After months of prayers and planning, about two hundred women and girls gathered in the main auditorium of God’s House International Centre this past weekend (March 3rd & 4th) for the 2017 edition of the Women of Worth (WOW) conference. This year’s theme was “Woman of Wisdom” and the key scripture verse was Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness”.
There were women present from many cities across the UK and also from Sweden and South Africa, all from various walks of life but with a common desire to grow in wisdom and to be inspired. There was such an air of expectation in the house as the conference kicked off at about 6:15pm on the Friday, and that expectation was palpable all through the weekend. The guest speaker, for the second year in a row, was Rev Celia Apeagyei-Collins, the host minister was our very own Pastor Fatima Sibanda, and singer, songwriter and musician, Esther Sardar was the guest artiste.
Friday started off with a powerful praise and worship session led by the GHIC choir. That evening the women were introduced to the conference’s theme song, Way Maker by Sinach – a song that would ring through the entire conference in its melody and its meaning. As the evening progressed, the younger members of In His Steps, the GHIC dance team, came on stage to perform a lovely choreography piece. These girls, all aged between eight and ten, showed that they were as much a part of the conference as the women.
Katie, a young woman who had gone through some traumatic experiences and also been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, testified of God’s amazing ability to turn situations around when she shared her story and spoke about how He completely healed her inside and out. Esther then ministered a couple of the beautiful songs she’s written and had the women singing along to them as they worshipped God.
The evening’s sermon served as an introduction to the concept of wisdom. Rev Celia shared some of her experiences to serve as an encouragement to the women to live lives of wisdom by seeking God first. She explained that their lives and gifts could then make a massive impact in the world around them, even in places where they would ordinarily feel out of place or under-qualified.
Rev Celia spoke of the need to seek God’s face, because a relationship with Him is the foundation on which everything else is built. She exhorted the women not to “forget what God’s face looks like” amidst much religious activity. She encouraged all present to invest more time and effort in getting wisdom – referred to in the Bible as “the principal thing” – than in getting everything else. She expounded on the concept of wisdom with reference to the story of Solomon in 1 Kings 3 and rounded up by explaining how wisdom is diagnostic, how it offers a prognosis and how it provides a prescription. Friday was intended to be a springboard from which we would leap on Saturday and it was exactly that.
On Saturday morning, the morning session was kicked off with an inspiring session of praise and worship led by the GHIC choir. Pastor Fatima thereafter led the women in a time of prayer; however, what was intended to be a brief time of prayer became a time of ministering to all the women as the presence of God literally filled the room. It was a classic case of the owner of the show (God) taking over the programme. If there was one thing that had been made clear in the run-up to the conference, it was that a plan would be made, but God was free to take over because it was all about Him. He did just that.
In that atmosphere of prayer and worship, Rev Celia and Pastor Fatima anointed every woman with oil, symbolic of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and the ministers present prayed for each woman according to their needs.
That afternoon we also received wisdom to care for our minds as Susan Smith, a cognitive behavioural therapist, gave a presentation on depression – a silent killer in modern society of which the Church is a part. She talked about the causes, symptoms and treatment of depression. She dispelled the myth that depression is forever, and urged anyone who had the symptoms to get professional help alongside spending time in prayer and reading the Bible.
After lunch, the women and girls were divided into groups for the break-out sessions. The groups were based on the different stages in a woman’s life and the associated issues. The idea was for each group, led by a facilitator, to discuss certain points and gain tools to handle their specific stage of life wisely. After the break-out sessions all the women came back to the main auditorium and gave feedback about their discussions; it had clearly been an enlightening and inspiring time.
The final session of the conference started off around 6:30pm with a session of celebratory praise. After which Esther Sardar once again worshipped with her voice and her guitar, this time accompanied by the GHIC choir. The older In His Steps members came up and did a dance to a medley of contemporary songs and traditional African songs.
In the conference’s final speaking segment, Rev Celia’s dug deeper into the theme; her main reference this time was Abigail, one of the many women of wisdom whose lives are chronicled in the Bible. She exhorted us to be wise but to ensure it was godly wisdom, which is discerned by the fruits it bears. Godly wisdom, she said, is the ability to act according to God’s priority.
At the end of Saturday night, the women raised their voices in a prayer of thanks to God and it was evident that everyone present had gained so much.
It didn’t end there however; on Sunday morning, Dr Mwenya Mubanga, one of the guests from Sweden, gave a presentation which time hadn’t allowed her to do on Saturday morning. Her focus was on wisdom for taking care of our bodies. In a unique blend of health advice and the word of God, she talked about how our habits and what we consume can have long-lasting effects in our bodies and even affect the next generation. She also helped clear some ‘health foods’ misconceptions that are all over social media these days.
WOW 2017 was one of those conferences that you need to unpack as it were – I foresee times of quiet contemplation as the CDs are played and the notes taken are reviewed; I can almost see women in their homes with knees bowed in prayer to the God of all wisdom, asking for strength to walk in the wisdom that they have received. Amen (so be it).
– Kemi Adetoro