, giving our concerns and joys back to God in accordance with God’s will.

Please, be in this, bringing those who are involved closer to You and Your love.

As the conversation of our souls grow toward God and deepens in holy awareness, God guides, challenges, nurtures us. Regular prayer encourages our response as we engage others in the lives we’ve been given.

As You will, may the moments and things of today draw my prayerful attention.

The “Common Ground” women’s event sponsored by Amor Ministries at the ICOM in November offered many interesting reminders and tools that can help focus us on the importance of prayer and a regular prayer practice. Kim Butts from Harvest Prayer Ministries led us in a group experience of many of the following.

  • Praying scripture – Several subject lists and schedules were offered as resources for prayer prompted by scripture. Prayers of blessing, prayers for husband, wife and child. (I currently use a schedule of daily scripture readings that focus on God’s love).
  • Prayer drawing or journaling – Often prompted by scripture, these prayer responses are drawn or written as our minds reflect on God’s word.
  • Praying the labyrinth – Following a path by foot (or even on paper with a finger) can quiet the mind to listen for God. Scripture can also be used to initiate this prayer time.
  • Prayer beads strung as a necklace or bracelet provides something tactile to help give rhythm and focus to one’s prayers. Sometimes colored beads are used to represent an aspect of prayer. (ie. black-confession/mercy, red-God/adoration, yellow-thanksgiving/supplication/intercession, green-healing, blue-world/peace/justice/world leaders, purple-personal needs.)                                        A similar approach using colored candies can be used as a teaching tool.
  • A prayer rock can be placed on the pillow to remind us of the need for evening prayer. If dropped on the floor (and stepped on in the morning!), it can also be a reminder to start the day with prayer.
  • A “serenity sack” can be used to hold our worries then given symbolically to God.
  • The simple shape of a pretzel, arms folded in prayer, is also a reminder to pray.

In response to Your creative Spirit, Lord, may I be united to all I care for, in You, through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Broken Beauty – Deb Holloway

In Nashville, TN, my mother-in-law, Mary Alice Holloway, and I conduct
a short devotional time right before lunch at Lakeshore-Heartland
Nursing Home every other Wednesday. A small group of about a
half-dozen women attend regularly. One or two women are in wheel chairs,
two walk in with the aid of walkers, two are over ninety years old,
most are hard of hearing, and most have multiple health problems.

Today, the devotional thought was from Luke 14, the parable of the
great feast, where it was the poor, the lame, and the blind who
accepted God’s invitation to his “feast of love” because they realized
that they were broken or needy. We talked about God’s love being the
only thing that makes any of us whole. Then I pulled out two necklaces
I bought in Goiania, Brazil, at the World Convention in 2012 and told
them the following:

LaVerne's Broken Crosses“A wonderful symbol of our brokenness and God’s love and invitation to join him is these two cross necklaces I have here. I met a woman about two and a half years ago at the global gathering in Goiania, Brazil, named LaVerne Thorpe, who was from Arizona. She had these see-through baggies full of these crosses at breakfast in the hotel where Gary and I were
staying. I commented to her on how lovely the necklaces were, and she  ulled them out of the baggies to let me look. A small crowd gathered.
I asked if she made them, and she said she picked up old, broken bottles and bits of colored glass to put in the shape of a cross to remind us that we are all broken, and it is only the love of the man Jesus on the cross that makes us beautiful again. Well, of course, I had to buy some, as did others in the group. A powerful reminder!”

Can I Get a Witness?

I’m numb from media onslaught with fear mongering stories. I wonder if I’m listening to voices inspired by God or those of the enemy. And I wonder about the outcome of manipulation. There are days when I have to walk away – thanking our merciful God who offers me a choice.

I used to wonder if evangelism was manipulation. When evangelizing is defined as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion,” couldn’t it be wise to be wary of those who captivate with their rhetoric? Again the voices masterfully create uncertainty. The monologue in my head has been effective in pushing me further away from others, creating dis-unity in me, breaking relationships, causing me to forget how much God loves.

God comes after us when we focus on the negative. In the dark, troubling side of life God pursues us. Christ reminds us of where God is and the way God is going. John 10:27-30 offers this reassurance, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me, and I give them eternal life, so that they will never be lost. No one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father gave them to me, and he is greater than all others. No one can snatch them from his hands, and I am one with the Father.”

