Our 16th Brisbane ‘Women2Women about Mission’ was a morning of reflection on Romans 8:31-39, focussing on the theme of 'If God is for us, ... how will he not ... graciously give us all things?'
As the day began, Sophia, our keynote speaker, reminded us that Paul wrote these words to a persecuted church at the heart of the Roman empire. Condemned and blamed by Jews, pagans, authorities and suspicious neighbours, the church rejoiced that God did not condemn them. He was ‘for them’, assuring them of the hope and freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus. As we contemplate the things that trouble us, we are also challenged to live out this confidence in a world that does not believe that God cares and responds. We can remind ourselves each day what God is doing in our lives – and so recognise the truth that God is for us no matter who or what is against us.
Closer to home, Merryn shared that the second ‘Come and See’ trip to the Easter River Convention in northern New South Wales was even better than the first in 2022. She and her family joined the team of more than 30 people who travelled together, camped together, ran kids’ programs together, braved frogs together and learned together. The SU kids' ministry team, led by Pete and Mel from VACC, discovered that the unpredictable numbers and wide age-range of children and young people participating in the programs required a lot of spontaneous adaptation (and a joyful realisation that God was moving ahead of their expectations). Ike and Eileen - local workers in Brewarrina - have led the convention for many years, incorporating preaching and moving testimonies from indigenous believers and workers. Believers travelled from further afield to join locals together in worship under the stars. Ike's son Doug is the youth worker in Brewarrina, helping teenagers and young adults discover that ‘God is for them’ in communities where addictions and spiritual attacks can be deeply challenging. Some who accepted Jesus as Saviour at Convention live long distances from fellowship - may they also be experiencing the truth that ‘God is for us’.
Parila’s story is unique. Born into a Muslim family in Afghanistan, she grew up being mocked by relatives, peers and teachers because of a disability that affected her walking. She was grateful to marry ‘a good man’, and by God’s grace, they both became believers, though for some time, each was unaware of the other’s commitment! Parila described her conversion as a complete change from a life of fear and superstition to a life of safety in Christ: of knowing that ‘God is for me’. After spending some time in Pakistan where they grew as disciples of Jesus, Parila and her family arrived in Australia. Safely settled in Brisbane, Parila challenged her husband to give up his work and go into full-time ministry so that they could share Jesus more fully with the Afghan community and beyond. This has taken faith and courage, but again they have discovered that ‘God is for us’. Parila has now become a beautician as a way of connecting with women in the community, with her husband building a salon next to their house. Her prayer is that more diverse ethnic groups of women will come, so that she can continue to share the difference it makes to know and follow Jesus.
Rachel and her husband Richard returned to Kalene in Zambia last year – to a hospital where Rachel worked as a midwife from 2002 to 2016. While their roles were intensely practical, sharing the Good News as cultural outsiders with a language barrier was not easy. This raises questions for each of us to ponder: Is there ever a divide between the sacred and secular? How do I work ‘sacredly’ in a workplace – whether in Zambia or in Australia? Their intention in returning for three months was threefold: to support the team, to evaluate how things were going and to consider if it was the right time to re-join the team. They were humbled by the welcome they received and realised that the needs were more significant than ever. However, although they knew that it would be easy to slip back into their old roles, they realised that God’s answer was ‘No’. This was an answer that they had not anticipated, and that was confronting. Rachel shared with us what they are learning from this experience: that since God is for us, our focus must be on our Saviour and not on our service. He invites us to represent Him in the secular and sacred places where we are - not remain ‘in waiting’ for a different call.
As Sophia concluded our day by addressing Romans 8:18-24, she pointed out that each of the speakers - and all of us - are familiar with the groaning which Paul mentions. But as we groan, we cry out to God who is listening and who groans with us. He does not offer us platitudes. He offers us hope because He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. We are secure in Jesus who is with us in the present and who will redeem all things in the future. With this in mind, we do not close our eyes to our fears and worries, or to the sin and suffering in the world, but we bring them to God in prayer, knowing that God is for us. We pray that we will all be dealers in hope, offering this hope to those around us because it is true that ‘it will all be okay in the end; and if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end’. And the end is better than we can ask or imagine.
After such an honest and hope-filled morning, it was a joy to fellowship together over a delicious lunch provided by the women at Village Avenue CC where we had gathered. We are so grateful too, for the music team from VACC, who led us in worship, and for the women from Kuraby CC who once again brought goodies and crafts for us to buy, with all the money being distributed among the speakers we had heard during the day. Similarly, we thank Gordon Cowell for organising the bookshop whose profits were donated to the Train the Trainers Fund through AMT. AMT has generously matched the amount, doubling its impact.
The next W2W Conference will be held on 8 June 2024 at Mueller CC.
A final note: W2W 2023 also noted a ‘changing of the guard’ as several of the long-term committee members retired, delighted that their places are being taken by younger women whose heart for sharing the Good News is strengthened by their hands-on experience both in Australia and overseas.