Women of Joy Conference

As you’ve probably noticed, my focus has shifted from films to women’s ministry. Summer of ’67 was our final movie. It released June 2018, and though it’s still making its way along the festival circuit, and we’re still making appearances at film events, we are no longer in the movie-making business. In January of this year I took over as Women’s Ministry Director at our church, and that is my focus now.

Back in the fall of last year, before I took over, the women’s ministry leadership team made plans to attend Women of Joy – Pigeon Forge. They’d all gone before, and loved it. In the past, they’d taken groups of fifteen to twenty, but they decided to step out in faith and register thirty women. It was definitely a “pray for rain, carry an umbrella” kind of decision, but they loved Women of Joy so much and wanted other women to get to experience it as well.

We started promoting ticket sales in the spring. Registrations trickled in. The August deadline was looming, and we had to pay the balance for the thirty tickets, and we only had a handful of women registered. I may have panicked just a bit. But I sent out an email to the leadership team, and they set to work personally inviting every woman they could think of who might possibly go. Registrations poured in. The deadline arrived, and we had our thirty women plus four other women who wanted to join in.

In the time between registration deadline and the event, we had a number of women who had to drop out, but we put out the word, and other ladies filled their places. In the end, due to sickness and health issues, we had a few last minute spots we were unable to fill. But we still ended up with thirty women, the exact number of the original “pray for rain, carry an umbrella” step of faith.

This weekend, I got to experience my first Women of Joy conference. What a treat it was to join with thousands of women as we worshipped together, enjoyed concerts by Plumb and Michael W. Smith, and listened to top notch female speakers who have experienced much, felt overwhelmed by it all, and found Jesus to be the calm in the midst of the storms.

An unexpected surprise was when they announced the churches that brought the biggest groups, and ours was one of those churches. What a testament to the faith of our leadership team who had a vision and worked hard to bring it to fruition.

A personal treat for me was a presentation about the churches of New England and how difficult it is for pastors in those states. We watched a short video by a pastor in Randolph, Vermont, and I got so excited because our movies have shown in Randolph, Vermont as a part of the Faith and Family Films. In fact, in just two weeks, Summer of ’67 will be screening there as part of the Green Mountain Christian Film Festival. How cool to get to see the town and hear from a pastor and know that our movies have been a part of their ministry.

While the conference itself was wonderful, I think what I enjoyed the most was the time of fellowship with the other women of Springfield Baptist Church. With all the dropping and adding, we ended up with a group of women, none of whom knew everyone else. I created a Miss Congeniality icebreaker activity that encouraged everyone to get out of their comfort zones and interact with each and every other woman. It turned out to be a lot of fun with the women finding ways to talk, laugh, cry, pray, and share adventures together. We concluded our weekend with a meal at CiCis and the crowning of Miss Congeniality.

Now that I’ve experienced Women of Joy for myself, I understand why they set the goal of thirty. We need time to gather together with other women. We need to be reminded that we’re not alone, that others are going on similar journeys, that we’re all a little more similar than we may have thought. We need that time to get away from the cares of our world and to worship and learn and play and to return to our homes and our families refreshed and rejuvenated. Thank you to the Phil and Debbie Waldrep, the founders of Women of Joy, for providing that for so many women.

About the Author Sharon Wilharm

Christian speaker, Sharon Wilharm, is a popular media guest, award-winning female filmmaker, and women’s ministry leader, whose faith-based films have screened in theaters, festivals, and churches around the world, and on multiple television networks. Sharon has recently taken over as women's ministry director at her church. Her passion is to lead prayer retreats, engaging women of all ages to pray with each other, for each other, praying with expectation.

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