"We're finding new heroes and role models in Southern Baptist life," said Kathy Litton, the North American Mission Board's national consultant for ministry to pastors' wives.
"I could see the positive responses of these church planting women serving with their husbands, often in remote locations, as they were met with compassion, understanding and wisdom by ministry wives who had been through similar experiences," Litton said of the NAMB-sponsored conference at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, July 29-30.
The track included seven breakout sessions and workshops on topics as varied as "How to Start Well: Transitioning Your Family into Church Planting," "An Open Dialogue with an Atheist" and "Loving Your Ministry Without Hating Your Marriage." Women also joined their husbands for an array of other topics.
Litton said she felt God's power in the smaller rooms where women could share openly and find support.
"Both hard things and heart things were expressed there," she said. "Some wives felt tired and fragile. They needed to be equipped and supported."
Attendees expressed gratitude that the event provided the opportunity to speak from their hearts, challenged them with cutting-edge solutions and kept the standards high with fast-paced yet deep presentations.
"The conference was short on clichéd thinking and long on usable 21st-century solutions, thanks to great preparation by speakers and authentic audience participation," said Litton, who also leads www.flourish.me -- an online community for ministry wives.
Women expressed joy at connecting with other church planting wives so they could share experiences by telephone and email when they returned home.
Tish Hedger of Bolivar, Mo., said Send was "an incredible encouragement, because we met so many other couples in the same season we're experiencing." She and her husband Joshua planted Freshwater Church with help from Second Baptist Church in Springfield. Now the Hedgers have planted two more Missouri churches with September launch dates.
"Like many young pastors' wives, I had an identity crisis with unreasonable expectations for what a ministry wife should be like," Hedger said, recalling her early ministry days. "I felt like I fell short. Eventually I came to a crossroads: Either be swallowed up by my fears or come to grips with how God equipped me as the woman I am."
Naomi Song, wife of Timothy Im, said Send gave her more confidence for their church plant among Korean Canadians in Montreal, Quebec, admitting, "Sometimes I feel alone and insecure."
They were pleased that the conference provided tracks in their language and for their culture. "Sometimes husbands and wives have different ideas, conflicts within the marriage," Song said. "As Asians we have different perspectives than Western people."
Angie Mitsamphanh of Memphis, Tenn., said Send provided her and husband Thi with encouragement as a couple. First International Baptist Church began with fellow second-generation Laotian Americans. Soon they were ministering to Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodian residents, also second-generation Americans.
"Then God sent some wonderful first-generation Nepalese," Mitsamphanh said. "Recently, He brought inner-city African American teens who want to follow Christ instead of the influences they learn on the streets."
In addition to providing insight and encouragement to the wives of church planters and pastors, the track was helpful for women in multiple areas of ministry leadership.
Sylvia Sales, who provides Sunday School leadership for Friendship Baptist Church in Dallas' The Colony, said she liked Christy Nockels' presentation.
"She reminded us that we must understand who we are in Christ before tackling the ministry we're called to do," Sales said. Nockles is women's worship team leader at Passion City Church in Atlanta.
Feliciana Watkins of St. John's Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, said she liked advice from Mary Jo Sharp on conversing with nonbelievers. Sharp, a former atheist, teaches apologetics at Houston Baptist University.
"You need to be prepared with listening skills and good questions to lead a conversation to the Gospel," said Watkins, who serves as a missions coordinator at her church.
Sales and Watkins attended Send with Donnie Devereaux, also of Friendship Baptist in The Colony, and Charles Leslie, professor to all three at Southern Bible Institute in Dallas. In addition to work at their home churches, the four serve on Mission AMEN's Uganda team, led by Devereaux. Mission AMEN, founded by Leslie, is dedicated to mobilizing the African American church to evangelize the world.
"I can apply what I learned at Send to my ministry work in Texas and on the mission field in Uganda," Watkins said.
Carolyn Curtis is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas. For more information or to become involved in NAMB's Send North America strategy, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. For more on the Send North America Conference visit namb.net/send2013. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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