By Linda Greene
What is the result when you mix a woman with a sweet, listening and obedient spirit together with a group of ladies hungry to steal away and refresh spiritually? What happens when this thirsty group of ladies just happens to be a gathering representing various ages, social backgrounds, talents, and Christ-centered churches? The result is the Rhode Island Christian Women’s Conference!
Throughout the weekend of October 16th-18th, women from all over the state of Rhode Island, and even from neighboring states attended the second-annual Rhode Island Christian Women’s Conference. Held on the pristine grounds of Camp Canonicus in Exeter, Rhode Island, this weekend was a testament to God’s presence and faithfulness.
The formation of this memorable weekend dates back to the Fall of 2013. It began as a discussion between Mary Goff of Warwick, RI and a couple of friends. They all agreed it would be a fantastic idea to have a ladies’ retreat. Confirmation began when Mary’s sister returned from a retreat in Texas and exclaimed that the women needed a retreat to attend in this state! As Mary prayed, she sensed the Lord pressing her, “Well, are you going to do a retreat or just talk about it?”
Mary began the process of organizing the retreat by receiving affirmation from the women’s ministry leader of her local church, but the target of the retreat soon changed. She recognized God leading her to branch out and formulate this into something much bigger than only for her local church. It was apparent the ministry of this retreat was for the entire state of Rhode Island! Mary did not hesitate; this was not the first time God had used her to coordinate an event that encompassed people from all over the state. Mary had already had the experience of establishing and leading a local MOPS ministry (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and had pioneered the Rhode Island Christian Homeschool Co-op, both of which are still running successfully today. “My life verse has always been Hebrews 10:25, ‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching.”
As the concept of the retreat took hold, it was bathed in prayer. Mary sought the Lord’s leading, and certain ladies were put on her heart, representing different Christian churches and gifted with varying different talents. When the ladies met for the first time for an informational and prayer time, it quickly became evident that the Lord had organized the event. At that meeting, Mary asked a unique, bold question to the women sitting around the table: “Why are you here? How has God called you to be involved in the leading of this retreat?”
She had prayed over which of the ladies were to have a function in the leadership and had the faith that God had already called them to this event before she had invited them to that meeting! As the women shared their sure convictions, it became apparent that each lady did have a unique story to tell that indicated the Lord had gone before each one and had prepared them for this retreat!
After considerable prayer and preparation, seeking the Lord’s will and guidance all along the way, the first retreat was launched during the last weekend of May 2014. The theme last year? God is a Flavorful God. Mary noted, “I’ve always loved being around people of different denominations and varied cultures because as the Bible says, we are to love one another. Ephesians 4:5 declares “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The weekend was a success. The ladies were touched by the presence of God and their lives were changed.
As last year’s retreat came to an end, it was evident that this event filled a hunger and void in many of the lives of these ladies, and the second annual RI Christian Women’s Retreat continued what has now become an annual event.
“God loves each one of us, and coming together as one seems to be pleasing to God, as He really seems to bless this retreat.” Mary continued. “The first year with the theme that He’s a Flavorful God and this year, we were to declare His works! I love that I have the honor and privilege to bring women together to Honor our one true God with all that He has blessed us with. Plus, I see Him bringing women out of the shadows to declare all that He has done in their life.”
Friday night opened with a time of dinner and fellowship, followed by prayer, praise and a time of personal testimonies. After the scheduled time had ended, some went to bed, but many of the ladies stayed for fellowship and got to know each other on a deeper level.
Saturday morning, the early risers enjoyed a time of fellowship and prayer as they walked on the beautiful Camp Canonicus property. In addition to the tasty meals and Christ-exalting worship throughout the day and evenings, the ladies enjoyed a Christ-centered art workshop, a fun lesson of liturgical dance (for everyone), poetry, communication classes to help the women share their personal testimonies, and more!
Many ladies desired to testify of their experience at the retreat. Here are just a few.
“I am always amazed when we stop our busy lives to come away with God to fellowship with other women and to worship God together. I find that every single time we do this as women, God meets us there. I am so grateful for this Women’s Retreat. It is what I have been missing for over a decade. It is what I needed!!! God met me there just as He always does and I was refreshed and reminded of His deep love for me. I was so thankful to bring my (sixteen-year-old) daughter for the first time, too. I feel like God touched her heart, too, and we got to experience it together!” ~Jamie Carroll
“I would like to share the Scripture verse from the retreat (that was personally handed to me). ‘Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.’ John 8:32. I was searching for the Truth and in His Word I have it.” ~Claudette Delpozzo
“April Gadoury used art to heal a broken place in my heart. Painting over my prayer and tearing my concerns into pieces allowed me to “set free” that which was a burden to me. I created a beautiful piece of art that will always remind me that God binds the brokenhearted and heals their wounds.” ~Cherrilynn Bisbano
“The weekend was full of sharing. It didn’t matter which church or religion you belonged to. We were all sisters in Christ and were thrilled to be in each other’s company… A retreat to disconnect from the world and focus on glorifying God through testimonies, art, music, dance and great food! ~Michelle Pezzelli
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