October / November 2015 - Vol. 82

“Hear, O Daughter... Listen to Me”

An Update from Members of the Bethany Association
of Women Living Single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit

It was with joyful anticipation that twenty-three women arrived at the Gilmary Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, this past August 2015 to spend several days together.

The women came from fifteen different communities of the Sword of the Spirit throughout the world to attend the 2015 Bethany Association International Conference. Seventeen of the women were committed to living single for the Lord, and were joined by six guests – women who are discerning their state of life. Only two lifelong committed sisters were not able to join the conference.

Bethany Association is an international association of women living single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit, women who have committed themselves to one another for mutual support. They meet internationally every two years.

Bethany Association
                          Conference 2015

Nurturing the life
Guided by conference theme “Hear, O Daughter . . . Listen to Me” (Psalm 45:10) we were inspired by meditations given by several of the sisters and spent time seeking the Lord together about how to nurture and strengthen our commitments to our call and ideal of life and how to move forward into the future.

In one conference presentation in particular
“Bethany Association: Past, Present and Future”we looked with gratitude at our past “history” and the Lord’s work among us to establish the association (we were founded six years ago), and were encouraged to continue to live our present calling with passion, zeal, and dedication. And to move into the future with hope and faith in the Lord’s word to us coming to further fruition and fulfillment.

Mae, Jeanne, and Sherry
Sherry Snyder (right) was elected president of the Bethany Association Council and
Jeanne Kun (center), outgoing president, was honored for her service. On the left is
Bethany member Beth Melchor from Ligaya ng Panginoon community in Manila

During the conference, the women also elected new officers. The first council’s six-year term had come to an end, and Sherry Snyder (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) was elected as the second president of the association. Sherry and the new council, comprised of sisters representing each region of the Sword of the Spirit, were instated at the closing session of the conference. The out-going president, Jeanne Kun (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), was honored for her years of significant service.

Spending time together
In addition to presentations and elections, the conference schedule allowed ample time to deepen sisterly relationships through sharing, fellowship, and recreation. As Marge Connelly (The People of God, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA) noted, “I love the sisters’ personal sharings and hearing their personal testimonies the most. I love getting to know my sisters and to see how the Lord is using them, how they’re dealing with difficulties, and how God is blessing each of us.”

Jhola Salazar (Ligaya ng Panginoon, Manila, Philippines), who made her lifelong commitment two years ago, added, “It’s important to see that I’m not alone in the vocation I’m pursuing, and it renews my commitment even more.”

Mags giving presentation
Mags Tierney from Charis Community in Belfast giving a
presentation to the sisters

Giving witness and blessing others

Six women who are discerning their state of life with serious interest in living single for the Lord also participated in the conference as guests. Over the years since the establishment of the association, Bethany sisters have seen the Lord offer a call and invitation to more women to commit themselves to him singleheartedly and have helped local pastoral leaders assist young women in discernment.

“I believe God is doing something great and I feel blessed to be here’ said one of the guests, describing her experience with Bethany Association. “The Lord has blessed me to see strong women of character who have battled illness and many other sorts of personal difficulties. Despite our diversity, God has brought us together in one vocation. I thank these women for being a living testimony of fortitude, depth, and joy. They have shown me that despite the test of time, they have persevered. This is just hors d’oeuvres and there is so much more in store.”

Another young woman spoke of her contact with Bethany Association sisters during her ongoing time of discernment: “Bethany is where I’ve grown, I’ve loved, and been loved in return. This is a place of rest for brothers and sisters, a refuge. That’s what Bethany is to me. When things are hard and dark, Bethany has always been shining for people like me. The women are so happy and joyful. Lord, I just want to be that happy. There is so much strength here. I pray to be as strong and as brave as these women. The Lord needs people to show his love and show that this is real and that this is possible. This is a way for us to set fire in the Sword of the Spirit. We’re ambassadors of Christ’s love.”

God has broadened our vision and insight into how our lives are a source of strength to others and he is using us to touch many women
and men as well through the witness of our way of life.  Even on the way home from the conference, two sisters had the opportunity to tell an airport attendant about their life style and commitment when asked by him how they knew each other. As Beth Melchor (Ligaya ng Panginoon, Manila, Philippines) relates this experience: “I shared with him about our conference and living single for the Lord. He was so interested, asking me more questions, and sharing about his own family life. When I got off the cart at my gate, we exchanged an earnest handshake and wishes of God’s blessings. He was an Ethiopian grandfather who has been in the USA for thirteen years. It was a joy to share about our life in Bethany.”

