When I first arrived home from the Fourth Unity Women’s Consultation in February, my mind and heart were so full of memories and experiences that I had trouble sorting them out. Now I can see clearly how much we accomplished in just one short week.
The time seemed to fly by once the women arrived, but that time was filled with Bible studies, presentations on our six Focus Areas, and small group discussions from 9 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. each day, with very few breaks. Even with this long schedule, the women worked diligently with very little complaining.
It took a few days to get everyone to Paramaribo in Suriname. Cancelled flights, Schengen visas and lost luggage all added to the challenge to getting more than 100 women from 25 countries and from 20 Provinces and 10 Mission Provinces and Mission Areas. The women brought their expertise and their love for the Lord and the women of their Provinces with them to tackle the question of our theme, “Am I My Sisters’ Keeper?”
Each day (Friday, Saturday, and Monday), we addressed two of the Focus Areas of the Unity Women’s Desk (UWD) with Bible studies, presentations, and small group discussions among women who had expertise and/or experience working in the Focus Areas.
On Friday, we worked on Education and Parenting for Justice. On Saturday, we tackled Violence against Women and Overcoming Poverty and Unemployment. After taking Sunday to attend local churches and see a little bit of Paramaribo, we were back to our routine on Monday with Health Issues of Women and Children and Women in Ministry.
Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with small group discussions with delegates and observers making plans for how to achieve our goals in these six Focus Areas and writing resolutions for Unity Synod.
Each evening brought something different, too, including an evening of sharing from each Province, Mission Province, and Mission Area in attendance; an evening of Surinamese entertainment; a Singstunde of local youth during an “Hour of Power” and a lecture by the Reverend Dr. Craig Atwood on “Five Hundred Years of Women’s Involvement in the Moravian Church.”
In addition, the women celebrated a Lovefeast, Holy Communion, and a Cup of Covenant Service in which they prayed for one another and shared the covenants each group made of what they plan to do on their return home. Only on the final day did we have some rest as we retreated to Bergendaal in the interior of Suriname for a river tour, kayaking and massage therapy for those so inclined.
“A wonderful week”
“It was a wonderful week of laughter, learning, discussion and understanding,” says Adriana Craver, assistant secretary of the Unity Women’s Desk. “Each woman brought something of herself and left something of herself with every other woman present at the Consultation. We heard stories that were heartbreaking and inspiring, stories that were challenging and life-changing, and we heard stories that shaped the lives of the women telling them. We brought back stories from the Consultation to each of our families, churches and provinces, and we brought back an air of accomplishment and determination that will continue to encourage us to change the things we see around us.
“I was blessed to have been a part of the Consultation,” continued Adriana, “and each and every woman who blessed me with her presence in Suriname holds a special place in my heart.”
“My aunt Erdmute Frank pulled me out of a deep dark hole of my studies when she asked me to join the Fourth UWD Consultation in Suriname,” says Rebecca Weituschat from Germany, who came to the consultation as a part of a college project. “I came as an observer but with a mission to get information for my final thesis so I took part in almost every part of the program.
“Each day, we worked on issues almost all women in the world have to deal with,” continued Rebecca. “In the beginning of every day we sang songs and one of the women introduced the theme of the first session via Bible study. After the sessions we met in small groups and talked about the theme and our thoughts. Our task was to find ways to work practically on the specific topic when we get back to our countries, our congregations. Thank you for the amazing, thoughtful and impressive time in Paramaribo/Suriname.”
“I thank God for having had the privilege to represent our Moravian Church in Cuba at this conference in Suriname,” wrote Alay Gonzalez Rosado from Cuba. “Knowing our Moravian church, its work on different continents and the development of our church in the world through our work was wonderful. Thank you very much to God for this time lived in a very wonderful way for my life. I have been sharing my experiences of the weekend in our churches and have started working to support what we want to develop this year.”
An intensive consultation
This was the most intensive Consultation we have had so far. We assessed what has been done by the Unity Women’s Desk in the last five years, and we laid the foundation of the work that we need to do in the future. We are very blessed to have such intelligent, passionate, and committed women who truly want to bring about “global change for Moravian women” in our world.
All of the planning, fundraising and hard work were well worthwhile as we set our course for the future. We have dreams for our women and we see that God has begun a good work among us and will continue to bless us as we move into the future. By the time we left Paramaribo, we were all in accord that “We are indeed our sisters’ keepers!”
Thank you to all who donated money to bring delegates, who prayed for us, and who supported us with encouraging words and deeds. We truly felt surrounded with prayer as we sought the Lord’s guidance for the future of the Unity Women’s Desk.
The Rev. Patty Garner is coordinator for the Unity Women’s Desk. Learn more about the UWD by visiting unitywomensdesk.org
Thanks to Judy Ganz and Craig Atwood for the photos accompanying this article.
From the April/May 2016 Moravian Magazine