I first remember being involved with Friends Women in 1965 (although I may have attended a few Friends Women meetings at NFC as a child with my mother; it was called Women’s Missionary Union in those days). My husband, Nick, and I were heading to Perú as newlywed missionaries, and I attended my first Friends Women Retreat. At that time, the women of Northwest Yearly Meeting committed to helping outfit us, and we received clothing made to our sizes, household furnishings, even baby items! (We didn’t have any children yet, but hoped to before returning to the states in four years). Those items were all crated up and sent on by boat to Perú. We felt surrounded by the love, affirmation, prayers, support of those women.
And now, almost 50 years later, women across the yearly meeting still love, affirm, pray for, and support Friends Serving Abroad (FSAs) and Friends serving at home. Times have changed. Their interest and support look different now. But it is still a vital ministry of women in our Friends churches.
At NFC, there are two Friends Women groups. Margaret Fell Friends Women meet the fourth Monday evening of the month, August through April, at the Spaulding Oaks Community Center. Julia Pearson Friends Women meet the third Wednesday afternoon of the month, September through May, in the Education Classroom at Friendsview. Meetings in both groups usually include a speaker, time spent in prayer, and many opportunities for visiting and fellowship.
The purpose of Friends Women groups is to provide Christian fellowship for women and to learn about, pray for, and support the ministry of NWYM’s Friends Serving Abroad (FSA) and those involved in outreach on the home front. For example, this past year the Margaret Fell group has heard from Joanna Cox, who works at GFU with International Students; from Dorothy Sherman, who has worked in the yearly meeting program of teaching English in China for a number of years; from Dan Cammack, giving us an update on the various EFM works; from Marie and Ed Cammack, reporting on the work in Perú and Bolivia; from Jamie Johnson, sharing about the Friends Leadership Program at GFU; and from Bonnie Steinborn and her new opportunities to be involved in international ministries. Shawn McConaughey brought three recent college grads who are going to be headed out for overseas ministry this fall. And the list goes on.
I have the joy of being involved in what God is doing in many places of the world. This is accomplished through my offerings, together with our annual Friends Women fund-raising project—both go toward the financial support of several ministries. By itself, my small amount wouldn’t make much difference, but combined with that of our group and of the Friends Women across the yearly meeting, we impact both the spiritual and physical needs of work in places like Russia, China, Rwanda, Morocco, Nepal, and the Middle East.
I can’t talk about Friends Women without mentioning the annual Friends Women retreats, which have been occurring for more than 50 years; the area Spring Rally gatherings; and the special banquet during Yearly Meeting. These events offer all NWYM women the opportunity to join with women from Friends churches across the yearly meeting. Through the years, deep friendships have been made at these gatherings with people I never would have otherwise met.
So, if you want to expand your worldview, if you are willing to let your heart be broken by what breaks the heart of Jesus, if you want to have a part in what God is doing at home and abroad, and if you just want an opportunity to leave the “to do” list at home to enjoy some good Friendly fellowship—come to a Friends Women gathering!