GROW Ministries Hosted One-Day Young Women's Conference at Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center
On Saturday, June 24th, 2017, G.R.O.W. Ministries held its Annual One-Day Conference at The Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center, Dalton, PA. G.R.O.W. Ministries had the great honor to be a part of history, where by the grace of God, we were able to host the first event at the newly purchased Retreat Center. Ladies from all over the diocese (Boston to Virginia) gathered at the retreat center on a beautiful Saturday morning. The theme of the conference was “Love is….” based on I Corinthians 13:13, “the greatest of these is love.”
We were blessed to have a wonderful speaker at the conference, Fr. Sujit Thomas
, the newly elected Diocesan Secretary, Assistant Vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Unruh, PA, and the Vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Rochester, NY. Fr. Sujit was not only the main speaker, but is also the Spiritual Advisor for G.R.O.W. Ministries. In addition, Mrs. Sunitha Zacharia of St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Bensalem, PA, led several workshops. The morning began with hymns, prayers as well as an icebreaker, which engaged and entertained the attendees. His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos
welcomed everyone and gave the presidential address. Thereafter, in his general session, Fr. Sujit spoke about the three components of love: intimacy, passion and commitment. Commitment maintains the love, and is the driving force of the other aspects of love. Commitment comes first, and then the other components come into play. There are three loves that we see in the Bible: God loves us, God is patient towards His creation, and God’s commitment towards us. God’s love towards us is unconditional. God will never tell us, “I’m going to love you only if you do this for me, or if you do that.” God will love us no matter what, so we need to make sure that we are always doing things for the glory of God. Through love, we become more like God.
After the general session, the participants were divided into different sessions based on the phase of life they are in: middle school/high school, college, singles/professionals, engaged/married and mothers. The sessions included an activity, tour and workshop, and throughout the day, the ladies rotated through these sessions. The tour consisted of a walk inside and outside the grounds, allowing the participants to explore the main building, view the beautiful lake, and hear about plans for the center’s future. What a beautiful retreat center we have! In addition, we were graced with the talents of Mrs. Jeny Samuel from St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Suffern, NY who led each group in a painting activity. In this unique session, the ladies created a painting centered around the conference theme verse. For many, this was their first experience and Mrs. Jeny flawlessly led the women step-by-step through their canvas. The women were able to unwind and enjoy an artistic side of themselves while having fellowship with other women. The paint activity was a success. Even though there was apprehension and anxiety by the participants in trying something new, they were thrilled with it in the end.
The third session was the workshop led by Mrs. Sunitha. Mrs. Sunitha has been playing a tremendous role in G.R.O.W. Ministries since inception, and we were honored to have her lead the workshops. She was able to incorporate all aspects of the conference into her message and in doing so relate the audience to the theme. She was able to engage the various age groups appropriately with her personal experiences and allow for a deeper understanding of the importance of love. She touched on the value of loving one's self and seeing ourselves as God’s creation. By loving ourselves and seeing God in ourself, we can love others and see the image and likeness of God in them. She discussed the significance of interacting with others in the spirit of love, whether it be at home, with family, among friends, in society, or even in the workplace. After Mrs. Sunitha’s session, the ladies broke up into group discussions. The discussions allowed for women to connect with each other and share their thoughts and experiences. The group leaders brought about a discussion of how we can be more open to loving one another, appreciating the love that is in our lives, and strengthening our relationship with God to realize the true and unconditional love that He has for each and every one of us.
There was a presentation in memory of Ashley Samuel, a vibrant participant of G.R.O.W. Ministries, who left this world at an early age. The committee honored Ashley’s memory with a slideshow of her photos at various G.R.O.W. conferences. After noon prayer, the ladies gathered in front of the steps of the retreat center for the group photo. As the day continued, two other sessions were conducted on a rotation of the tour, workshop and activity. In tying with the theme of love, all the participants received love letters from a Sister in Christ. Moreover, cards with the committee members’ contact information were given out to the ladies if anyone wants to reach out to them personally.
An open forum was held in which the ladies asked His Grace questions on various topics. The ministry is where it is because of His Grace’s love, guidance and support. He has given his unlimited and unconditional support from the beginning, and continues to guide us to this very day. His Grace was generous enough to host our conference as the first official event at the retreat center without hesitation and with all accommodations.
The conference concluded with a spiritual reflection, which was led by Mrs. Kavita Abraham. Prayer cards were handed out to all the participants, as we spent time reflecting on the day, and what we learned about love. G.R.O.W. Ministries is blessed to be a growing ministry, but nothing is possible without God, and everyone’s prayers, love and support. Please continue to keep the ministry in your daily prayers.
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