Conference designed to help women in all COGs

By Linda Cartwright

BIG SANDY, Texas--Seventy-five women and teenage girls gathered in East Texas the first weekend of March to participate in what has become an annual conference of women dedicated to helping women of all Church of God groups.

The first two conferences were in Dallas, Texas, in 2000 and 2001 and sponsored by the International Bible Learning Center and Linda Hardy White of Carrollton, Texas. This year's was sponsored by the Church of God Big Sandy and carried the theme "Becoming the Confident Christian Woman." The meetings, including seminars, ran March 1-3.

Thalia Hufton of Hawkins, Texas, organized the Friday-evening registration and fellowship. The ladies played board games with the objective of helping the attendees get to know each other better. Refreshments of nut breads and cranberry tea were served.

The Sabbath-morning sessions began after a continental breakfast prepared by Tony and Debbie Contos of Big Sandy in the COG Big Sandy's building, where most of the sessions took place.

Interspersed among the seminar presentations were special musical performances and congregational-type singing.

Mind your mind

The first speaker, Peggy Wooten of Birmingham, Ala., discussed the importance of guarding one's mind. Mrs. Wooten touched on the reality of the spirit world and the need for people to be wary of evil spiritual influences.

Cathy Elliott of Longview, Texas, gave the second seminar, in which she presented thoughts and anecdotes concerning how Christian women can explain their faith.

Mrs. Elliott, an independent businesswoman, said she is no longer afraid to discuss her religious beliefs with nonbelievers and gave pointers on how women can minister to other women.

Breaking out

At 11:30 Sabbath morning the women took a break for a soup-and-salad lunch prepared by Lee Nelson and Karen Weese of Big Sandy before moving to Big Sandy High School for the afternoon program. The ladies attended "breakout sessions" (small simultaneous meetings) from 1 until 3.

The first four sessions, offered at 1 o'clock, were "Prayer Is Like Chocolate Cake," presented by Nancy Francis of Big Sandy; "Considering Baptism," by Amie Hufton, who is a senior at Texas A&M, Galveston; "Senior Solutions: Taking Responsibility," by Kim Skelton of White Oak, Texas, whose mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease; and "Smart Women, Stupid Decisions," by Michele Mischnick of Hawkins.

The second set of breakout sessions featured two young adults, Kathryn McCommon, a student at LeTourneau University, Longview, speaking on self-respect, and Charlee Weese of Wichita, Kan., discussing "Life After Depression."

The two other sessions presented at this time were "Putting More Joy in Your Life," by Laurie Fisher of Pritchett, Texas, and "At Peace With the Present," by Mrs. Hufton.

After the breakouts, the women regathered to hear Cindy McLendon of Hawkins present a seminar entitled "Blessings." Mrs. McLendon covered many of the blessings listed in the Bible and ways Christians can use them.

Kitchen duties

After hearing Mrs. McLendon, the ladies returned to the Church of God Big Sandy's building at 5 p.m. for a dinner prepared by Tat Tomes of Lindale, Texas, and Janice McKee of Big Sandy. Arlon Tomes, Tat's husband, coordinated a crew of men who helped serve the meal and take care of kitchen duties.

Lyna Jane Bryant of Sulphur Springs, Texas, and Charissa Mez of Brandon, Miss., played background music on piano and harp during the meal.

The final activity Saturday evening was a "book club" moderated by Terri Hammer of Gladewater. Participants brought favorite books to discuss and recommend.

After breakfast Sunday morning, prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Tomes, assisted by Tim and Angie Kelley of Hawkins, the seminars continued with a presentation by Renetta Wilson of Celina, Texas, titled "Profile of Abuse." Mrs. Wilson has been a counselor for victims of domestic violence for 14 years.

The final seminar speaker was Melodee Overton of Hawkins, who presented "Becoming The Confident Christian Woman." The sessions ended with special prayer sessions for those who wished to participate.

The conference concluded at noon Sunday with a sandwich luncheon. Box lunches were available for those who needed to leave immediately.

Not old ladies

One of the coordinators, Mrs. Skelton, said: "We had approximately 75 attendees, and I thought it was a tremendous success. Even the teenage girls were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't just going to be an old-lady conference. They are looking forward to next year and really want a slumber party for more fellowship."

Two teenagers from Mississippi, who attended with their mother, Brenda Mez, spoke up.

"It was interesting and I appreciated all the work put into the presentations and the meals," said Adriane, 12.

"It was great," said Charissa, 16, Adriane's sister. "I learned a lot. It made me respect what women do much more. I found it to be helpful in some things and a very emotional experience."

During the planning session for next year's conference, many women commented on how much they enjoyed having the conference in the Big Sandy congregation's building. Coordinator Nancy Francis said she heard several comments about the spirit of friendship and love in the building.

Mrs. Hufton summed up the experiences of many:

"Opportunities to share life's experiences and get to know one another on a deeper level are so important to us. We need these relationships to enhance the overall church personality as well as to be able to give and receive encouragement, exhortation, teachings and just show we care.

"This was my first women's conference, and, while I say I enjoy men a lot, it was definitely a good thing for my daughters and me."

Besides Mrs. Skelton and Mrs. Francis, conference coordinators included Linda Cartwright, Mrs. Contos, Mrs. Hufton, Mrs. Mischnick, Mrs. Overton, Mrs. Tomes and Mrs. Weese.

The Journal: News of the Churches of God is available from P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and For more information write . To comment on this article or any other article or feature in The Journal or Connections, write . The preceding article or feature is from The Journal, February 25, 2002.

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