December 2009 - Vol. 35
Bethany Association:
A Work from the 
Heart of God

An Update Report from Women Living Single for
the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit 
We are women in the Sword of the Spirit who have been called by the Lord to love him singleheartedly, consecrate ourselves fully to him, and make him our treasure and portion (Psalm 16:5). Each of us has freely and joyfully chosen to live single for the Lord, responding to his initiative.

We recognize a profound action and grace of God in the particular and varied ways that he has invited each of us to live for him with an undivided heart. There is, as well, a rich diversity in our individual responses to this call that we value and want to honor and respect. Yet we also recognize that we share much in common in the ways each of us has answered this call and lives it out. 

Therefore, we choose to form an association to inspire, encourage, and support one another as women dedicated to living single for the Lord within the Sword of the Spirit, an ecumenical, charismatic, covenant “community of communities” and international body of disciples on mission.

So begins the charter of the newly-established Bethany Association that was unanimously ratified by the sisters at the Third International Women’s Single for the Lord Conference.

2009 International Women’s Single for the Lord Conference Participants

Seventeen women from Sword of the Spirit communities throughout the world gathered at St. John’s Retreat Center in Plymouth, Michigan, U.S.A., October 22-25, 2009. We were generously hosted by the Word of Life community (Ann Arbor, Michigan), whose members prepared the way for us by their prayer and expert planning, welcomed us warmly, hosted us in their homes, and served us in many ways during the days of the conference.

The Fruits of the Conference
When we sisters first met together in 2005 and began to build relationships with one another, we realized that we shared a common vision and a common desire to find a means to network and support one another in living out our call to live single for the Lord within the Sword of the Spirit. At our second conference, held in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2007, we came to a decision to move toward forming an association for that purpose. In the two years since then, much effort went into writing and reviewing several drafts of a charter describing our statement of ideal in living single for the Lord and our rationale for forming an association. At our recent conference, sisters with a lifelong commitment as well as several with a full commitment gave a final review of the charter – and wholeheartedly and unanimously accepted it. Three lifelong-committed sisters from Manila who were not able to be present also added their voice to the ratification.

The establishment of the association is quite a significant and profoundly meaningful development for us. As Samy Samaniego (Jesed Community, Monterrey) said, “I’m very happy that in the last ten years the Lord has been doing awesome things. This is a miracle. When the Lord called us, we were all apart. Now we are no longer by ourselves. We have each other. Now that I know I have my sisters in other communities responding to the Lord, it is a joy in my heart that I cannot explain. I am willing to help in this, to serve in this. There are more sisters and I do not want them to pass through the darkness I went through. I want to thank my sisters, the founders, who have opened their lives to help me. I can see how the Lord is taking us by the hand and is leading us, and I just want to follow him. I am very grateful to the Lord.”

Bethany Association Council (left to right): the representative for the European Region; Vice-President Beth Melchor (Ligaya, Manila); Secretary Samy Samaniego (Jesed, Monterrey); President Jeanne Kun (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan); Treasurer Sherry Snyder (Word of Life, Ann Arbor).

Newly-elected President of Bethany Association Jeanne Kun (Word of Life, Ann Arbor) noted, “I've been impressed with God's determination to do this. Some in the Sword of the Spirit have been wondering if there would be more sisters living single for the Lord. After the loss of the 'sisterhood' in Ann Arbor in 1990, my biggest concern was finding my own way of continuing to live single for the Lord and not necessarily looking for something beyond that. Now I’m in awe that God has chosen and called sisters from different places to be visible to the next generation.” 

A sister from Ireland said, “God was so present during our time together. It was overwhelming for me. I wept with joy through the ratification process and naming of the association. I had been waiting for a while for God to do something with us as a group, but I never thought he would do this so quickly and easily.  I feel this is a miracle of God alone. I am so full of joy that God has come down to earth in this way for us – and united us across the Sword of the Spirit. ” 

The conference also provided an opportunity for us to strengthen relationships among us as women coming from diverse cultures and countries – Ecuador, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, Thailand, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the United States. We enjoyed rich times of sharing and fellowship, deepening past friendships and forming many new ones. We were also built up by inspirational teachings on the conference theme “The Lord is my portion” (Psalm 16:5) and on the beauty of the Lord.

