June 2009 - Vol. 31


Women Sent on Mission
Highlights from the International Women's Conference in Plymouth, Michigan, USA – May 3-7, 2009
special report by Debbie Putnam, Jan Munk, Jeanne Kun.
photos by Bobbie Tedesco

More than 115 senior women leaders, pastoral workers, and Kairos mission leaders gathered May 3-7 in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, for the Sword of the Spirit’s International Women’s Conference. We represented 42 communities and 22 countries. We were graciously hosted in families and households of the Word of Life Community in Ann Arbor, and transported by community members to the lovely St. John’s Retreat Center in nearby Plymouth.

St. John's Retreat Center

The conference was entitled “A Woman Sent on Mission.” The Scripture verse from Isaiah 6 chosen as the conference theme helped us focus our hearts and minds on better understanding God’s call to us and responding to it: 

“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8). 
We are here because we are missionaries
During the conference, words from the Lord came in many forms. Even at the first session, Jean Barbara, the newly-installed President of the Sword of the Spirit, offered what amounted to prophetic comments which set the tone for the conference. “In these difficult economic times, it costs a lot of money to bring all the women leaders together. Some would view such a conference as a luxury; we are not here because it is a luxury. We are here because we are missionaries.” He spoke of the importance of gathering together in order to advance the purposes of God and our mission in the Sword of the Spirit. “The Lord has called you; the Lord will equip you to go back and serve in your communities. He will pour out grace upon you.” 

As we entered into our first time of worship together, Najwa Shebaya, a member of the International Women’s Coordinating Committee, encouraged the women to set aside their fears and their concerns about how they appeared to one another, what others might think, and fully enter into freedom in worship together before our God who loves each of us. 

It can be difficult for women to relate easily in large groups and with many others that they don’t know. With differences in cultures factored in, one could expect an even greater challenge. Yet this was not the case. There was a special grace upon our relationships which allowed for an ease of love, openness, and trust among us. 

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Reflections from participants

One Call, One Mission, One Voice

On the first morning of the conference my personal daily reading and meditation was on the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-10). The line that struck me from this verse was “the sheep follow him for they know his voice.” I sensed the Lord asking me, “Do you know my voice? Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the day, amidst all the voices you hear, do you know my voice? You are a woman sent on mission, but more importantly, do you know the voice that sends you on that mission? You are on a mission for my purposes. You do not send yourselves on that mission; the agenda is not yours. You are sent on a mission for my purposes, heed my voice.”

As the week went on there were words that stood out from the different sessions; words like: “move!” “for a time like this,” “open doors,” “take the risk,” “this is a time of grace, “only for a season,” “the harvest is plentiful,” ”you are a part and not the whole.”  These words imply not only immediacy but urgency in what the Lord wants us to do for him.

 I believe the Lord called the women leaders in the Sword of the Spirit to this gathering to equip, enrich, and empower us to further his plans. 

He equipped us by strengthening our character through the reflections that allowed us to look into ourselves and see areas that we need to grow in and to surrender to him; areas that may be hindrances to his working more fully in our lives and making us worthy vessels for him. 

He equipped us through the talks. They enlightened us about where he has been leading and directing us in the past, today, and where he seems to be leading us in the days to come. The talks helped us understand how we should respond in our personal lives and in community. 

He enriched us through the sisterhood that developed at the conference, through encouragement we received, and through the sharing of our lives with those we already knew or had just come to know. 

He empowered us through prophetic words, prayers, and worship sessions that recharged us with his Holy Spirit. 

These past days I felt that the Lord worked in our lives to bring us to a clearer focus of where he is calling us; reminding us that we are one in his international community of communities. He gathered his women this week and what I saw was 

Many nations, cultures, and languages,

yet, just one people, one common way of life, one universal language of love,

in response to one call, one mission, one voice, the Lord’s own..

Doris Coloso, City on a Hill, 
Los Angeles, California, USA

More participants reflections > here
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