Several women’s ministries began in the 90s, yet nothing creates quite a storm in and outside of the Christian world like the Women of Faith (WOF) conferences. It is the largest inspirational event for women to date.
Created in 1996 by Steve Arterburn, it started with four original speakers, Barbara Johnson, Patsy Claimont, Luci Swindoll, and Marilyn Meberg. The non-denominational conference tours to a different part of the country once a year. Each event often boasts a bevy of speakers, mostly Christian, who would stand before a maxed out arena of hundreds of thousands of women. They share their compelling life stories and how they overcame sufferings through practical applications of biblical solutions. The infusion of humor into what oftentimes are most harrowing stories, works like magic to lighten the blows. The weekend-long events are usually packed with live musical and theatrical performances by contemporary Christian artists such as eventual regulars, singer Sandi Patti and actress, Nicole Johnson.
As a final curtain call, the Women of Faith Conferences bring the event, titled, "Women of Faith – Loved – The Farewell Tour 2015," to over 40 cinemas across the United States and Canada in the very first effort of its kind in its 20 year history. Using the genre and style of part-documentary and part-live stage performances, Women of Faith takes the audience through its 20-year journey of touching lives of millions of women through their tours. The film opens with an introduction by the pint-sized bags of humor in the group, Patsy Claimont. The rest of the film is narrated by Mary Graham who, although battling health challenges of her own, displayed a level of grace worth emulating. I appreciate the fact that the individual messages by the speakers and performers, while not aggressively evangelist, are primarily Bible-based. Mary Graham describes the typical audience as being a blend of Christians and non-Christians. The stories presented by the speakers are done with full transparency and cover a wide range of topics. A presentation on mental illness was very masterfully given by Sheila Walsh, who later became part of the group of resident speakers, along with Thelma Wells. Some of the other topics tackled are divorce, homosexuality and Alzheimer’s disease. All these stories are relatable and offer some form of inspiration and comfort. The messages are often quite hard to digest but this is where infusing humor seems to work. In a particular segment dealing with cancer and breast exams, Barbara Johnson sets the auditorium alight in true Barbara style, “You can prepare for a mammogram right now, at home, using these simple exercises,” she quips. “Exercise one, refrigerate two bookends overnight. Lay one of your breasts between the two bookends…and SMASH the bookends together as hard as you can.” In response, the entire auditorium roars with laughter.
It is quite refreshing that clips of the two-decades long conferences now put to film, can be seen by women who perhaps, over the years, could not make it to any of the events. The clips do occasionally feel like lightening flash. Clips could conceivably have more of an impact if left to run a little longer on purpose. Nevertheless, this film captures the essence and full story of the Women of Faith Conference, but more importantly, the core message of hope and faith in Christ Jesus.
To visit the women of Faith website: http://www.womenoffaith.com
Writer: Frances Butler
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