By Chris Meehan
Women in the Shreveport branch are reaching out to their neighbors, co-workers, fellow parents—even their hairdressers—through a monthly gathering for sharing and sisterhood.
“Our guests are good people who know we’re in the People of Praise, but they don’t know many details about our life,” explains Teresa Lynch, one of the organizers. Natalia Bendele adds, “We want to grow in love and friendship with these women because the Lord has placed them in our path, but also because we want to give them the opportunity to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and see a bit of community life.”
Once a month, usually on a Saturday morning, the guests and most of the 15 women in the branch come to Bill and Mary Frances Parker’s house from 10 to 11:30. After some conversation, light food and drinks, they gather in the living room for a talk and some planned and/or spontaneous sharings. Since July of 2011, about 27 guests have attended, and over half have returned for more. One of the women has expressed a serious interest in coming underway. “It’s remarkably simple and remarkably successful,” says branch leader Jack Lynch.
Teresa, Natalia, Mary Frances, Jackie Bertrand and Ruthanne Seitz plan the events. They’re flexible: the presentation might be a People of Praise teaching, a general talk on prayer, or a selection of stories that build faith. October’s gathering was merged with women’s night during the branch’s anniversary celebration. During that gathering, CIM team members Laura Brummer and Jeanette Zimmel shared with one of the guests, Gwen Stuart, about life in the nearby Allendale neighborhood. “I’ve heard the story of your community’s work in Allendale, but I never really understood it. As I listened tonight, it all came into focus. My heart started burning, and I knew I had to check it out,” Gwen said.
Invitations are generally sent via e-mail. Attendance varies: one month, two guests; the next month, 10. “Once I sent out an e-mail to the women who had never responded, and offered to take them off the list,” says Teresa. “Several asked to remain on it because they still hoped to attend someday.”
“The gatherings have brought life to our branch,” says Natalia. “They’re an answer to our prayer.”
“After a year and a half, we’re all quite happy with the results,” adds Jack.