God’s Word to Us 

“God is calling us to plant seeds, and to work to raise up this way of life among us. Some of you have past disappointments of sowing seeds, and God says he has new breath and new life for the area of women living single for the Lord, so cast your nets. There is a rich harvest. Step out anew.”

“The Lord says: I am a God of abundance, and I will surprise you. I will lavish upon you my love. I will give you all that you need to live the life that I’ve called you to. And you will be surprised at the fruit of your life. For I will anoint you, and the light of my countenance will shine through you, says the Lord.”

“When a body is wounded, it takes time for healing. But the healing is not complete until everything is restored. This day, you have seen restored to my body, a part that has been missing. This day, you will see my body attaining new heights of health, of vigor, of service to me. This day, you will see my abundance flowing forth in my restored body.”

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha at Bethany, painting by Vermeer, 1654-55

What’s In a Name?
In seeking the Lord for a name and praying and sharing together about it, “Bethany Association” received strong confirmation and spiritual resonance among us: Bethany is the place where Lazarus was raised from the dead, which reminds us that the Lord is now giving “new life” to women in their call living single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit. It’s the place where Martha offered Jesus welcome, rest, hospitality, and refreshment and served him and his disciples; and we too serve in this way. There Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to his word, and in Bethany Mary “wasted” her precious ointment on the Lord’s feet; and we “pour ourselves out” on the Lord in living single for him.

Bethany Association is also a name accessible to women of various church traditions and denominations, reflecting our ecumenical call in the Sword of the Spirit, and works well in other languages (for example, Asociación Betania, in Spanish).

A Pastoral Outlook 
The International Executive Council of the Sword of the Spirit will express their official approval of the association with an explanation of its purpose and charter to  the International Assembly this coming May.

Pastoral care of women living single for the Lord as well as the making and recognizing of commitments and related concerns (for example, formation in this way of life, criteria for commitments) remains the responsibility of the local communities and regions. (Bethany Association is not a “governing” or “pastoral care” entity.)

From Sword of the Spirit Leaders
“Congratulations on the ratification of the charter. It is a joy for the Sword of the Spirit and a sign of hope for many young women to have ‘Bethany Association’ now in our global reality. I know that the officers of the association – through their great humility, love and evangelistic zeal – will move it forward to accomplish God’s will and promote the mission of the Sword of the Spirit.”

– Jean Barbara, President of the Sword of the Spirit and the International Executive Council

“Our vision in the Sword of the Spirit is for families, children and singles to be living together our life in the Lord. It’s because of that that I believe God is pleased with the Sword of the Spirit, and he wants more men and women to live single for the Lord in our communities because in so doing we complete each other. Without this we are not complete. Those living single for the Lord give us a real example of wholehearted devotion to the Lord. We are grateful to you sisters for your commitment to the Lord and I pray that God will build up your life in the association.”

– Paul Dinolfo, President of the North American Region

Looking to the Future
Bethany Association not only gives us a stronger sense of identity as women living single for the Lord, but also provides the mutual encouragement and strength that comes from the sharing of wisdom and experience, enabling us to more actively and concretely support one another. It is also our hope that it will provide a broader visible witness across the Sword of the Spirit – thus enabling young women to get to know us and to consider choosing this way of life for themselves.

Norma Plata, a member of the Ligaya ng Panginoon Community in Manila, who serves on their outreach in Thailand, said, “I feel awe. . . . It’s amazing to witness the establishment of the association at this time. The charter puts in black and white what we have been trying to live out. It will also be a challenge to live it out well. Yes, it’s both a blessing and challenge.”

“God has set an open door before us,” says the association’s Vice-President Beth Melchor, also from the community in Manila. “Beyond it lies resources, all that we need to do the work the Lord is setting before us. There is new territory to fight for, to occupy. Grace abounds. Let’s make ourselves available. This is God’s work. This open door is not just for us individually, but for us as a group and for the Sword of the Spirit.” 

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