DOZENS OF LOCAL WOMEN PARTICIPATED IN THE IF: GATHERING AT BLUEFIELD COLLEGE THROUGH THE BENEFIT OF LIVE VIDEO STREAMING, WHILE MORE THAN 2,000 TOOK PART IN THE ON SITE EVENT IN AUSTIN, TEXAS. PHOTO BY BC STUDENT MARKETING ASSOCIATE SARA VAN ES.
Hosted by Pursuit Women’s Ministry inside BC’s Harman Chapel, the event called local women together to share in conversation, worship and discipleship as part of a global gathering of women called together by the IF organization to make a difference in their communities.
More than 2,000 women gathered at the primary site in Austin, Texas, while other women around the world, including those in Bluefield, gathered at IF: Local sites to participate via live audio and video streaming.
At the Bluefield site, women spent the day from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. listening to speakers and participating in worship taking place in Austin. They also spent time around their own tables in discussion about matters of faith and purpose.
“The best benefit from the IF: Gathering is that with so many speakers there is something that will resonate with everyone in the room,” said Pursuit leader and IF: Local organizer Beth Walker about the impact the gathering had on those who attended. “Whether someone was wrestling with people pleasing above God pleasing, wondering if God hears their prayers, or needed to be challenged to have their actions and words match more consistently, there was a special word for them that was not only direct, but encouraging and said with love.”
Speakers for the IF: Gathering included Jennie Allen, a writer, teacher, speaker and founder of the IF organization; Amena Brown, a poet, speaker and author; Lauren Chandler, an author and songwriter; Susie Davis, a pastor’s wife, teacher and founder of Austin Christian Fellowship; Annie F. Downs, an author and speaker; Debbie Eaton, a writer, teacher, speaker and ministry leader; Margaret Feinberg, a writer, teacher, speaker and cancer survivor; Anjali George, a lawyer and director of national strategy and interventions for the International Justice Mission; Shelly Giglio, co-founder of Passion Conference, Passion City Church and Six Step Records; Jen Hatmaker, a writer, speaker and leader of The Legacy Collective; Esther Havens, a humanitarian photographer who has worked on social awareness campaigns with Charity: Water, TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, and Malaria No More; Rebekah Lyons, a writer, speaker and co-founder of Q Ideas, an organization designed to help Christians influence culture; Vivian Mabuni, a writer, cancer survivor and leader of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ); Latasha Morrison, a speaker and founder of Be The Bridge for racial unity; Lindsey Nobles, a leader in the IF organization and other Christian ministries, like Project 7 and Feed the Children; Christy Nockels, a singer, songwriter and worship leader; Bianca Olthoff, a teacher and writer for the A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization; Melissa Russell, senior vice president for global advancement for the International Justice Mission; Jo Saxton, an author, speaker, teacher and pastor; Angie Smith, an award-winning author of Christian books; Jeanne Stevens, a teacher and co-leader of Soul City Church; Ann Voskamp, an award-winning author and advocate in the fight against social injustice; Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick Warren, and a global advocate for the sick, orphaned and vulnerable.
“(It was) an awesome experience,” said Bluefield College student Rebekah Ivester about her involvement with the IF: Gathering. “The IF team was also really good about having speakers with all different speaking styles. Every speaker was captivating in their own way, and I learned differently from each one.”
The local Gathering was split up into four sessions. Session one covered the life of Jesus. Session two was on the call of Jesus. Session three discussed the love of Jesus, and the last session introduced the hope of Jesus. In addition to notable speakers on each topic, the sessions included worship and discussion. There was even a point in which the IF: Local participants took part in a beautiful time of communion.
Founded in 2007 by Jennie Allen from the simple vision that asks, “what if we lived like Jesus,” the IF organization strives to put tools in the hands of women who desire to change their local context. The 2016 IF: Gathering specifically posed the question, “If God is real…then what?” With that question in mind, speakers and leaders of the IF: Gathering challenged the participating women to consider “the belief that God is real,” “the places in our lives where we are struggling with unbelief,” “how we can overcome unbelief,” and “what God can do with our belief.”
“God revealed so many aspects of my life in just a few short hours through this conference,” said BC student Keisha Lynch. “I was reassured of the fact that despite how awful a person and dirty sinner I am, God will use me as long as I am devoting my life to a relationship with Him.”
IF hosted its first Gathering in 2013. In order to be accessible for all women, the gathering was and continues to be live-streamed to local gatherings around the country, like Bluefield. In the first two years alone, IF: Gatherings have reached more than a million women in 50 countries worldwide.
“I can’t even explain how spiritually filling it was to learn so much in one day,” added Ivester, “and to be able to talk about those things in a small group environment.”
Walker said the IF: Gathering is just one of many plans for the future for the Bluefield IF: Local site. She added that she really hopes to see the IF: Gathering grow.
“I would love to see (Harman) Chapel filled one day for this event,” said Walker, “with half being students and half from the community.”