2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Beth's message today required self-reflection and facing difficult truths. Like the Israelites at Jericho, God has called us to conquer our enemies and live abundant lives in the Promised Land of His love. Unlike the Israelites, the wall that separates us from God's blessings is of our own making. Beth created a wall of cardboard "bricks" labeled with various sins, then asked each woman to identify the bricks in her own wall. She then reminded us that our God is bigger than the book and has given us the ability to live free from the burdens of sin through the Holy Spirit. Trusting in His power and building our faith breaks down that wall and allows us into the life God has promised us.
Breakout sessions were offered in the afternoon. Kristin provided an insightful session on Listening Prayer and Jane offered her wisdom on Financial Planning. Pedicures and massages allowed the ladies to experience some pampering, one-on-one discussions and personal prayers. An art station allowed participants to create beautiful jewelry, paint a silk scarf, or simply color while conversing with other ladies. Several ladies created beautiful scarves for themselves with symbols, scripture (both in English and Khmer), poetry, and lots of bright colors. Many women chose to take advantage of the resort's beautiful beach for relaxation, connecting with one another, individual and small group worship, or quiet time.
The highlight of the day, and perhaps the whole conference for many of the attendees, was a birthday party Saturday evening. Great efforts were taken by Azmera staff, volunteers and supporters to make this a special time to honor each woman, shower gifts upon her, and remind her of the many gifts God has given to her. The conference hall was decorated with streamers, banners, confetti, and balloons. Birthday cupcakes and individual gifts from Azmera supporters and from each team leader were given to each woman. We then had a sweet time of sharing about birthday traditions from various cultures, special memories, and disappointments over missed family celebrations while serving.
Inspirations and Challenges: The volunteer team's morning devotion was Patti sharing her testimony. She recommends that we all take time to reflect on our individual stories as they display God's glory. While raising her adopted children, God laid on her heart the question, "How often do you tell me 'no'?" She decided to say 'yes' to everything God asked of her from that moment. She continued to face many struggles, especially in her family, but as she remodeled her family and home, God continued to remodel her heart. She stopped focusing on "peace at any cost" and chose to focus on true joy. God began redeeming her heartache and heart break and to bring great fruit from the tragedies in her life. While she'd hoped for dramatic instantaneous breakthroughs, she realized that God often uses a hammer and chisel to slowly transform our lives and rebuild the temple of our heart for the display of His glory and the honor of His name. God is always good!
Muylan shared on Monday morning what a fabulous blessing the birthday party was for her. She rarely has told others about her birthday, has had few celebrations, and has preferred not to be the center of attention. So, this celebration made her truly feel like a daughter of the King - recognized, beautiful, blessed, gifted, and one worthy of being celebrated. She had experienced God's abundant love and care for her through her roommate, Sarah, and through the art table. She wanted to create a beautiful silk scarf. She started with a nebulous idea involving birds, hearts, flowers, and meaningful words. She felt too inadequate to draw the images herself, but found an image of a bird that she was able to trace and reversed the image for the opposite end of her scarf. She found a simple flower and was encouraged by others to replicate it for the center of her scarf. She practiced several hearts on paper before sketching a couple on the silk. She then brainstormed words important to walk with God and used them to border the images. Finally, she brushed on a background. While it was clear the scarf was not exactly the way she envisioned, she recognized it as a product of her persistence, and was proud of her labor of love for a special person in her life. As its creator, she saw its true beauty and worth despite any flaws other may perceive. How often do we let sin, a lack of motivation or insufficient faith keep us from the abundant gifts our Father wants to bestow on us? How often do we feel insignificant and hide from the love God and others want to show us instead of realizing how beautiful and redeemed we really are? How often do we focus on the flaws instead of seeing that our Creator is designing a beautiful masterpiece in our lives? 1 Peter 2:9 (RSV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.