Hi, I am Gloria; I am from Nigeria. Hi, I am Margaret; I am from Jamaica. Hi, I am Jana; I am from the Czech Republic.
These were individual members of a group of women from Rutherford Bible Chapel. Our lives briefly intersected when we gathered at historic Keswick Conference Center in New Jersey for their church’s annual Women’s Retreat. I was their speaker, yet I had a lot to learn.
Observation 1: This is a culturally rich part of our nation.
With New York City in the background, Newark Airport looked welcoming, thanks to the friendly greeting by Adriana, our escort. She met us at the curb, and whisked Cymp, my traveling companion and me, away for a cultural experience at Al Basha Restaurant, where we feasted on the best of Middle Eastern cuisine. Flavors and spices from the mouthwatering specialties of bakdunsiah, cucumber & yogurt with olive oil, tabbouleh, hummus, mettabal, kibbi, served with fresh, hot homemade pita bread, created a warm atmosphere for getting to know you conversation.
Our next stop - Keswick Conference Center, where we would spend our next few days. When we stopped for gas, I was told that Jersey women don’t pump gas. (In fact, no one does. The station provides attendants.)
Observation 2: These are friendly women.
Descending the carpet-covered stairs for dinner into a sea of faces I had never laid eyes on was daunting, even for this extrovert. I should never have worried! One by one, I met cheerful women who obviously loved the Lord and loved each other. Their desire to be together was evident, and their ability to embrace newcomers was exemplary.
Observation 3: These are praying women.
“Oh hi! You are Debby, our speaker. We have been praying for you.” This refrain came with nearly every introduction. “And where exactly is Larry right now? We have been praying for him as well.” Seriously?
Observation 4: I could relax.
By the time I stood Friday evening to give my first message, I knew I was in the midst of an exceptional group. Each attendee had gone to great pains to be in her seat. Hurdles of jobs, families, deaths, and demands were overcome to make this annual retreat a priority. They wanted to be here; they were eager to learn.
Observation 5: There were a few firsts.
I have never been to a Women’s Retreat that offered a buffet of 10 varieties of homemade biscotti. Oh my! Thank you, Susan. And I have never been to a Women’s Retreat that offered Zumba as a free time activity. Wow! Thank you, Pauline. Rain check. I didn't color either, but a chatty crowd consistently assembled around a table stacked with books and pencils to create take home artwork. Right, Mary Grace?
Observation 6: This is a spiritually healthy group.
Though these women are carrying heavy life loads, they are a spiritually refreshing group. I have drawn a few conclusions as to why:
• These women are operating in the gifts God has individually given them. The retreat was well organized, and well run. Mickie with her team of Susan and others prepared ahead, made sure every detail was taken care of, and addressed each need as it arose with kindness and competence.
• They are an international, multi-ethnic composite. The nations of Czech Republic, Ghana, Jamaica, Nepal, Nigeria, Trinidad, were represented. Since I have dedicated my life to help fulfill the Great Commission, this profile took my breath away. Standing in their midst I could here the words of Revelation 7:9: “…there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in from of the Lamb.” More than once, I was emotionally moved to be among them.
• They incorporate a full range of ages, which creates a vibrant sense of community. Dot, our inspiring 90 year old said, “Next week I am writing my check to reserve my place for next year!” How is that for vision?
So, thank you, Ladies of Rutherford Bible Chapel, for all you taught me. May your tribe increase!