Many are blessed through the relationships that they see among us Bethany sisters and our variety of living situations. Indeed, God is calling us to make more spaces for women to come to see our lives, in our houses and in non-residential ways of meeting us.

“A lot of the women I talk to cannot imagine living by themselves and that’s something of an obstacle for them if they have a sense to live single for the Lord, “ explains Sue Cummins (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA). “For them to see different ways of how we share life together is an important part of how we can witness to them, but also to invite them in and share the life with us can help them define the way God has for them to live it. Different ones of us have different living situations. We should reflect on this and take seriously what we are doing with our houses. This is something that God is calling us to in Bethany, part of our vision. Our own homes and other living situations of us Bethany sisters are not only for the sake of us women living single for the Lord but other women and men will be blessed as well. Our homes will be a blessing and they are one of the ways we as gems are called to give light and beauty in the Sword of the Spirit.”

Bethany women enjoy Pittsburgh skyline
Bethany women enjoy view of Pittsburgh skyline

Applause for our host community, The People of God

The local Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, The People of God, generously served Bethany Association by providing hospitality, transportation to and from the retreat center, and other assistance as well as some lovely gift items for the conference participants.

On the opening evening of the conference, we were welcomed by presiding coordinator of The People of God, Milo Milburn, and his wife, Joanne, who expertly arranged the on-site practical support for us. More members of the community joined us for a dessert reception where we showed the Bethany Association video and offered our hosts a sample of our diverse cultures with Filipina and Spanish songs and attire. Then we enjoyed performances by the community’s women’s choir and two of their young adults.

On Saturday evening, after the Lord’s Day dinner, we had the opportunity to see Pittsburgh from the Mount Washington overlook point, enjoying the breathtaking view of the city skyline and the Three Rivers (Allegheny, Monogahela, and Ohio), which form Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle.”

After the conference closed Sunday, August 9, many of the sisters remained for two days of sightseeing in Pittsburgh. People of God community members enthusiastically served as our tour guides and accompanied us on a Gateway Clipper River Cruise and to Oakland, Pittsburgh’s cultural center.

It was with gratitude to the Lord, our sisters, and The People of God, that we said farewell to one another and dispersed, returning home to tell our own local communities of the goodness of the Lord to us.

God’s prophetic word to the women of Bethany Association

You are my Beloved women. You have a space in my heart that no one else has because you've done something for me that no one else can do. I have chosen you and I have called you in a very unique and special way.

As we worshipped, I heard, “Now is the time,” with a vision of us going out in bands of two, going out joyfully to spread that word. Now is the time to spread the news far and abroad to all we meet of our Beloved, of our love for the Lord and how beautiful he is. “Speak boldly. Speak confidently. Speak from your heart. It will come easy when it is from the heart and it will be like a song flowing from your heart.”

All my will for you is love
my love for you and your love for me, about you being love at the very heart of the Sword of the Spirit, right at the heart of what I am bringing to life among you. Humble yourselves before me and before your brothers and sisters in the Sword of the Spirit in order to do this. Just as the woman who expressed her love for me when she broke her alabaster jar, to love me so personally. In humility you can come close. Do not let the lies of the enemy distract you from this personal ministry and from honoring of me, witnessing to who I am. Fix your eyes and hearts on me. Encourage each other to fulfill this in your lives. It is my will that you do something beautiful for me. All I have done in your lives and in your communities is for this sole purpose.

People you don’t expect will come from areas you done expect. People will come from nations all over the world. It's a new time for the Church and communities to have women living single and there’s a freedoms for Bethany to serve.

You women are great treasures to me, says the Lord, precious in my sight and I cherish you. I brought you together for my purpose and I've been doing great and deep things in each of you in these days together and I will do still greater works in you and through you as Bethany Association in the days and in the months and years ahead.

One sister shared, “Three words are shining brightly before my eyes
love, humility, and service. The Lord would want these shining brightly in our own communities and families. The Lord would be very pleased if people see love, humility, and service in our lives.”

> Visit Bethany Association website

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