By Holly Linzay, Regional Reporter
PINEVILLE – It is often through pain and persecution that the Lord can work in a person or even birth a ministry.
“Your pain is for your progress. Your pain is for a purpose. But take courage and believe God,” Debbie Stuart, the keynote speaker, urged the women gathered at the Kaleidoscope Conference as she told about how her life related to Paul’s shipwreck experience in Acts 27.
Stuart, director of ministry initiatives at Hope for the Heart ministries in Dallas, shared how the “shipwrecks” in her own life led her to minister to women in prison. She opened up about how her son, Jarrad, was arrested and has been incarcerated for the last seven years.
“When the two police officers took my son and arrested him, I asked God for divine intervention. I asked God why would He not deliver my son, and He said, ‘I just did,’” Stuart said explaining that God’s ways are not “our” ways and the Lord “appoints shipwrecks” for “His own good reasons.”
About 260 women at the conference Feb. 7 at First Baptist Church in Pineville were challenged by Stuart to see God work in the midst of the storms in their lives and to anchor themselves in the Word so they do not abandon hope.
Kaleidoscope is a Cooperative Program sponsored event sponsored by the Louisiana Baptist Convention Women’s Missions & Ministry. The theme of the conference, “Delight” was based on Psalm 119:174. When asked to speak at the conference Stuart said she was hoping the Lord would bless her with the word “delight” as her word to focus on this year.
“In November, I ask the Lord to give me a word to focus on for the coming year. I said, ‘Lord, let me help you this year. Let’s do jubilee or joy, but so far I’ve had no fun words,” Stuart said among laughter, adding that her word for 2016 is “sacrifice.”
Armed with her Hebrew dictionary and an early 19th Century dictionary, Stuart discovered sacrifice did not mean what she thought.
“When I looked up the definition, this is when the Lord broke my heart. It meant a total abandonment to the will of God at all cost. With tears coming down , I said, ‘Bring on the sacrifice,’” Stuart said challenging the women to ask the Lord for a “literal word” for each of them to focus on this year.
After the book of Psalms, Stuart said, the word “delight” is most mentioned in the Bible in the book of Job. Given the sufferings of Job, Stuart said that surprises most people.
By focusing on what happened to Paul in Acts 27, Stuart detailed lessons that can be learned for a “successful shipwreck” through the storms of life.
“It’s time to get with God and believe what He said. It will take courage and raw, sheer bravery to do what the Lord has called you to do. The devil will fight you tooth and nail. But we need to stand up out of our shipwreck and do what we are called to do,” Stuart said adding that in “our weakness, He’ll be strong.”
Through Paul’s shipwreck, Stuart said the Apostle did not abandon hope and he remained calm because he knew to “whom he belonged.”
During the opening and closing services, Laura Meadows, on the women’s ministry team at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, led everyone in worship by song. Afterward, the women had the opportunity to choose from nine different breakout sessions to attend. The topics ranged from “mentoring” to “ministering to women during times of crisis” to “celebrating holidays” and “God-moments.”
In the “When Crisis Comes Home” session, Tammy Saffel, a licensed professional counselor and WMU director from Concord-Union South Association, detailed key resources that can help equip women to minister to other women in times of crisis and to family members who may be plagued by PTSD.
Laura Hooks, who came with a group of seven women from Open Door Baptist Church in Lake Charles, said she was a first-time attendee to the women’s conference. Hearing about the book, “Women Reaching Women in Crisis” and the WMU book, “Trading Up,” as well as the “Celebrate Recovery” and “Grief Share” 12-week courses was helpful, Hooks said. “I’m loving this women’s conference. It has opened my eyes to resources I didn’t realize I have available. These resources will enable us to minister better,” Hooks said.
Pam Walker, director of Care & Hope Ministry in Bastrop, told attendees in her “Take Time to Notice” breakout session, the first step in compassion ministries was meeting a physical need of people.
“Identify a need in the community, and then the need becomes a vehicle to build relationships with people so you can introduce them to Jesus,” Walker said.
In her town, when the mill closed, people lost jobs and hunger became a real issue. “God broke my heart for these people,” Walker noted.
She opened a thrift store and created a food-distribution ministry on one side of the store. “A box of food can change people’s lives. We gave out 32,000 pounds of food last month. That has become the vehicle to present the Gospel,” Walker added.
In the “Journaling in Color” breakout session, Carrie Dodson and her mother, Toya Dodson, shared how they have found a fresh approach to Bible journaling through implementing various art mediums such as watercolors, acrylic paints, letter stickers and ink pads. Carrie, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, said illustrating her faith gives her a whole new way to be inspired by scripture.
“I’ve always loved to paint and draw. Bible journaling is a way I can use my talents God has given me to focus on Him,” Carrie added.
Doris Rockhold, who came with a group from Lafayette First Baptist Church, glowed with excitement after the creative journaling session, and said she is anticipating some quiet time with the Lord.
“In my own private Bible study time, I am looking forward to journaling. It will be fun and inspirational. With illustrative journaling, you can add your own personality. I think it will make me want to go more in depth. Certain scriptures can be more emphasized,” Rockhold enthused.
Yvette Dunn, the women’s ministries leader at Fort Necessity Baptist Church in Winnsboro, said creative journaling will be something new for her to try. “I’m going to step out and do something new. I plan to focus on a scripture, highlight it and use that scripture as a prayer,” Dunn said.
From the “Generations” breakout session, Dunn said she learned new strategies to engage all ages of women in her church.
“We so need to connect all our ladies, young and old, so we can minister to all. I plan to do a women’s Bible study,” she said, adding, “Our group came to Kaleidoscope to grow closer to God. And after hearing Debbie Stuart, I plan to seek the Lord about a ‘word’ for the year for me.”
Kathy Rogers, a missions’ leader at Big Island Baptist Church in Deville, came to Kaleidoscope to find inspiration.
“To be able to come to a women’s conference of this quality is a blessing. I am finding many different ideas I plan to take back to my church. I feel inspired,” Rogers said.
Jamie Harvey, with a group from Sweetwater Baptist Church in Quitman, echoed her sentiments. “This is my first Kaleidoscope and it has really helped me. I am a new Christian, and want to learn more about God. The teachers in the sessions are really knowledgeable and it’s been a blessing,” Harvey said, adding that she plans to take back the information she gleaned from the conference to her women’s group.