God gives examples of love. Tells us stories of Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, the men and women who were Jesus’ disciples. God sings the songs of David and the wisdom of Isaiah and Jeremiah. God touches life with evidence of love. We experience the friend who encourages, the group that reaches out to newcomers, the sister who speaks prayers in the face of military attack, the child who draws pictures to keep in hymn books, the insistence of the disenfranchised for justice. Every day life bears witness to the love Jesus has taught to us and demonstrated for us.

This I can understand. When I am able to feel, hear, know God’s way of loving, I am compelled. I am moved toward others and we are formed in and shaped with The Evangelist’s Spirit. Love is the voice of the evangelist, unity the result.

Praise God, who loves us relentlessly, forgives us completely, and inspires us eternally!

 

 

Welcoming Usha

We dreamed… prayed… planned… prayed… waited… prayed…called… prayed.. hoped… prayed… and prayed… and prayed…

Today we welcome Usha Rees, incoming Global Women Connecting President!

Usha Rees

 

 

 

Taking this journey with her is her husband, Emrys. Following is a brief description of the ministry Usha and Emrys have been involved in –

BENEVOLENT SOCIAL SERVICES OF INDIA

A second-generation missionary, Emrys and wife, Usha Rees continue the work of the
Benevolent Social Services of India, Inc., started by Emrys’ parents, David and Lois
Rees. The Reeses are involved in preaching the gospel to Hindus, Muslims, and nominal Christians. Their mission emphasizes strong mentoring, leadership training, discipleship training, and strengthening of the congregations in both urban and rural areas.
At the Leprosy Hospital founded by David Rees, now consisting of 40 beds, they minister to leprosy victims, people living with HIV/AIDS, and people suffering from tuberculosis. More recently, the emphasis has been focused on prevention of deformities due to leprosy. The Indian government has approached them and is funding an AIDS Counseling Center at the Leprosy Hospital. Their work also includes home and community-based care, outpatient care, inpatient care, and the prevention of parent to child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Through the organization, The Love in Action Trust, started by Emrys and Usha
Rees, they are able to help orphans, widows, and the very poor obtain basic
education and later, job training. They have concentrated their evangelistic
efforts among least-reached people groups, who have only a handful of literate
people. Therefore, Emrys and Usha have started a very successful literacy
program in many villages, enabling these people to read the Bible.
Their son, Robert, a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University, is presently working with Pioneer Bible Translators in South Asia. Their daughter Kathryn, is married and lives in Indiana.  The youngest, Santhosh, is their adopted son. He was about 3 years old when his parents passed away due to HIV/AIDS and he was given to the Reeses. He is 12 years old now, and HIV positive.  He is a great blessing.

 

Emrys & Usha Rees, Benevolent Social Services of India
David & Lois Rees Hospital
Yerpedu, Chittoor Dt., A.P. 517 619 INDIA
Email: usharees@gmail.com

 

Global Women Connecting welcomes you, Sister Usha!

 

Catching Breath

Suitcases are unpacked. Laundry is done. Dust bunnies have been collected. I have returned to routine with time to gather notes and thoughts and pictures. What do I see?

Fear flourishes. – As I flip through cards and notes, I recall conversations well beyond my usual. Szabina from Hungary and Nora from Palestine who live much too close to war. Josh and our discussion of his Master’s thesis. Marelis from Cuba, Cheryl from South Africa and Lydia from Zimbabwe who would welcome my visit. Ann whose volunteer work with Global Ministries thinks about mission opportunities for other “mature” volunteers. Lindo from South Africa who gave me instruction in Flipagram. Aidong, from China and the book she co-authored with Xialoing about Dr. Albert Shelton in Tibet. Ery and her work in Thailand. Tamara who fueled our discussions on moral injury. Brenda from Detroit and the possibilities of on-line workshops. What does God have in mind as he takes our personal angst and creates God fearing women and men to move into the future?

It is hard to handle crisis when I’m away from home. – Unsettling news is always difficult, but while away from home, I found it nearly impossible to remain focused. Centered in God’s unlimited ability, I discovered the wisdom and comfort of those who were my companions. Prayers are being answered.

Planning does not always provide adequate preparation. – My father warned me as a child not to put too many “irons in the fire.” I’ve had friends counsel me on the virtue of saying, “no”. Sometimes the choice is to “go with flow” only to find you’re way “out of your league.” There is an overwhelming grace in not being able to plan everything – and to find God’s help in the asking.

