It’s been a busy, busy few weeks since we last posted, but before we go so far as to leave this year, I’ll tell you about the women’s conference we just had in November.
The seminary hosts this conference every couple of years – in recent years, every other November – for all of the women associated with the seminary. This originally meant the wives of our students, and the purpose was to encourage them in their ministry alongside their husbands, to provide teaching and resources, and to just give them a rest and some time for fellowship with other women in their shoes.
Over the course of time, we’ve expanded it to include all of the women who have any connection with the seminary, whether they’re the wife of a past or present student, or they have been students themselves. Our purpose remains pretty much the same, even though those in attendance are now serving in a rather wide variety of ministries.
When I say, ‘the seminary hosts,’ that means that our conference in held in the name of the seminary, but the planning and pulling it off has been done by a diverse group of faculty wives, faculty, staff, and just those who are interested in serving the seminary family in this unique way.
This year, I served as co-chairman of the planning committee alongside Lois Thorpe, a missionary teacher at the seminary serving with SEND International. I always knew two brains were better than one, but in this case, I know I get the better end of the deal! Lois was an amazing person to work with. She and I have both been part of the planning in the past, but it was really cool to implement some of her ideas this year, and to see them work so well.
One of those ideas was to have as many of our guests also participate in the ‘doing’ of the conference as possible. She felt like this would help create a special atmosphere of ‘we’re all doing this together’. So our worship leader, our emcee (a very, very important role!), and our craft lady were all from our group of attendees, as well as all of the small group discussion leaders. How wonderful it was to see everyone adding their own strengths to this project, multiplying greatly what we as the planning committee started out with. One of our desires was to also help these women see that their giftings in use, Lord willing, giving them some experience and confidence and, ultimately, work ourselves out of a job!
Another blessing was to have our first ever Ukrainian as the main speaker. We have been very, very blessed in the past with some fantastic speakers, but we felt like it was time to tap into the riches of those women God has raised up here in Ukraine. Every conference we ask the women to fill out an evaluation, and we’ve asked each time, ‘Who would you like to see as a main speaker in the future?’ Again and again, one name came up, that of Nadezhda Kommendant. How blessed we were when Nadia agreed to be our speaker this year. And wouldn’t you know it, on the evaluations, the ladies were asking for her again!
Zhenya provided a craft I don’t think we’ll be able to top! She makes handmade greeting cards and special occasion stationery, so when she showed us the design she prepared for us to make, everyone was really impressed. (And we were blessed by the countless hours she put in preparing for us!) We’ve always aimed to have something the women could use at home, or could use in their ministries in their churches. We’ve done everything from making Bible covers and gift bags (before they could be bought ready made here) to how to put photos together as part of a ‘Remembering God’s Working in our Lives’ theme one year.
Oh, and I don’t want to forget. We hold the conference at a wonderful little place outside of Kiev, so the ladies travel to Kiev from all over Ukraine. We ask them to pay for their travel and for a portion of the cost. All the rest is funded by people giving to make this a reality. We had asked prayer for this earlier in the year because we really just couldn’t see how it was going to work. The Lord blessed mightily and we were able to finish in the black. I’ll close with a couple of remaining pictures, but if you want to see more, check out this link: https://www.facebook.com/donna.mcdonnel?ref=tn_tnmn#!/media/set/?set=a.10150415401747513.351528.102344852512&type=1