We Are Called to Such a Time as This: Highlights from the SWO Acting Boldly Retreat

At 5:50 AM, I climbed into the packed van with other volunteers and departed for St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C. The van is packed with food and supplies for the Metro D.C. Synodical Women’s Organization Annual Convention—Acting Boldly. It’s a jam-packed day of workshops, meetings, and activities to support the growth and emboldening of women in their faith in Jesus Christ.

            While the other volunteers from the van, Shelley Stall, Lisa Foecke, and Cindy Matula of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, help set up the social hall and register attendees, the Synodical Women’s Organization is having their business meeting. During the business meeting, budgets are discussed, and elections are held for officer positions within the group.  

            After the SWO business meeting, the rest of the women are invited to gather in the sanctuary for the welcome, the installation of the officers, and worship.

Pastor Leila Ortiz provides a sermon on her favorite heroine: Esther. For those who might be unfamiliar, or need refreshing, Esther was a Jewish woman who, at a very young age, was married off to King Ahasuerus. She kept her Jewish identity hidden until she learned that Haman had made a plan to kill her uncle, Mordecai, and all the Jewish people, because Mordecai would not bow to the king. Mordecai called upon Esther to speak out for her people. Now is the time, he said. And Esther put a plan into motion that included appealing to the king with her beauty and her mind, before making Haman’s plan known. Haman, as a result, was killed at the gallows that he was planning to use for Mordecai, and Esther became one of the great heroines in both Christian and Jewish faiths.

What Esther did, Pastor Leila said, is act boldly. She was young—likely a teenager—and she had to speak out in a manner that could have very well gotten her killed. And this young girl had to devise a plan to save her people. An entire people’s fate is on her shoulders. But she does it. She steps up. She approaches the king, and saves Mordecai and the Jewish people.

          

           The afternoon is for workshops. I chose to attend Discernment: Participating in God’s Unfolding. While I was in the room, I learned of the steps women should take in discerning their own women’s ministry in individual churches. The women in the room would provide their thoughts on each individual step and discuss.

This is where the most important question came in: What is ours to do? What can we do to help move our individual groups—as well as parent groups—forward? It is easy to fall into patterns. It’s easy to step back because you feel you can’t contribute enough or feel nervous that you cannot address the mass problems that the world is facing. This leads back to an important message from Pastor Leila’s sermon: We are called for such a time as this. We are called for such a time as this. Mordecai says this to Esther in his plea for help against Haman’s declaration that all Jewish people be put to death. Esther uses beauty in her strategy, appealing to the King in a way that made him want to know her as a human, not just as a wife. She uses her own unique talents to save her people.

           As women, we have so many unique talents, and we face many unique challenges. Sometimes, Pastor Leila says, women may even feel the need to hide or conform to what they believe others will expect in personal and professional atmospheres. We want to fit an image that has perhaps been laid before us, instead of acting as we are. But there is no need to do that.

            No matter how it is you contribute—planning, cooking, organizing, or simply attending—you are acting boldly in your faith. You are helping move a ministry forward. No one else can provide what you personally can provide. Pastor Leila, in her sermon, asks that we just show up. She asks that we not pretend to be anyone else, that we don’t try to change ourselves to fit an image we think we should fit. We show up just as God made us, and we act boldly in our ministry moving forward. We are called to such a time as this.

“Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”  Esther 4:14


The service project for the SWO’s retreat this year is the SOAP Project. The mission of SOAP, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, is to fight sex trafficking in large areas. According to the website, SOAP was founded by Theresa Flores, a trafficking survivor herself who, on her worst night, “after being auctioned off to nearly two dozen men in a dingy, dirty, inner city Detroit motel, Theresa recalled the only item that would have reached out to her, a bar of soap.” Small orange stickers with the number of the Sex Trafficking Hotline are put on the back of small individual bars of soap, which are then distributed to hotels. The hope is that the soaps can reach someone who is a victim of trafficking, and they can reach out for help and be saved. For more information about this organization, you can visit the site here: https://www.soapproject.org/


For more information on the Women of the ELCA, resources and tools, visit
https://www.womenoftheelca.org/ . To search for your own Synodical Women’s Organization, visit
https://www.womenoftheelca.org/synodical-womens-organization-webpages

 The service project for the SWO’s retreat this year is the SOAP Project. The mission of SOAP, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, is to fight sex trafficking in large areas. According to the website, SOAP was founded by Theresa Flores, a trafficking survivor herself who, on her worst night, “after being auctioned off to nearly two dozen men in a dingy, dirty, inner city Detroit motel, Theresa recalled the only item that would have reached out to her, a bar of soap.” Small orange stickers with the number of the Sex Trafficking Hotline are put on the back of small individual bars of soap, which are then distributed to hotels. The hope is that the soaps can reach someone who is a victim of trafficking, and they can reach out for help and be saved. For more information about this organization, you can visit the site here:  https://www.soapproject.org/

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