Any lady feeling a lack of faith coming into the Emmanuel Retreat surely left with a “renewed spirit” along with a different look at her “faith shoes” as she was continually made more aware of how to begin “Steppin’ Up Her Faith”…
The Emmanuel Retreat Praise Team for the weekend, Sharlene Scott, Susan Faircloth, Dawn Bass, Sharon Dilley, Suzanne Coates, and Dianne Riley-Gray, led us in worship and praise using old Hymns, Southern Gospel and Contemporary Music all throughout our gathering times. What a beautiful, heavenly choir as everyone joined in the singing!
Spirits were also lifted as others blessed us with their talents: Lindsey Peedin and Angie Jacobs sang Great is Thy Faithfulness, Crystal Gray blessed us with Four Days Late, Sharon Dilley ministered with Not Too Broken to Belong and Dawn Bass rendered to us, I Bowed on My Knees. Mrs. Virginia Skinner beautifully played the “new chapel piano” for us to sing, for personal meditations, and blessed us by singing, Jesus, I Will Walk with You. Our hats were off to the Tee’s Chapel ladies as they were “steppin’ out of their comfort zone” and using their talents to challenge us, with the skit, “These Shoes Were Made for Walking.”
Following the video “Every Day Faith” introduced by Kenya Williams on Friday evening, a message was delivered by Jennifer Williamson (wife of the Reverend Brad Williamson) who shared some trials and triumphs in her “faith” journey. This was a real “Steppin' Up Your Faith” moment, to leave your home, family, and friends while expecting another child, and move several hours away to a totally different area to help your husband plant/begin a new church. She shared her heart with us as well as pictures and plans for the new “Restoration Church” near Black Mountain. We learned a lot and felt that we had witnessed true “Steppin’ Up Your Faith” in action.
Friday night’s “Putting the pieces together” activity and refreshment time were planned by Joy Woodard. Gina Barbour and other Rain’s Crossroads ladies were in charge of giving each lady a puzzle piece when leaving the chapel. Your puzzle piece color would match one of the 11 tables in the Dining Hall, allowing you to meet new ladies at your table; however, once all the pieces were taped together, each table had a different picture of someone we all knew…. (We got her!) It was a birthday celebration for Dianne and a delicious cake and other refreshments were enjoyed by all.
Exercise is an important part of Emmanuel. A “30-minute brisk walk” was enjoyed by “some” very brave ladies who joined in with leaders Hy Gardner and Jennifer Johnson starting at 6:30 a.m. each morning. Some have asked for additional times to be added for next year…
Becky Sumner presented our Bible Study on Saturday morning and began by reading the biblical story of Abraham taking Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice. She led us in a participating discussion about the faith Abraham and Isaac had and their “Ultimate Confidence” that God would bring the solution. She shared how David didn’t get the answer he wanted from God, but believed he would see his son again. She took us deep into the heart and mind of Joseph, the husband of Mary. His faith was so strong that even with all the human reasons he should not marry Mary; he did what God told him to do. Also in that short time, she led us to the Canaanite woman, the thief on the cross, and to Martha; such awesome faith. Oh, what we learned about “Steppin’ Up Our Faith”—and developing faith in our own lives? It was so inspiring!!
Short devotions throughout the weekend were shared by Kathy Markuson as to how flats, loafers, flip flops/crocs, pumps, work boots, and running shoes could be used to encourage us in “Steppin’ Up Our Faith.” The statement was made, “I will never look at my shoes the same way again, nor my faith.” Seven shoe challenges we will never forget.
During our Saturday night session, Angie Jacobs talked about OFWB Missions. She was joined by Sandra Jones who gave a personal “Faith” testimony. We witnessed another “Steppin’ Up Your Faith” example. Susan Faircloth shared the song, People Need the Lord as our annual retreat offering for Missions was taken.
Kenya Williams had challenged all Emmanuel Retreat participants to a Missions Project of collecting items and packing bags for Cry Freedom Missions. These bags were filled on Saturday evening during refreshments with personal hygiene and food items along with an encouraging note. (So many items were collected that the extra was boxed to be taken to Hope Center Ministries-Women Center in Goldsboro.) While some of our group assembled bags, others enjoyed writing encouraging notes, decorating, and eating the “shoe” cookies.
Cry Freedom Ministries, "Reaches, Rescues, and Restores" Survivors of Human Trafficking. Through jail and hotel outreaches, Cry Freedom Missions locates survivors and helps them find safety and resources in an emergency shelter at the Freedom Home. Survivors can then enter a long-term care program to recover, heal, and get back on their feet. After graduation, they can remain on sight at a transitional home for an additional year. Hope Center Ministries is a Christ-centered addiction recovery program. Their mission is restoring lives, restoring families, and restoring communities.)
Many thanks are given to our Retreat Team Leaders Kenya Williams and Dianne Riley-Gray for their dedication as well as countless hours of preparation and for keeping us on task all weekend. Thanks, Joan Little for taking care of our registration and getting us all in the “right” rooms. Thanks also for the beautifully and appropriately decorated Dining Hall tables for the birthday celebration on Friday night and for the real shoes filled with flowers by Sandy White and cutouts of feet with statements about faith to read and discuss during our meals and refreshments. We offer many thanks to Lettie Best, administrative assistant for our name badges, schedule, formatting, program ideas, feet drawings, and nightly devotion cards along with the shoe mementos, the key ring with pictures of all the shoes which were given out after each of Kathy’s devotions as a reminder of how we “do or don’t” step up our faith. Again, thanks to all who used their many talents during our retreat weekend. The Cragmont Staff did a great job of looking after us with yummy and tasty food, clean facilities, fresh towels and washcloths, computer and technical support, and helping in whatever situation that was needed. Many thanks! Door prizes were donated by the University of Mount Olive, FWB Children’s Home, Cross & Crown, NC Foundation for Christian Ministries, and Cragmont. Thanks for spoiling us with gifts and sharing your ministry updates.
Matt opened Sunday Worship with our invocation and led us in singing God On the Mountain as we made our Cragmont offerings. Closing out the retreat Worship, Dianne encouraged us to keep “Steppin’ Up Your Faith” by reminding us from James 1:19–27 that “we should not only be hearers of the Word of God, but doers as well.” We aren’t called to live life with a backseat mentality; we are called to “Step Up” and take action. We are on this journey of life together, remember that the journey began with a single step, asking for forgiveness of our sins and accepting the Lord as our Savior. After that we have other steps: stay in His Word, spend time with Him in Prayer, and reach out to others. We must repeat these steps. We set goals in our Christian life, we ask for direction. Sometimes we have to pause on this faith journey, catch our breath as we have this weekend, to recognize the blessings around us. Rest and renew so we can continue. God will challenge us, we must be ready to trust and move. We must be so filled with love and belief in Him that “Steppin’ Up our Faith” becomes the norm as we continue on life’s journey.
Our closing prayer song reminded us that:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives.
The Emmanuel Retreat came to an end, but not our faith walk. As we came down the mountain, we knew our Faith had grown stronger in our Lord and as we continue “Steppin’ Up our Faith” we will grow and do more for Him.
The Emmanuel Staff is working on 2024…
What experience is God preparing for YOU?…
Register now: August 9–11, 2024
Total Attending: 71
—Churches represented: 24
—Districts represented: 6