Silence does not always equal solitude. – Listening is hard. Answers are not always forthcoming as the mind wrestles in the quiet of a hotel room or a solitary drive. Practicing the disciplines tires us out. Exhaustion can cause us to acquiesce. And in the release, to accept God’s promises.

 

 

Open Heart Language

QA 2014 CUTS Steakhouse-Marelis

Meet Marelis Turro Campo! An International Sister from Cuba, Marelis was a guest of the Tennessee Disciples Women for the week before Quadrennial. Marelis speaks Spanish. Most of us speak English. And because of visa difficulties, she traveled alone.

So, our adventure in preparing for her visit began with a search for bilingual hosts and companions. And God provided Justina and the members of Iglesia Cristiana Discipulos de Cristo, Nashville; Sonia and the folk at Decatur-Trinity Christian Church, Memphis, Erica and Thomas at Vine Street Christian Church back in Nashville and Barbara from Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro. The conversations translated back and forth between mono-linguals would have been enough to share each other’s lives and customs. God planned for more.

Because the week had been filled with experiences of translated messages, the hour-long drive from Nashville to Beechgrove would be awkward between two women with limited vocabulary in each other’s language. It would be too hard to talk about current events, work challenges or family issues. So we grinned in our inability to say something meaningful. We listened and practiced new words to describe the sights we saw along the way. Then we acknowledged that somehow, the Spirit was moving between us – helping us know the soul of the other. It was in those moments of, “I don’t comprehend, but God is speaking,” that the words of her thank-you gift gave direction,

“Secase la hierba, marchitase la flor; más la palabra el Dios nuestro permanece para siempre.” Isaias 40:8

“The grass dries up; the flower withers, but our God’s word will exist forever.”        Isaiah 40:8

Because we both understood what this scripture implied – that God’s words will always make the way clear – we were opened to the flurry of the days ahead.

QA2014 International Sisters @ Decatur DoC


The International Sisters Program provided a unique opportunity to spend time with nearly thirty women from China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Palestine, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This pre-QA event took us to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, lunch at First Christian Church, Decatur, GA, an International Dinner hosted by Global MinistriesThe Carter Center, and a southern-style lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room.

QA 2014 Lydia Soko

It was a special thrill for me to step into my role as Global Women Connecting Liaison to host GWC Vice President, Lydia Soko, Zimbabwe. There is nothing like the transition of an email-from-across-the-globe relationship to one of a grace-filled time building a friendship! Praise God!

QA 2014 Lydia & Julia

The combination of serious and fun activities fueled the growing camaraderie. Once again I witnessed God’s unifying spirit at work as cultural and language barriers were overcome.

 

 

 

The International Disciples Women Ministries’ Quadrennial Assembly has been an event of training and renewal since its’ beginning in 1957. The 2014 theme, “I See You…” gave particular emphasis to the battle against human trafficking. Awareness of global participation and impact of all forms of human trafficking will be broadened over the next four years to address ways this injustice is growing in proportion to demand. See Breaking the Chains: Link by Link here.

QA 2014 Youth Water


Plenary and Worship sessions invited us to “see” each other through eyes of grace, eyes of compassion, a heart of justice, hands of joy – indeed, to see each other whole! These sessions were complimented by learning opportunities of special interest, and the artistic expressions of Masks for a Cause.

QA 2014 Masks for a Cause

And Atlanta “saw us” and the conviction of Quadrennial-goers during the Walk Against Human Trafficking. A check for $5,986 was presented to youthSpark, an Atlanta-based agency serving exploited, abused and neglected youth.

QA 2014 Walk Against Human Trafficking

QA 2014 Walk Check Presentation

 

 

 

 

 

It is true. God uses our weakness to open hearts…to speak the language of love.           This is the word that will last forever.

 

Growing Pains

Making Contact

I believe
The greatest gift
I can conceive of having
from anyone
is
to be seen by them,
heard by them,
to be understood
and
touched by them.
The greatest gift
I can give
is
to see, hear, understand
and to touch
another person.
When this is done
I feel
contact has been made.

-Virginia Satir

In the western world, many have experienced diminishing connection.  God speaks into the questions…how does this happen…what is it like when connecting is abundant…what can be expected if we encourage movement toward each other rather than perpetuate distance?

What about the growing pains?

