I have a confession. Sometimes I “zone out” until a speaker begins to tell a personal story; only then am I completely engaged. Maybe like me, you find personal stories draw you in and hold you happily captive until you find out what happens at the end. Savvy speakers weave lessons into their stories, providing listeners with truths couched in memorable scenarios.
A few years ago, I had a vision (not an Isaiah 6 kind of vision, but you get the idea). I envisioned an event where young women could hear a 100-year-old Christian woman tell how her faith in Jesus carried her through a century of life and ministry. But there was more: I wanted the older generation to hear younger women tell of their commitment to Jesus and His call on their lives. I wanted this event to bridge the generation gap as women heard from each other, heard of God’s influence in their lives, and were challenged in their walk with Jesus.
We called the event Gather ‘Round the Table, and our theme was Jesus Is Enough. We featured 4 age-based panels (20s–30s, 40s–50s, 60s–70s, 80s+). Each panel had 4 women, and the “most seasoned” speaker was 101 years old!
WOMEN WITH STORIES
The panelists met a few times to plan their testimonies and pray. Each panelist had about 5 minutes to weave her faith story around these topics
- Challenges and joys of this segment of life
- What God is doing in this stage of life
- How each woman was fulfilling God’s call
Between the panel presentations, small-group discussions around the tables gave women a chance to process what they had heard, share their stories, and build relationships. We provided questions like
- If you have lived through the same stage of life as the panelists who just spoke, then describe a faith highlight you experienced in that time.
- If you are in that stage of life now, what are you experiencing in your faith journey currently?
- If you haven’t reached that stage yet, what questions do you have about it?
ROCK A PRAYERWALK
To give women a chance to get up and move, we planned an hourlong prayerwalk. One group walked to the nearby Baptist student center, while other groups prayerwalked around the downtown area near the church. We provided a simple “How to Rock a Prayerwalk” guide in our event booklet. When they returned, they shared at their tables how they experienced God’s presence during the walk.
FAITHFUL AT 101
Our oldest panelist was Emanetta Qualls, a 101-year-old International Mission Board missionary who served in Brazil for 21 years. Among the pearls of wisdom she shared was how Psalm 23 had inspired her all her life: “I’m an old lady, and I can truthfully say that goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my 101 years!” The room exploded with applause.
Share Your Own Stories
What stories of faith are just waiting to be told around the tables and among the women of your church? When public health circumstances allow, gather and declare God’s faithfulness together.
Cindy Lewis Dake writes from Texas, where Gather ‘Round the Table was her church’s 2019 women’s retreat. Her favorite piece of feedback from the event was this nugget: “This event affirmed the importance of communal remembering, as Scripture often calls God’s people to remember what He has done and to speak that truth aloud.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Missions Mosaic. To subscribe to this monthly missions lifestyle magazine, visit wmustore.com.