Report of the Quinquennial Election Conference of the European Baptist Women’s Union held 29th May – 2nd June 2013 in Hanover, Germany

Stand up and Live!

Be treated as a Princess? It happened to the approximately 140 participants of the quinquennial conference of the European Baptist Women’s Union 2013 in Hanover, Germany. EBWU – president Livija Godina opened the Conference and welcomed all guests including from the USA: President of the BWA Women’s Department Raquel Contreras, BWA Women’s Department Director Patsy Davis, Joyce Wyatt, author of the book “I’m a Woman…. Created in the Image of God” and Evelyn Tully, also from the USA.

The representatives of the 38 countries present, walked the aisle during the creative roll call on the opening night led by Wies Dijkstra, EBWU committee member. The red carpet was rolled out for all those ladies showing the flags of their countries and they were welcomed like Royal Highnesses.

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The audience had to guess which country the ladies came from, seeing on screen some highlights of her country. Standing in front, all the representatives turned their flags and then the theme of the Conference was revealed: “Stand up and Live!” based on 1 Samuel 1: the life of Hannah.

Elisabeth Kapsreiter and Raquel ContrerasElisabeth Kapsreiter and Raquel Contreras

Our main speaker was Raquel Contreras, President of the BWA Women’s Department, who encouraged and challenged us during her three sessions of Bible study: Hannah & Penninah; Hannah & Elkanah; Hannah & her “church”. She spoke about their encounters and relationships: Suffering under the bullying by Peninah, not understood by her husband and in the last Bible study - “My own way with only God”; the depressive Hannah who turned into a courageous woman! She took her life into her own hands, made her way to the temple and resigned all her sorrows, her distress, her frustration with God. She negotiated with Him, her heavenly Father. And God accepted it, because she was a daughter of the King and worthy to Stand up and Live! Hannah stood up with the help of God and lived!

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We learned ‘Hannah’s Song’, specially written for the conference by Cornelia Spagl and composed by Birgit Heichel, who together with Claudia Sokolis lead us in singing in a splendid way during the whole conference. The CD with this song was a farewell gift reminding all the participants that - like Hannah - they ought to take their troubles to the Lord in prayer, knowing that He is well able to help them. It’s encouraging to trust in the Lord, ”to rise up and go” knowing that He is with us.

As part of the programme on Friday 6 interesting workshops were offered and the women took active part in them: 1. So-cial Ministry in Hannover, Michael Borkowski; 2. Creative workshop My Life Dream, Irmgard Neese; 3. With All My Soul, Body and Spirit, Claudia Sokolis and Tuula Bockemül; 4. Fair Trade, Micah Challenge and More, Nicole Witzemann and Heike Heider; 5. Bibliodrama, Margaret Lincoln; 6. Spirituality and the Gift of Humour, Lina Andronoviene.

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In the evening, mainly the women from the former Soviet Republics and women from the countries of the Middle East and Balkan regions gave testimony and reported difficult situations in their countries; for example the problem of human traffick-ing. Their testimonies and reports touched our hearts.

An important part of the conference was the Business Meeting on Saturday morning.
The main item of which was the election of a new EBWU Committee, led by the Nominating Committee. The new officers are: Hungary Aniko Ujvari – President, The Netherlands Wies Dijkstra – Vice President, Scotland Margaret Brown – Secretary, France Fabienne Seguin – Treasurer, Norway Synnøve Angen – Additional Member, Bulgaria Dimitrina Oprenova – Additional Member.

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These women were elected for the term 2013 – 2018, all being well.
There was a grateful goodbye for the former EBWU-officers: President Livija Godina, Vice President Margun Warem and Treasurer Elisabeth Vekas, who all had served several terms.
Saturday after the election of the new EBWU committee, the women could go on different excursions to explore Hanover.

After coming back, with several enriched impressions, the National Evening in Stephansstift started. This took the form of a festival with a colorful program. A very big courtyard party opened by the German President 1e Elisabeth Kapsreiter and her husband, both dressed in national costume.

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Invited were additional guests from the communities in Hanover. After a delicious buffet the children’s circus “Mustard Seed” showed us their skills.
A barrel-organ player in costume played with his nostalgic instrument many beautiful German songs and then Brigitte Will invited us to take part in Israeli and Greek dances.
During the evening one could buy tickets and if you were lucky you could get a nice gift at the many beautiful stalls at the indoor market. The money was raised for “Maison Dorcas " - an EBM international training project for women.

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There were times to sit and chat, pray together, and to learn from one another. Old friendships were renewed and new ones formed.
This fantastic evening was closed with a time of worship in the church in the grounds of Steph-ansstift. The wonderful acoustics in the church invited us to sing á capella canons, and choirs were formed spontaneously by women singing in Russian and Romanian and English. The closing song was the well known and impressive " Dona nobis pacem ". A truly fitting end to a lovely evening.

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In the same beautiful church the women experienced as a special highlight on Sunday the final service. Regina Claas , General Secretary of Germany, spoke from Luke 13:10-13 about the woman who was bent over and couldn’t straighten up, until Jesus came and healed her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” She was healed, she was able to ‘Stand up and Live’. Raquel Contreras came on stage and acted like such a woman, while Regina told us what bends us in life, what burdens and restricts our lives, and encouraged us to unload our burdens on to Jesus. And like that woman and Hannah, we all may come to Him with all our sorrows and if we are trusting Him, He will help us straighten up and enable us to Stand up and Live.
In this service the Lord’s Supper was celebrated and the newly elected members of the EBWU Committee were dedicated by the BWA Women’s Department President Raquel Contreras and EBF General Secretary Tony Peck. At the end of the service the new elected EBWU committee stood together in a circle and prayed for guidance and blessings. It was a touching moment and everybody in church felt the presence of the Lord : Our Father among the daughters of the King: His Royal children!

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EBWU Committee from June 1, 2013 - 2018:
President – Aniko Ujvari, Hungary; (3rd from left)
Vice-president -- Wies Dijkstra, The Netherlands; (2nd from left)
Secretary - Margaret Brown, Scotland; (1st from right)
Treasurer – Fabienne Seguin, France; (2nd from right)
Additional members:
Dimitrina Oprenova, Bulgaria (1st from left)
Synnove Gasver Angen, Norway (3rd from right)


Compiled from the reports of EBWU Secretary Margaret Brown, 2e President Germany Gisela Bullermann and German Women’s Work Officer Nicole Witzemann.