Hope Floats at “I am Loved Conference”
By Natalie Meeks, Guest Writer
GREENVILLE, South Carolina – Hope floats, so they say. It rises up and up. But who carries hope?
On March 5 in Riga, I was blessed with the opportunity to join in the company of 150 Latvian women from across the nation, convening for a day to soak in the truth of Zephaniah 3:17. Generations came together, spanning ages 17 to 70, in search of encouragement. The annual “I am Loved” Conference is hardly your average, predictable women’s event. It is a place of solace and rest; a time set aside to abide in the truth of what Christ desires for His daughters:
To save them, to rejoice over them, to quiet them, to sing over them…
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Scripture says that the Lord our God is in our midst. And when we seek Him – when we meet Him – He will carry us in love.
On this March Saturday in beautiful Old Gertrude’s Church, souls were ministered to, uplifted and encouraged in worship through song and art, speakers and Scripture, prayer and fellowship. Lectures were led by inspirational Latvian women who now serve as leaders in their own church women’s groups. These groups were rooted, formed and fostered four years ago by the first gathering of this very conference; seeds of hope, when watered and tended, bear fruit.
The day of encouragement commenced with coffee and tea and Latvian pastries, savored over laughter and conversation. Beaming faces smiled and conversed, anticipating a feast of worship and edification.
They were not to be disappointed.
In order to understand the importance and impact of the “I am Loved” Conference, we must first ask ourselves critical questions: Why do we speak about hope? What is hope and where is it to be found? Is there a formula by which women must live; if so, what happens when the situation shifts and the formula no longer works?
Of course, we know that formulas are for math and science, not for souls. When we attempt to operate by employing them, Disappointment ensues, often followed by her sly friend Despair. Emptiness and Guilt penetrate and the woman is left stuck in the mires of Loss. She is left, Lienite shares, “verging on collapse.” These and many more are the struggles of Latvian women.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
It might be said that the paramount hour of the conference was the testimony of popular worship leader, songwriter and life coach, Linda Prindule. Linda, like many Latvian women, has suffered grief. She knows ache and loss. She bears heart-scars that tell the story of suffering through the loss of two unborn children. A woman of faith, she was brought to her knees over the course of two sequential pregnancies in which her babies passed away just one and two months before delivery.
Linda bared her witness of brokenness to our congregation of women. She poured forth the reality of what it means to encounter the “chair of death” according to a timetable other than our own. How does one survive such despair?
In Christ alone.
Linda’s story shone as a glowing testimony of the God who meets us in our losses and carries us higher up and further in; who bares the responsibility for life and death and timing. Later in the day, Linda ministered to and prayed over women. Many, many hearts were touched.
The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! (Ruth 2:12)
The story of Ruth and Naomi was carefully expounded, setting the tone for a deeper understanding of God’s call to rest in a place of love for His daughters. A captivated audience listened intently as it was explained, “this book is about women, the Holy Spirit and redemption. It is about laying down her burden before the Lord and letting Him carry it.”
Women around the room listened with opened hearts to the good news; the news that the Lord wants to receive her gently and as she grows in trust, He hands her hope. She trusts because He knows her most personal and tightly held struggles.
Because He knows them, He cares.
Because He cares, He blesses her.
Because He blesses her, she is under His protection.
And because she is protected, she has peace.
This is hope in light of the gospel. The story of Ruth and Naomi served to illustrate to these seeking Latvian women what comes to pass when we choose to “accept the invitation to meet Jesus for Hope; when we realize that we are being invited to not only listen, but to be.”
This is companionship and communion with the God who became flesh and walked every single one of the struggles we endure today; this is the knowledge that “I am loved.”
One of the key points explored in the conference was the importance of accepting that each and every woman’s path will look different. “We must maintain an eternal perspective.” Our unique story will never be identical to that of our fellow sister, save for the everlasting hope we have in our Lord. This alone is unchanging. For as the psalmist says,
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)
Just as individual as the women were in attendance; likewise unique and varied were the means of ministry employed throughout the day.
Latvian artist Kristine Peterson’s worship painting was a highlight of the conference. Hearts and voices raised together in song and praise while Kristine rendered a masterpiece before our eyes. Watching Kristine worship through art is an incredible, awe-inspiring experience. It feels as though one has found entry into a small window of God’s creative force. While we worshiped in song, her brush skillfully and reverently matched our praises with beauty in color on canvas.
Conference attendees later had the opportunity to choose between various breakout session workshops, covering a span of topics such as: Relationships, Leadership as a Woman, Calling, Codependency and a special time of prayer and personal worship. Led by Lienite and other conference leaders, these small group settings provided the opportunity for women to truly dig deeper into the mines of encouragement and truths set before them.
One attendee shared, “This conference changed – it broke – all the stereotypes of women’s conferences.”
Hope floats indeed. And who carries hope?
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. (Psalm 62:5)
Natalie Meeks is a freelance writer from South Carolina. She and her husband are in the process of adopting a wonderful Latvian boy. She is a regular guest writer for BBI.