Report of the BWA Women’s Leadership Conference,
South Africa - July 2015
Report by Margaret Brown
This event took place 18-21 July in the Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme for the Conference was ‘Arise, Shine’ taken from Isaiah 60:1 ‘Arise, shine; for your light has come!’ Many times throughout the Conference one of the speakers would say, ‘Baptist women’ and the congregation would respond. ‘Arise and shine!’
On registering each participant received a specially made bag made by the women of Christian Women’s Job Corp from material associated with the area. Each bag contained the programme, prayer guide, pen, a spoon decorated in traditional South African beadwork, also a small beadwork flag of South Africa, notebook, guidebook of South Africa and a ball.
The grounds of the hotel were laid out with paths, flowers and trees, a small lake and even a little waterfall. Because it was the winter season in South Africa in the evening there were fires burning in braziers giving off the aroma of wood smoke. The opening dinner was held in Chief Boma’s Restaurant and this was truly a banquet, with a wide range of choices available for our meal. We were welcomed to the large ‘hut’ to the accompaniment of African music. Food was laid out in buffet style with plenty for everyone.
We were warmly welcomed to the ‘rainbow nation’ with music and song in various languages of South Africa, led by SA Baptist Choir. Everything was very colourful and bright, not least the dresses of the African women, also many of the participants wore their national dress. At the beginning of our evening meeting the continental flags with the continental presidents following behind their flag were paraded into the hall – quite a spectacle. The flags were placed along the back of the stage providing the backdrop for our time together. Greetings were brought by John Upton, BWA President; Joina Dhlula, President BWUA; Durosinjesu Ayanrinola, Gen. Secy. All Africa Baptist Fellowship; Paul Msiza, BWA President Elect; Dorothy Selebano WD President 2005-2010.
Raquel Contreras present President addressed the meeting. She spoke from Psalm 90:1,’Lord, You have been our Refuge through all generations.’ From our past to our present and into our future the Lord is our Refuge. As we walk in step with the Spirit we are able to arise and shine. We remember those before us who knew God as their Refuge and we learn from them. On our journey we also can know the Lord as our Refuge. Now we are going to arise and shine. Light during the day doesn’t do much but light in the darkness gives light. We are not called to shine in the light, but to shine in the darkness around us. None of us are exempt from problems, yet God has put us where we are to arise and shine so the Light of the World will be seen, and the only way we can do this is because the glory of the Lord has shone on us.
Each morning began with praise and worship. The Africans led the way in exuberance; they put their whole selves into the worship, dancing as they sang, faces shining. It was a joy to watch and greater joy to participate with them. Raquel led Bible studies on Abigail and Priscilla on Sunday and Monday mornings respectively followed by a short time of prayer and action in response. Each evening in closing an inspirational meditation was given. The days were filled with themed presentations, continental presentations and times of prayer presentations, some of which were very poignant and moving.
The eight Millennium Goals provided the focus for the eight workshops on Sunday afternoon. On Monday afternoon events included Africa Market where goods from Africa were on sale; a Safari where each of the continental unions and the BWA Women’s Dept. had information about themselves and some items for sale, plus prayer requests; I am Beautiful where we could be encouraged to live in beauty, freedom and joy; Prayer Stations where we could walk from one African country to another praying as we went; Pillowcase Dresses where we could learn to make dresses and shorts from pillowcases.
As the Baptist Women’s Day of Prayer was celebrating its sixty-fifth anniversary this year, the occasion was marked by a special presentation by the EBWU and the BWA Women's Department. Again this proved to be a rather moving time for some, and also a timely reminder of the importance of prayer in the lives of Baptist women throughout the world. The first Monday of November is allocated yearly for this special Day of Prayer when Baptist women unite in prayer for one another and for the needs of the various countries in which we serve. We have the opportunity to study the Word of God and give financially as well as pray together. Those unable to attend a Day of Prayer meeting can share now in the programme via Facebook.
Included throughout the programme were times when several women gave testimony of how God has been and is at work in their lives. It is always good to hear these testimonies and to praise God for His goodness and mercy in the lives of others as well as in our own lives.
The business part of the Conference took place on Monday afternoon. The reports of the unions and the WD were all printed in the programme booklet as well as the financial statement. Two new officers were elected – Mrs Cathy James, USA to the position of Secretary/Treasurer and Dr Ksenija Magda, Croatia to the position of President. It was a great honour for Europe to be the continent providing the President for the next five years and we showed our appreciation to Ksenija.
The prayer partners for Europe for the next five years is Asia, when we will be praying for the needs in that continent and Asia will be praying likewise for Europe. The new officers were installed on the final morning of the Conference with Ksenija responding as our gathering came to a close. She will be relying on the Lord to uphold her and direct her, and she will be relying on the prayers of His people.
Our time together was all too short, but what a wonderful, inspirational and challenging time we had in Johannesburg. The meeting with ‘old’ friends, making of new friends, learning from each other, praying for one another, the vibrant worship, the laughter and the tears have enriched our lives and hopefully none have returned home unchanged by what we experienced in South Africa. All praise and glory to the Lord Who enables us all to Arise and Shine.
The 21st BWA Congress, 22-26 July, followed the Leadership Conference. It was held in the International Conference Centre in Durban, the theme being Jesus Christ the Door. This was also a very colourful mix of culture, language and costume from over 100 countries. Various presentations were given each day, as well as music and song from different groups and choirs. There were Bible studies in different language groups, also various focus groups. Different preachers, including Dimitrina Oprenova of Europe, each day enabled us to see Jesus Christ as the Door to Light, the Door to Liberty, the Door to Leadership, the Door to Love, the Door to Listening & Learning, and the Door to Life. Other doors were mentioned along the way.
During the Women’s Department Meeting Ksenija Magda, the newly installed WD President addressed the gathering, taking as her text Romans 8:10&11. Although many take these verses as pertaining to the resurrection, these verses are also for the here and now. The power of the Spirit enables us to arise and shine.
Paul Msiza of South Africa was installed as the new President of BWA. The Vice-Presidents were presented, Jan Saethre as first Vice President, and Dimitrina Oprenova amongst them, coming from Europe, Norway and Bulgaria respectively. The next BWA Congress is planned for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August 2020.
This proved to be another enriching and challenging experience. All of us were encouraged to determine the door that the Lord has opened for us and to seize the opportunity, being mindful that opposition also accompanies opportunity, but God will enable us to get through our particular door, if we are truly seeking to be obedient to Him and honour His name.
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