IF:Gathering was a complete surprise. A friend asked me to join her at her home for an IF:Local in February 2015. I’d never heard of IF:Gathering, so while still on the phone, I jumped at the opportunity to see my pal. I quickly booked my ticket and headed to MN just a few days later.
The weekend was deep, rich, and life-changing for those attending. Spending time with Tammie and her friends, taking in a live IF:Local was a gift for me. I went home with a full heart, a smile on my face, great memories, and that was that.
Two months later, I found myself at the IF:Local Leaders gathering in Orlando. Because I knew so little about IF:Gathering and didn’t really enjoy “women’s events,” I thought it would be safe and fun to head to sunny Florida, hang out once again with my pal Tammie, sit by the pool and let her take all of it in.
I had no desire to get involved with anything or add one more item to my already full life, so I felt free to go and just ‘be.’
Then doggone it, I sat down in that ballroom.
God placed me between my friend and a lovely group of gals from Connecticut, who we now call dear sisters. The Conversation Cards came out, and we were asked to talk through them with those nearby (cue CT). My heart melted as I heard a brave, real-life story of the IF:Local Leader next to me. Add the powerful and beautiful prayers of God’s people, the worship, speakers, conversations, long dinners with CT friends, stories of ministries and women across the globe, Jennie Allen sharing her heart … I was had! By the end of the weekend, I was texting my husband and calling him, crying like a baby, because I knew I was supposed to obediently step into a new season that included IF:Gathering, and he agreed!
I came back from Orlando, armed with information and ideas, with the hope of hosting our own IF:Local gathering. A team was soon formed, and we were off. Three months later, we were more than blessed to host over 500 women from Grand Rapids, and some from surrounding states. Since then, our church has hosted IF:Tables, implemented IF:Equip studies, there are women who now host regular IF:Tables in their homes, and others choosing to hold IF:Tables in the workplace and coffee shops in our community. Small group studies using IF:Equip material have begun, and disciples are being made. In February, we will gratefully hold our second IF:Local gathering, both at church and in homes.
It was, no doubt, Jennie’s vision, huge faith, authenticity, honesty, humility, brokenness, and humor that drew me to IF:Gathering. I saw a team of women, both young and ‘older,’ work together to not just host another women’s event, but be obedient, proactive, and stay the course, prayerfully on their very faces to see that God would be glorified in everything, that Jesus Christ would be known, and that the Holy Spirit would direct the course of the IF:Gathering ship. I loved that there was a desire to serve women, but there was a challenge placed on each of us to serve Jesus, walk with Him, press into Him, and disciple others to do the same. I also loved the emphasis and importance placed on a partnership between the local church and IF:Gathering.
Our church places a high emphasis on and is so good at teaching, equipping, and encouraging discipleship. For me, IF:Gathering was the icing on all of that. I have enjoyed the resources IF:Gathering provides to encourage me, not only in my own walk, but to walk alongside others. I’ve always been a people collector and people lover, and the tools we’ve been given have proven to be invaluable to me and others I sit with. All of this has coalesced to challenge me to walk differently.
This has created in me a deeper desire to be bold in my faith, no matter what others say or think. This way of living has given me permission to help a little once-homeless girl as I mentor her through Kids Hope, Int. at the poorest school in our district. This living on purpose has challenged me to step into the ugly and sometimes scary place of those living below poverty in my own community, taking them under my wing, and challenging even them to step up and live on purpose, to know Christ and pursue Him. This challenge to be on purpose has allowed me opportunities to love my barista, my checkout gal or guy a the grocery store, to love on our servers at the restaurant where we are regulars, making “family members” out of them whether they realize this is happening or not. Building community with our neighbors and holding house prayer nights has also instilled in us the importance of staying the course of living on purpose and intent.
IF:Gathering has greatly challenged me in all these areas and more. I have been challenged and changed for a lifetime and am forever grateful for the vision, the call, and ministry of IF:Gathering.
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