Women from churches across Oregon, Washington and north Idaho recently joined one another for the first in-person Northwest Women’s Summit in three years.
Gathering around a theme of “Renew,” the event drew about 300 women in early April to Lake Bible Church in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Experience God, leave renewed
Nancy Hall, women’s specialist for the Northwest Baptist Convention, and a team of Northwest women organized the annual NWBC event. Hall welcomed the women to the conference with the hope they each “experience God and leave renewed in Christ.”
The women convened all together for three general sessions of worship and inspiration, then chose from numerous smaller group seminars designed to help them deepen their spiritual journeys and develop other personal skills.
Keynote speaker Gayla Parker of Arkansas, who also spoke at the last in-person Summit, acknowledged so many people today are tired or exhausted and wove together Bible teaching, inspirational stories and humor to focus on Isaiah 41:10, the Summit’s theme verse: “… they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Is. 40:31)
Relying on God
Parker emphasized the need for relying on God, waiting on him and finding rest in him in order to face the hardships and hurts of life with strength and confidence. “We wait on God so that we’re ready for what’s coming up next, so that we’re rejuvenated, so that we’re encouraged, so that we’re revitalized,” she said.
Drawing from Old Testament stories such as Hannah and Ruth, she stressed the importance of participants seeing themselves as women of valor when facing hard times: “We have all the things in us to sustain life as well as the courage and the integrity and the strength to carry it out.”
Parker suggested that participants identify “spiritual markers” to help them remember God’s activity in their lives and serve as prompts for continually worshiping God.
An author with about 40 years of ministry experience, including service with the International Mission Board in the Philippines and as a women’s ministry consultant for two Southern Baptist state conventions, Parker noted she is passionate about helping women put faith into action in their lives.
An IMB worker who spent most of the last decade in Asia serving with her husband and children emphasized the importance of remaining committed to advancing the gospel message in the face of hardship, rejection and laboring long for low levels of spiritual harvest.
“I felt inadequate to the task,” Tara* said, citing other “unlikely choices” from Bible stories who God used for his purpose. “On and on we could go with example after example, when we read about the characters in Scripture unlikely to be chosen for God’s plans, we know then that we are reading his narrative, not ours,” she said.
The Scriptures are full of inspiring examples of God using people from all walks of life, with all kinds of weaknesses for what he wants to accomplish, she noted. “When you begin to wonder if God could use you, be encouraged — you’re right where you need to be,” she said. “Our confidence is not found in being prepared or being qualified. Our confidence is in God almighty and what he can do.”
‘Secret to success’
Tara noted that encouragement was part of her personal experience.
“After 7 years of hard work and a lot of questioning, along with wondering what God was using our efforts for, we learned the secret to success,” she said. “We felt like failures not seeing people moved by the gospel, but success wasn’t found in what we accomplished; it was found in our faithfulness. We were, in fact, successful by being faithful — it led to complete dependence on him.”
The conference provided opportunities for women to strengthen their relationships and meet new friends from other churches during shared meals and break times.
The Northwest Women team will host a Missions Celebration and Dessert during the NWBC annual meeting in mid-November at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA.
* Full name withheld due to IMB security concerns.