Nearly 30 women Adventist leaders from around the Mid-America Union came together on Union College’s campus in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Nov. 13, 2018, to learn from each other’s experiences and find inspiration for their leadership journeys. Cohosted by Union College and the Mid-America Union Conference, this leadership event was the first to be held since the North American Division Administrative Committee voted on Sept. 13, 2018, to adopt and endorse the Adventist Women Leaders initiative. Women leaders representing all six conferences in the Mid-America Union and most of the Adventist Church’s ministries joined in encouraging and praying for one another.
According to Debra Brill, NAD vice president for Ministries who chairs the initiative, the goals of AWL are to create and foster a supportive and engaging community for women who serve in leadership capacities for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, along with mentoring and training new and younger women leaders. Brill, who was the evening’s keynote speaker, shared a brief history of Adventist women in early church leadership positions and noted the strong support those working specifically as evangelists received from both James and Ellen White.
Linda Becker, director of special projects and student leadership initiatives at Union College, outlined the qualities of good leaders, including integrity, vision, clear communication and high EQ. “Leadership comes from our core, our characters, who we are,” said Becker. She also presented some of the latest research relating to diverse styles of leadership and how the strengths of male and female leaders complement each other.
A common theme that emerged during the round table discussions was the challenge women face in allowing their voices to be heard in proper ways and channels.
“It wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” said one attendee after the focus gathering. “But I really loved it.”
Diane Thurber, president of Christian Record Services for the Blind, and Vinita Sauder, president of Union College, also participated in the event. Kessia Reyne Bennet, discipleship pastor for College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, presented attendees with a spiritual charge before leading the closing prayer of dedication and blessing.
Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for Strategic Communication and Public Relations for the Columbia Union Conference, spearheaded the AWL initiative last year. She said the messages of AWL to women in leadership are: We see you, we acknowledge your call and accomplishments, we rejoice in how God is working through you, we are here for you, and we are praying for you.
Women who serve as presidents, vice presidents, directors, associate and assistant directors, administrators, superintendents and leaders of Adventist ministries are invited to join the AWL community. Michele Joseph, managing editor of the AWL twice monthly email newsletter, said those who join “will find a group that acknowledges the gifts God has given to each woman, offers leadership development, and fosters a culture of inclusivity and opportunities for growth.” Each issue features profiles of women leaders and shares lessons they are learning. Additionally, in each issue, readers are asked to pray for a particular woman in the network.
AWL is organizing a division-wide luncheon to be held on Jan. 16, 2019, at the close of the NAD Ministries Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There women leaders will engage in interactive learning experiences relating to emotional intelligence, and learn to use methods that help foster healthy workplace practices and relationships.
Register for the luncheon
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The following prayer was printed on the back of the programs for each person to take home after the event:
My Loving Father,
I am comforted that only You have the authority to instruct how Your daughters will extend the ministry of Jesus to a broken world. I present myself to You as a living sacrifice for Your great and mighty dreams for my life.
When I hear Your voice, I will turn to You.
When You say, “Go,” I will depart to the ends of the Earth to do your bidding.
When I feel inadequate for Your call, I will trust You to equip and remember that Your power is perfect in my weakness.
When I fail, I will remember Your grace is sufficient.
When doubters deny my call, I will remember Your beckoning voice.
When I confront evil and the assault of others, I will remember You have overcome darkness and will be my comfort and shield.
When I am shunned or shamed, I will remember my reward is great in Heaven.
When the path is not clear or difficult, I will wait for Your leading.
When I am tempted to quit, I will come to You for confirmation of my call.
When I am lonely, I will linger longer in Your comforting embrace.
When I thirst, I will turn to You to refill my cup.
I will arise with Your strength to do Your bidding all my days with the joy of Your presence as we continue together until the end of our struggle.
And until that day when I hear the words, “Well done,” I remain a vessel in Your hands and an instrument of Your peace.
Photos: Pat Maxwell Robertson