In October 2016, seven other women and I participated in Presbyterian Women’s Ferncliff mission tour. At Ferncliff Camp in Little Rock, Arkansas, we assembled more than 1,000 hygiene kits and more than 100 education kits; received PDA disaster certification; and visited Heifer Project’s headquarters and the Clinton Library. While we had each signed up to support mission, we didn’t realize that the mission work would be but one part. It was also a rich opportunity for listening to and supporting each other.
The eight of us came from seven different states, with different professions and life experiences. Maggie said, “I was the youngest and the only unmarried one. Yet, I felt free and encouraged to share, knowing that my words were valued and heard. But most loving were the words that I need to be ministered to. I will carry these memories with me as I open conversations with my PW and church family, and begin to make choices in the next chapter of my life.”
Cindy said, “To be with seven such nurturing women in a beautiful setting is rare. The warmth and caring in this group were real and reassuring.”
Jan said, “When I signed up for the event, I was excited and ready to go. However, as the time grew close, other commitments filled the calendar and it didn’t seem like such a good idea to go. I thought mostly younger women should be involved. But God knew that I needed to be challenged and refreshed. And it happened at Ferncliff. The respect and love shown by each woman allowed for some very deep conversations.”
Carol said that she was glad “we visited the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site because it was very meaningful for me as a woman living in the South when these issues of segregation were happening.”
And Linda was grateful to meet two Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs), who shared their experiences and described the YAV program. She also said, “I loved learning about PDA and thinking about disaster preparedness. I had thought more about what my church could do in a local disaster rather than how we would respond to a disaster that affected the church itself.”
Cheryl said, “God was with eight beautiful souls throughout a time of working, wonder, discussion, learning, sharing and nature. We will take the experience with us and hold it in our hearts as we leave this place to go our separate ways.”
We all agreed that we each needed a time for quiet, rest and retreat, but would probably not have signed up without fulfilling our need to “do mission” in the form of assembling kits and being trained for disaster response.
In many ways, our experience embodies Luke 10:38–42. Martha complains that she is left to work alone while Mary sits, listening to Jesus. Jesus answers, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Toni Spieth is the synod representative for Mid-America on Presbyterian Women’s Churchwide Coordinating Team.