'Reflections of Ruth' ‒ NEC Women's Ministries Retreat
15th November 2018
'Spiritually fulfilling'. This was the overwhelming view that summed up the experience of the women who attended the North England Conference (NEC) Women's Ministries annual retreat October 2018. The women arrived in their numbers from right across the NEC, to The Retreat, Forest Pine Hotel and Golf Resort in Scunthorpe. The facilities were excellent; sauna, swimming, steam, walking, fresh air, and more. Among those who attended were pastors' wives and our NEC President's wife who always supports our events. A number of our sisters brought their friends and neighbours too, and this made the event even richer. The theme for this year was 'Reflections of Ruth'.
The key aim was to explore and experience how to build relationships for eternity, by 'Reflecting' on the life of Ruth and her relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi. We wanted the women to take note of how amid great challenges and loss they forged a relationship that has acted as an example for all women of God in these equally challenging times.
Our main speaker for the weekend was Nadine Collins PhD.
Dr Collins came to us from the USA via the Caribbean. She is an international speaker and model Christian Adventist woman, who from preschool to PhD she has been educated in Adventist schools, colleges and universities. She has an impressive range of topics that she preaches and teaches in particular the topic of prayer. She has authored several books on prayer and we were delighted as she shared them with us. She was 'super excited' to research the topic of Ruth for our retreat and she found more than she had initially written in her previous research.
Dr Collins inspired the women to dig deeper into the book of Ruth, 'Reflecting on Ruth' and her relationship with God and her mother-in-law Naomi. Some of the topics she covered were 'bittersweet' where she spoke about how God arranges circumstances that will enable us to find Him and lead others to Him, even when we disobey Him, we can repent and be saved. Naomi had a 'bittersweet' experience and out of it she led Ruth to God. On Sabbath she spoke on 'A Woman Called', highlighting how Naomi had a calling from God even though she was going through so much.
Some women were amazed as they had never seen this depth in the book of Ruth before, neither had they recognised the significance of the mother-daughter relationship in terms of our spiritual development. The topics covered by Dr Collins struck a chord with the women and effectively fulfilled the objectives that were set by Beulah Plunkett, NEC Women's Ministries and Sabbath School director, who wanted the women to:
Our Women's Ministries Retreat also had a 'Prayer Room'. Joan Saunders and her team came to the retreat with a purpose, and that was to establish a 'Prayer Room' and thus create a real space where the women could come and pray individually or as groups. They could ask for prayer or pray for themselves. It was a beautiful room and over the weekend the women made full use of this special facility. A 'Prayer Tree' was created by the prayer team for the women to place their requests over the weekend. It was a very moving experience. This prayer facility has a real necessity and Joan has been instrumental in ensuring that we have this wonderful experience wherever we gather.
The hymn says 'There is singing up in heaven'. Well we had singing here on earth and we were truly blessed by Zena Taylor who was our soloist for the weekend. Zena blessed us with her ministry in song and shared some of her journey of singing with us. She has been singing since childhood and her depth of love for praising God in song is evident in the way she sings and praises the Lord. She also teaches singers how to get the best from their voices and she says if you want to sing you can, just get in touch with her.
We were also blessed by JoAnne Sibanda who plays the clarinet. Her thoughtful and spiritual pieces of music made our hearts melt. There is such a blessing when someone uses their giftedness to praise the Lord. Her husband Lungani Sibanda is the Communication director here at the NEC and he was one of the honorary men that came to support us at the event. His faithfulness is amazing and with his team we are always assured that we will have sound and all the equipment we need to make our event a wonderful experience.
We had a banquet and mini concert to end the Sabbath evening. The women dressed up and made the most of the occasion. We had our soloist, our clarinettist and volunteers singing, reciting poetry, playing music, and some made us laugh until we cried. There is great joy in the Lord and we made sure of that! There are so many talented individuals in our Church. We were happy and blessed.
The Women's Ministries Retreat is a special retreat for women, to come away and spend some time with God and to build better friendships. When the Lord chose 'Reflections of Ruth' as our theme, I did not know that her name meant 'friendship' or 'companionship'. It was as I embarked on my research into the theme that had decided the objectives that were established, that I learnt what the name Ruth actually meant. I saw the Lord's hand in everything!
At the retreat the women were just so happy to be there and they were so encouraged to make new friends. So many women came to me and said what a blessing the retreat had been. We have too many lonely people in our churches so we need to work extra hard to make our churches into places where people find real friendships and the reality of God's love. We need to help them do so by giving them opportunities to start the process of sharing and caring. We had workshops, stalls, a photographer, exercise, time to share and care, walks, discussion time etc., all of which enabled the women to get the most out of the weekend.
What was truly exceptional was the staff. I had no complaints, instead there was an abundance of compliments for how they looked after us. The hotel staff asked about our faith and were interested in how we worship. Two guests at the hotel were even invited to our banquet and they were very happy to spend the evening with us.
The retreat is a witnessing and nurturing event that the Women's Ministries department hold each year. Women come for many reasons. Some women attended who had left church, but came to the retreat to see if they could find their faith again. I spoke to two individuals who have said because of the blessings they experienced at the retreat they will be going back to church. We are praying that they will find God's love that will hold them and keep them faithful till Jesus comes.I thank God for His goodness, my secretary Voahangy for her hard work, and all who helped.