Global Women Connecting has been about building a global Christian community – a sisterhood – since 1952 when Jessie M. Trout voiced her dream “An Enlarging Fellowship of Women”. GWC has been involved in the ebb and flow of opening the lines of communication, providing space where voices can be heard, encouraging study of God’s word and common mission, fostering a prayerful, spiritual life, and supporting the ideals of Christian family and community. There is hope in the model of a global community where spirits are fed, needs can be addressed, encouragement is offered and barriers are crossed.

Formally, we are an expression of Christian women with a Stone-Campbell heritage found in over 194 countries and territories. In practice, we are women of faith with competing responsibilities in a world fraught with inequities. Methods of organizing, communicating and sharing the wisdom of our stories are challenged regularly in a wildly-varied spectrum of technology. Our representatives no longer share the commonality of a national organization. Many who might read these articles express interest in Global Women Connecting independent of their church or wider fellowship.

How then, do we move to shape this community of Christian ideals? What do we believe is essential? In “Shaping Our Faith” edited by Dorothy C. Bass, author Larry Rasmussen offers insight in his opening to the chapter on Shaping Communities.

“The perennial Christian strategy, someone has said, is to gather the folks, break the           bread, and tell the stories.”

This is precisely what we do in planning and coming together at Global Gatherings. Building on Jesus’ leadership and foundation of unity, we offer ourselves to this global community. Relationships are prayed for and kinship strengthened as we move toward times when we can be in each others’ presence. Our spirits are renewed. God’s kingdom grows.

The World Convention board members initiated new energy in April, 2014 with potential to increase communication, provide avenues of understanding, fuel missions and ministries. As co-laborers, Global Women Connecting will reap of the fruits. As partners, we will need to be active participants.

Yes, God is truly at work and we have been called in to help.

How?  Your prayers, your presence, your skills, your stories, your resources are the bread we share as offerings to the building of God’s community. Growing means planning, diligence, attention. Community means commitment, communication, contact.

Painful growing? Sometimes. Compassionate going? Always!

 

 

 

 

 

Friend Fest

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming months – the gatherings I’ll attend…the people I’ll see…the conversations we might have…the friendships that could develop. I’ll pause here, with friendship.

What is your definition of friend? Wikipedia says, “A friend is a person that someone likes or knows. People who are friends talk to each other and spend time together. They also help each other when they are in trouble or are hurt. Friends are people that can be looked up to and trusted. Sometimes people tell their secrets to their friends. Usually friends have similar interests. A friend is one who admires a person’s skill and helps or encourages them to make the right choices.”

True. But I think there’s more. My study in spiritual direction has introduced the concept of “soul friendship.” This Celtic way of walking alongside another to open us to deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and God. What can it mean to be a ‘soul’ friend? To quote John O’Donohue, “A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you. “I like that, “to free the wild possibilities within you.”

Philippians 2:1-4 says, “Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2 Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3 Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Care about them as much as you care about yourselves.”

We have a gift, and a calling, in World Convention and Global Women Connecting. Friendship opportunities. Uniting spirits. The preparation for and participation in Global Gatherings (and any number of Restoration Family conventions, assemblies, lectureships or conferences) gives us a chance to know the hearts of others who name Jesus as Friend. Then, with God’s guidance and grace to listen, we might discover a deeper relationship that offers mutual support.

I’m looking forward to this season of making new friends. God is surely at work!

Circling

A friend and I were discussing Good Friday…wondering if the labyrinths in our neck of the woods would be busy with silent prayers of those contemplating our Lord’s dedication and sacrifice. Would an increase in the activity make it more difficult to listen for Jesus’ words to us, or would the places where connections with walkers headed ‘in the opposite direction’ give us a place to access new depths of understanding our walk.

If World Convention/Global Women Connecting was a labyrinth that covered the globe, what would those places of opposing direction look like? Would we acknowledge the other as we pass, or move in our own way, focusing our vision and our actions on the space just ahead? Would we long to walk next to the one who is on a parallel path? Would we slow down to allow a newcomer to catch up so they could walk in our footsteps, or would we race ahead in hopes of tagging along with one whose journey began at a different time and in another place? And if we stopped along the way, how would we tell the story of how we arrived at this place in our journey?

The twists and turns bring all closer to a place of holy reflection at the center of the labyrinth’s life, then send us away to move in new directions, face different travelers. I am thankful for the differences in the Stone-Campbell family, and for the ways its ministries work to bring us closer to Christian unity. And, I’m thankful to be walking in ever-widening circles.