Echoes from Birmingham[b]Ewa Gutkowska[/b]Ewa Gutkowska

BWA Women's Leadership Conference
July 23-26, 2005

Baptist World Centenary Congress
July 27-31, 2005         

At the beginning were plans. Later some brothers and sisters have taken decisions about place and date. They decided to choose England because 100 years ago the first BWA meeting took place in London. Also women had their own gathering.

Birmingham became the place of the Women's Leadership Conference and Congress of Baptist World Alliance. The dates of these two meetings were July 23-26 and 27-31. Much earlier many people were involved in preparations.
    
Many brothers and sisters offered scholarships to those who couldn't come without this support. And many Baptist Christians regularly prayed for that. God answered the prayers and blessed our time in Birmingham in an amazing way.

I am very grateful to the Lord for the possibility to be there as one of the over 700 participants of the Women's Conference and one of over 13000 Congress participants.

Focus group leaders at Leadership ConferenceFocus group leaders at Leadership Conference

 

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BWA Women's Leadership Conference - July 23-26, 2005


The theme of the Leadership Conference was "Seeing with new eyes". No doubts, it was a big inspiration for all participants thanks to Holy Spirit's grace to see with new eyes our God the Father and God the Son and His Kingdom. "...Coming among us establish Your people on earth, healing streams of forgiveness flow from Your fountain, uniting our hearts in Your love" - these are the words of theme song "With new eyes". Its words and music were prepared by Beverly Foster, worship leader. They accompanied us through all the conference.
    
Ksenija Magda from Croatia introduced the Bible Study concerning "Women's Identity". Through the example of Mary's identity (Jesus' earthly mother) and other passages from the Scripture she helped us see that "Our identity in Christ is to be discovered step by step as we walk on the path of faith."
Dorothy Selebano in her paper on women's identity draw our attention to other, more practical aspects of this issue. She mentioned the role of a Christian woman in the 21st century and how to deal with all the problems, constraints and obstacles confronting us.   

   European delegates of the Leadership ConferenceEuropean delegates of the Leadership Conference

Thelma Chambers-Young in response to the presented paper said: "We were created to carry out this work together. As we move toward reclaiming our identity in Christ, we must be bold, and assertive. Like Esther, we must be willing to place all on the altar, to save our people, God's people, both male and female."

Amparo Medina from Colombia, the author of the book: "Free from Violence in the Family" introduced the second Bible Study concerning "Family roles seen in the light of the Bible". She explained through the Scripture about the absence of predetermined roles of men and women. The division of roles happened when man has fallen. The consequences of that reach in our times also Christian environments. But redemption brought unity of the couple, husband and wife, dignity and mutual submission in the Lord and equality in the leadership of the home.

Luis Mitchell from Canada presented a paper on Changing roles in the family. She introduced a rather dark picture of our reality from sociological point of view. And therefore "Women of all cultures have faced many challenges in holding their families together. It's never been easy and we haven't always succeeded." She added also that women in Christ can be strong and invincible.

In response to the paper, Clover Jarrett from Jamaica in conclusion said: "Let us women take time to empower ourselves globally to face the challenges of the future. Let the strong help the weak so that we can reach the finishing line together."

All participants could choose one of the following focus groups: Fresh look at the Scripture; Justice perverted... Justice pursued; Ministry to women in prostitution; Defusing the power of culture... to tell us who we are; Loving my neighbour; Healthy women, healthy world; Children at risk... our response; The feminisation of HIV/AIDS.

The cultural, historical and language diversity of our world Baptist family could be seen by the Continental Union presentation. It is amazing how different we are and also one in the Lord. Through testimonies we could hear how God works in individual women's life and in our ministry.

  Continental Presidents during establishing the new Continental Prayer Partnerships Continental Presidents during establishing the new Continental Prayer Partnerships
    
We had also possibility to pray for our continental partner and to hear about God's answers to prayers. New prayer partnerships were established. European Prayer Partner before was Latin America, now it is South West Pacific. It was good to realise again what a big role the November Baptist Women's Day of Prayer played and still plays. 

The drama concerning Day of Prayer History introduced by Welsh sisters recalled us some important points.

