Abiding is more than just a biblical concept. For the believer in Jesus, it’s a way of life.
“Today our world and culture tell us to do anything but abide,” said Ashley Allen, senior consultant for Embrace Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, to a gathering of more than 300 women during the 2019 N.C. Baptist Women’s Retreat. “[Christ] is all-sufficient, and we can rest in Him.”
“Abide” was the theme for this year’s retreat, which drew more than 300 women from across the state to Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro on Oct. 25-26. Over the course of the two-day event, attendees explored what it means to abide through times of worship, large-group session, breakout sessions, fellowship and prayer.
The theme was based on John 15:5 which says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Betsy Bolick, founder of Small Enough Ministries in Boone, served as the event’s keynote speaker. In her opening session, Bolick examined four of the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus from the Gospel of John in which He explains that He is the “Light,” “the Bread of Life,” “the Good Shepherd” and “the True Vine.”
“The world wants to tell you that you’re the vine,” Bolick said. “That all the power is in you, that all the hope is in you. We tell our girls, ‘Go, do, and be,’ and some of that is not bad; but ‘Go, do, and be for the glory of God and in the power of His Holy Spirit.’”
Bolick reminded attendees that abiding means spending time with God in prayer and Scripture reading to recognize who He is.
In a later session, Bolick shared that not only must we abide in Christ, but that for those who believe, God dwells in them. She also encouraged listeners to remember that they are at war with the powers of this world.
“Our baptism did not drown our flesh,” said Bolick, adding that our only hope is to remain in Jesus.
Meg Barnes, who serves in the worship ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, led worship during the main sessions. Barnes’ powerful vocals, accompanied by Hannah Nelson on vocals and guitar along with Patty Hart on piano, led women in powerful, moving hymns and songs of praise.
“You can only find happiness in the Lord, and He was so present here.”
Supplementing the main teaching and worship sessions, the retreat offered several breakout sessions. Those sessions, led by ministry leaders from across North Carolina, featured more than a dozen options for women to learn practical methods for applying the principle of abiding in their everyday lives.
Harriet Page, who made the trip from Knightdale and has been a regular event attendee through the years, said she particularly appreciated the breakout session offerings.
“My favorites have been the breakout sessions because you get to pick something that’s very specific to what you are struggling with or what you’re already studying in the Word,” Page said.
Leena Bess and Melanie Whitesides, two women who came together from near Lincolnton, echoed the same sentiment.
Bess attended a breakout session titled “Abiding in the Vine Through the Storm,” which was led by Ashley Reffit, women’s discipleship director at The Summit Church’s campus in Garner. Reffit, a cancer survivor, sought to encourage women in how to trust God in difficult circumstances.
“Her story was just phenomenal,” Bess said.
Several women noted how thankful they were to have the opportunity to get away from the demands of life and spend time with God and other women during the retreat. From young mothers to empty nesters, the prevailing sentiment was articulated by Donna Carter, an attendee from Franklinton.
“You can only find happiness in the Lord, and He was so present here,” Carter said.
Carter added how much she appreciated being around other women in a spirit of worship and rest, noting that the conference motivated her to “be in awe of God every single day of my life.”
Retreat planners concluded the event by announcing the theme of next year’s retreat, which will be “In the Secret.” The 2020 N.C. Baptist Women’s Retreat will return to Caraway Conference Center and Camp next year on Oct. 23-24. Registration will open June 1 at embracenc.org/secret20.
by Eric Stishan / Communications / Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
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