May and June usually indicate an end to scheduled activities, routine and busyness. For many, summer is the time to buy plane tickets, make camp reservations and go on road trips. The bits and pieces of conversations overheard in grocery store aisles, coffee shops or the church foyer seem to revolve around vacation plans and family reunions. And although most parents and kids appreciate a break from soccer practices and math homework, the study of God’s Word should not fall in the same category. Our desire for godliness should never take a break or be in a holding pattern. What if we were to turn our “down time” into a season of growth, an opportunity to study and connect more, not less? Those were the thoughts that caused the women’s ministry team of EFC to plan “Summer – A Growing Season for Women,” weekly women’s gatherings focused on two primary goals: learning more about the Word, learning more about each other.
Before going into detail of how we spent those Monday mornings and evenings over the last 6 weeks, let me share with you how God graciously worked in our lives this summer. As we ended our last meetings on August 13th, here are some testimonies that were shared. Not in these exact words, but these are the thoughts that were expressed:
“I was able to get to know the women who sit around me in church and finally come to the point where I can be open with them and share about my life – and it wasn’t awkward!”
“I loved seeing women of all ages coming together at these meetings.”
“We learned and shared together and had a good time.”
“God made a way for me to come by allowing me to get my work done either before or after the meeting. I came and did not fall behind in my Monday responsibilities.”
“I loved meeting new people.”
One lady that came every week wrote, “The summer Bible study has challenged me to be more Christlike. From working on Scripture memorization (for a busy working mom) to why hospitality is important – each session provided insight and practical tips. I enjoyed getting to know different women from church and listening to them speak from their hearts and experience.”
That made it all worth it for the 35 ladies who helped in some way to make it happen. Yes, 35! Some made sure delicious refreshments were provided every week, others set up the chairs and tables and decorated the music room, others planned and led the worship times, shared testimonies, organized childcare, made photocopies, emceed, greeted all who came, studied and shared from the Word, and finally, a team of ladies led the ice breakers and discussions after the messages at each of the tables. What a joy to serve together with such an amazing team of women!
Over these six weeks, eight gifted ladies from our own church spoke on diverse biblical topics; they did so passionately and practically. For some, the teaching came out of difficult life experiences. Grief and trials taught them to look to God when life seems unbearable. Others chose topics that challenged us to be biblically sound, other-focused, and service-oriented. Over the course of the summer, we were encouraged to be vigilant in what we allow to enter our minds, to use the individual gifts that God gave us, to deal with disappointment in a God-honoring way, to memorize Scripture, to be hospitable toward the unbeliever, and to pray for each other. Each one a vital component of our walk with God.
Another weekly highlight was the conversion stories that were shared at the meetings. Who can but rejoice at hearing of God’s work of drawing women to Himself? Each story is different, but each one a miraculous story of redemption and transformation. Week after week, we looked forward to the opportunity to learn more of how God saved another one of our sisters and how He is continuing His work of sanctification in her life. And yes, without a doubt, we grew to love each other more as we heard the stories. We laughed and cried. We ached and rejoiced.
For example, we heard how God sustained a young mom in our church when, as a new believer and a newlywed, she lost her mother to cancer. But we also learned from an elderly saint in our midst who has made Scripture memorization a habit. She told us how God led her through the many ups and downs of her long life through His Word. When asked why she memorizes, she beamed and responded: “I love God’s Word!” How encouraging!
Through the course of the summer, one of our sisters had to undergo cancer surgery, and another one lost her mother, obviously painful and lonely situations for anyone to face. Nevertheless, it was good to see how these ladies were loved and prayed for by everyone. Some had just met, but now, they truly cared for their sisters in need.
Although some could only attend once, while others made it a point to be present every Monday, we averaged a total of 45 women every week. I now know dozens of other ladies a lot better than I did at the beginning of the summer, and for that, I am grateful.
Summer - A Growing Season for Women. That was the goal, and by God’s grace, growth took place. Now that we are resuming our very full lives, we pray that our desire for more of God will supersede our desire for all else. And as we return to a new season of busy routines, let’s enter it deeply rooted in God’s Word and closely connected to God’s people.