Women of Faith
They came from all over Panay and Negros, mostly on public buses. Some had to scrounge around for transportation money. Some were sponsored by church mates. Some saved up for a year. But they came, bringing along zest and zeal to fellowship with and learn from each other at the national women's convention of Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines.
“This is grassroots, Grace, not your usual corporate audience,” said one of the organizers, untiring leaders of their local churches who, I am sure, financed the logistics with gladness. “You are the only speaker.” That scared me a little, but c’est la vie.
We were all billeted in a modest hostel with air-conditioned Spartan rooms and a bare function room that had the basics, plus a screen for my slides. It was the ideal setting for what we were in Bacolod City to discuss and reflect on:
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12 (NKJV)
It was an unexpected blessing to be invited to speak before these women of faith. Here I saw the most beautiful Bibles in the world: well-worn, thumb-through by gnarled, working hands probably a few times during the day.
They took down notes, read my slides with an eagle eye, and listened with so much intensity I knew I couldn’t be careless with my words, nor facetiously joke with silly abandon.
In our mini workshops, they did as told with childlike enthusiasm and bared their soul. Their stories were infinitely better than mine. They helped nourish my own faith, the size of a mustard seed, to the size of an avocado seed in three days. Their written reflections on the talks were eye-openers, poignant and eloquent all at once.
As I continue to ponder those stories in the days to come, my faith will—by grace—grow bigger to a size that will come close to theirs, finding along the way that precious treasure Apostle Paul had learned: contentment.
A delightful bonus to my three days was a talk before a joint youth group, vibrant and spirited. What a crisp and cool ending to an unforgettable travel to Bacolod City!