During the closing session installation of new officers has taken place. Dorothy Selebano from Republic of South Africa was elected as the Women's Department president for next five years. Donna Groover from USA was elected for the secretary/treasurer position. Both of them are very dedicated and godly women. In one of her speech Dorothy said that the world is sick. There are a lot of people who are in pain, who suffer. So much depends on women and there are a lot of things in their hands. People need Jesus. God wants to use us today. It is important to see God in His creation.
This is a big challenge to all and each of us separately to see the suffering world with new eyes. But first of all it is important to see God with new eyes and to see ourselves with new eyes and than God will help us to see others in new way.

BWA Women Department Leaders (top left to right): Yemi Ladokun-Africa; Lorraine Walker-Southwest Pacific; Marina Sands-Caribbean. Middle: Gloria Cabrera de Rivera-Latin America; Ewa Gutkowska-Europe; Judith Chambers-North America. Bottom: Donna Groover-Secretary/Treasurer; Dorothy Selebano-President, Chiyo Murakami-Asia; Patsy Davis-Director.BWA Women Department Leaders (top left to right): Yemi Ladokun-Africa; Lorraine Walker-Southwest Pacific; Marina Sands-Caribbean. Middle: Gloria Cabrera de Rivera-Latin America; Ewa Gutkowska-Europe; Judith Chambers-North America. Bottom: Donna Groover-Secretary/Treasurer; Dorothy Selebano-President, Chiyo Murakami-Asia; Patsy Davis-Director.

The programme of the Conference was very full therefore our EBWU reception which was planned to be held earlier took place very late in the evening. It was very good to be together as Europeans. In spite of weariness we enjoyed very much this time when we could say something about ourselves, talk, pray and share shortly about our life and ministry. This is wonderful that we are the members of such a wonderful Baptist family.

 

Donna Groover and Dorothy Selebano
EBWU committee praying for Latin America African delegates
(click pictures to enlarge)



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Baptist World Centenary Congress
July 27-31, 2005

In my opinion the Leadership Conference was splendid prelude to this much bigger event.
"Jesus Christ Living Water" it was the theme of the Congress.

Generally I can say that it was amazing time, when we could experience special fellowship and in spite of the big gathering, meet famous Baptist leaders like Billy Kim, David Coffey, Jimmy Carter, Tony Campolo or Rick Warren. Not only meet but also hear them.
Everyone could choose what is most interesting for himself/herself. There were special programmes for children, youth, family, women and men like: Bible Studies, seminars, focus groups or other activities.      

There was a special stream for the hundred of pastors participated at the Congress.
The delegates who liked travels had opportunity to take part at the Mission awareness tour. Everybody could participate at the Festival of the Nations where children, young and adult believers could present cultural and Christian diversity through songs, drama and dancing.

Korean choir Korean choir

Each day was closed by special evening celebrations: "The Water of Compassion" "Empowerment of the Spirit" and "Cleansing Water". For me it was special celebration when on the first evening during a roll call delegates from over 100 nations with their own banners and in national dresses created a stream of flowing water in National Indoor Arena. It was also nice occasion to be involved in praising God by singing songs together.
The PowerPoint presentations, testimonies presented by brothers and sisters from different countries were like opened windows to the world, where suffering, pain and diseases are also daily companions of believers.
    
I think that it is not a coincidence that in areas like Africa and Asia, God works in amazing way. Especially there, Jesus Christ, the Living Water becomes the source of new life for many people and the only hope for dignity of human being.

David Coffey, newly elected president of the BWA said these very important words: "We need to be more like Jesus - to earn the reputation of being friends to sinners and to give ourselves in sacrificial service for a broken world".
    
It is impossible to write about everything what we have experienced during the Congress. Through participation at this meeting we have chosen the "good part" like Mary. Our minds were full of different thoughts, ideas... Our hearts full of Living Water, I hope. We all received good lessons how to be more effective in the "Great Commission".

Delegates from various nationalities of the world Delegates from various nationalities of the world

Now it is time to practice received knowledge in our daily life and ministry, in our churches, unions or countries. I cordially encourage you and myself to go back and to remind discovered truth during the Congress and the Leadership Conference. So, don't allow the materials brought from Birmingham be put on the shelves and be covered by dust.    

Let a piece of good news that we have heard and learned in Birmingham bring spiritual fruit in our ministry. It is good to remember that in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit we can change the world.

Ewa Gutkowska,
EBWU president

 

(click pictures to enlarge)