Conference brings old friends back
together to make new ones
By Brandi Cartwright
BIG SANDY, Texas--For the fourth year in a row, women of Church of God congregations from several U.S. states met here March 11-13 to hear speakers (all female) and attend seminars designed to enhance the spiritual lives of the attendees.
It was the annual East Texas Christian Women's Conference, sponsored in recent years by the Church of God Big Sandy. About 130 women and girls attended.
This year the theme was "To God Be the Glory," and the mission statement read: "In all aspects of our Christian walk, giving God the glory, we strive to allow God to use our spiritual gifts and work with us according to His purpose."
This year's organizers included Darcy Stahl as chairman and Kim Skelton as emcee.
Mary and Martha
It is amazing how each year certain subjects are presented by different people who did not consult one another on their respective subjects, yet they come up more than once at a conference. For example, a frequently referenced book was Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joanna Weaver.
After registration on Friday evening, Melodee Overton of Hawkins, Texas, spoke on what turns ability, skill or talent into a spiritual gift.
Saturday-morning music included hymns sung by the conference attendees, a quartet (Brittney Kurr, Fran Hope and Derinda Smith, all from the Tulsa area, and this writer), the women from the Fellowship Choir in Tulsa, and solos by Heather Kemp of El Paso, Texas.
After a delightful brunch, Cathy Elliot of the Big Sandy area presented "Grab Your Oxygen Mask," in which she advised us to seek out a time to strengthen our relationship with God and how women often get preoccupied with doing and serving (i.e., being Martha instead of being Mary).
Angie Kelley of Hawkins gave a presentation called "Prayer: A Timeless Message," addressing the importance of preparation and the time of a prayer in helping to make prayers more effective.
Saturday afternoon we traveled to residences of women who lived in or around Big Sandy for breakout sessions that included lunch and a discussion of topics presented by East Texans including "How to Share What You Believe" by Thalia Hufton, "Life's Not Fair; Get Over It!" by Elaine Holloway of Gladewater and "Will God Float My Ax--or Am I Sunk?" by Tat Tomes of Lindale.
Power, glory and families
Other breakout sessions were "Woman Power" by Brandi Cartwright, "Chosen to Be a Praise and a Glory Unto Him" by Mrs. Kelley and "Five Signs of a Loving Family" by Big Sandy resident Darcy Stahl.
After a delicious lunch at the homes of Linda Cartwright, Laurie Fisher, Michele Mishnick, Mrs. Kelley, Mrs. Stahl and Mrs. Tomes, we headed back to the Church of God Big Sandy's building for a few more breakout sessions.
Renee Steel of Tulsa led a wonderful discussion, "A Mary Heart in a Martha World," based on the book of the same name.
Groups also discussed "Don't Repeat This!," presented by Jeanine Case of Big Sandy, "The Journey" by Linda Roth of Homer, Alaska, and "Stand by Me," by Kristen Girouard of Cedar Park, Texas.
Saturday evening we had a sit-down dinner cooked and served by men of Big Sandy congregations and husbands of the women attending.
Roundtable discussions consisted of 10 or so women sitting at a table to discuss varied topics including:
Herbs and oils of the Bible, spiritual-gift follow-ups, conquering depression, exhorting each other to good works, card making, teenagers' concerns, book reviews, grief because of death, and self-defense.
During the roundtables we could sign up at a massage therapist's table and receive a 10-minute complimentary massage.
Sunday began with breakfast and a presentation by Kit Mohr of Frisco, Texas, titled "You Go, Girl: Developing a More Optimistic Perspective." Mrs. Mohr's encouraging and informative seminar explained "flexible optimism" as a planned personality trait and using optimism as a tool for living in a stressful world.
A small breakout session followed with presentations titled "Women's Roles in Fellowship" and "How Women Are the Heart of the Church" given by Renetta Wilson of Celina, Texas, and Pam Dewey, of Allegan, Mich., respectively.
After a short break we finished the weekend with two wonderful seminars, "Power of the Spoken Word" by Kathy McCommon of Longview, Texas, and "For Such a Time as This" by Sondra Beam of Fulton, Miss., who finished her speech by singing a rousing selection.
During the Saturday-evening meal we heard the announcement of the tragic events earlier that day in the Living Church of God in Wisconsin (the shooting during Sabbath services in Brookfield, Wis., that killed eight Living Church of God members). There was much crying and prayer, and our "Grief and Loss of a Child" roundtable discussion was changed to "Grief and Loss," period.
Many of the women at the conference knew the pastor and his wife, Randy and Marjean Gregory, from their days at Ambassador. Our hearts and prayers continue to be with those who lost someone that day.
This year's conference ended in the traditional way, with small prayer groups. The prayers, offered up by women who have worked hard to learn and share their spiritual gifts and to encourage each other for the trials of the coming year and put into practice the things we learned here, gave God the glory and asked Him to give us the strength to serve Him.
To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.