VIP was privileged to do a road trip up to Kearney, Nebraska last weekend. We returned home around midnight Saturday night, but we returned in victory and celebration.
With a five-hour car ride completed and only one spider in the car (thank the Lord we were stopped as a gas station!), we arrived in Kearney with time to prepare and rest before the evening. Throughout the week, each of the ladies of VIP had struggled and fought with worry, unfocused minds, and physical ailments – issues that only escalated in the hours before the convention began. But the Lord is faithful, and He provided rest and peace even before dinner.
“The Feast” to kick off the convention Friday night was incredible and the company superior. Allison, Stephanie, and Sarah sat with a group of ladies from Omaha. These ladies have enjoyed each others’ company at church for years and had a plethora of inside jokes but included us immediately. I was able to talk with Florence, a precious older lady attending the conference with her daughter. Florence was a petite woman with a soft voice who had a bit of trouble traversing the large hotel. But she had a commanding presence. Something about her quiet spirit and graceful years of experience draws you in.
The dear ladies introduced themselves soon after we sat down, and during dinner, Florence and I began to chat about what VIP is doing. She holds to her convictions tightly and is not afraid to share them. She commented on how there is no magic age at which you outgrow temptation. In the recent years since her husband passed, she has fought loneliness and self-pity. She thought back to her days as a young lady looking for a husband and how easy it would have been to settle just to be married right away. Florence encouraged me to hold tightly to my standards and not let myself become unequally matched up with a man not as committed to the Lord.
Katrina spoke to all of the ladies Friday evening on God’s blessings flowing on to others as we go and be a blessing. God told Abram in Genesis 12 that He would bless him and make him into a great nation so that all other nations on earth might be blessed through Him. God is a missionary God. His heart yearns for more to be saved. Katrina shared some of her stories of mission work God has brought her to in her life – far away on mission trips and daily opportunities at home. We need each other for encouragement in our faith and in our witness.
Next it was time for the younger ladies to go down the hall for the VIP sessions. Since very few in the room actually knew each other, we began with a get-to-know-you-activity and a version of musical chairs around the middle tables. The designers of that hotel probably did not anticipate musical chairs being played in a conference room, but we soon learned the trick was to stay as near a chair as possible and not be caught rounding a corner.
Once we settled down, Stephanie began the session and shared her testimony in the hour we had. She was willing to share a number of pictures from her past, and seeing how God has made her into a new creation is worthy of praising Him all over again. God doesn’t leave us in our past sins or treat us as we deserve. No, He cleans us up and chips and polishes like the jeweler with the diamond in the rough. We played Tenth Avenue North’s music video for “You are More” in closing. The girls lingered for a little while, and some were quite ready to hit the indoor water park at the hotel. We stayed and talked with them until they needed to re-join their families and pastors.
Later that night, Stephanie gave us the best testimony of the weekend: one of the young ladies decided to give her life to Jesus that night! After the session ended, this young lady talked with Stephanie about some very hard things that have happened to her in her young life. She has already seen life filled with pain, and she will not have an easy road ahead. She told Stephanie candidly, “I don’t see myself going down a good path in life.” So Stephanie offered her the best thing she could: knowing Jesus. She explained the plan of salvation and prayed with this young lady. We haven’t ceased our rejoicing yet! That is the power of Christ at work. We want to have our ears and hearts listening for the moment when God calls us to partner with Him while He is moving powerfully among young ladies. It is our goal to follow His leading to whatever new thing He is about to do.
Saturday morning’s VIP session began with Sarah sharing her story and speaking on finding our identity in Christ. It is out of discovering who God has designed us to be all along that we come to learn who we are and where our true worth lies. Allison emphasized how purity has to be integrated in all areas of life. Purity is so much more than telling young ladies not to have sex until marriage. Purity encompasses the whole person, and purity is a daily fight. But it is worth it. God works alongside of us, longing to set us free from whatever holds us back. God wants to give us pure hearts and pure minds by the power of His redemption.
After lunch, Katrina prepared us for the fashion show by sharing on modesty and today’s fashion. We want young ladies to realize their value to Christ and feel like they do not need to bow to the world’s messages on how a woman has to appear to be valued. Sadly, so much of what our culture teaches only leads to objectifying women, stripping them of their true value. It is possible for a woman of any age to dress both fashionably and modesty. We ended this session preparing for our fashion show. The young ladies dug through the VIP Suitcase of Fashion as well as their own bags to create that perfect outfit. It was a proud moment when we all walked through the lobby of the hotel down to the ballroom to join the other ladies for the fashion show and convention closing. Patrons and staff of the hotel milling about stopped and turned to watch the parade of beautiful young ladies. Some whispered comments about a wedding reception being held in the hotel that afternoon. This hotel is a happening place: it also held holding a fashion show!
Allison introduced the fashion show and placed an image of a not-quite-modest outfit on the screen. Our first young lady made her entrance to demonstrate a fashionably modest alternative. So much of what we see advertised could be made modest with a simple alteration or addition. The young ladies did a fabulous job of presenting stylish options. Each of the young ladies took their turn modeling their looks, ranging from “A Formal Night Out” to “Chic Versatile On-The-Go” to “Everyday Comfy.” The ladies at the convention loved our fashion show! Of course, it didn’t hurt that their precious young ladies starred in it. With great pride mothers, grandmothers, and friends pushed their way up front to capture photos and video of their young ladies confidently modeling the latest trends and meet them with great approval.
They invited the four ladies of VIP to the front to share a summary of the weekend. We each shared a synopsis of our testimonies and sessions, bringing forth themes of redemption and freedom again. Allison closed us by inviting the choir back up to sing “Break Every Chain.” During the song, we invited all of the ladies to come and write on the diamond painting from what they had been set free by Christ. God’s Spirit moved powerfully as we sang the simple but dynamic words:
“There is power in the name of Jesus,
There is power in the name of Jesus,
There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain,
Break every chain,
Break every chain.”
Freedom was experienced and celebrated all over again. The VIP diamond symbolizes our great value to Christ – value to the point of Jesus giving His life in exchange for our freedom. He sets us free. By His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). God can take a broken, messy life from bondage to freedom. And how beautiful is this freedom expressed in the testimony of the diamond and in the lives of each lady! We joined hands in prayer and started our goodbyes. In such a short amount of time, these young ladies became so precious to us. They have continually been on my heart all week long, and it was a privilege to minister to them.
I was impressed at how integral time together with all of the ladies was. They opened their arms to these young women from different denominational backgrounds living in Kansas. We were constantly invited to sit at their tables and join their conversations. The women embraced the young women during their fashion show, oohing and ahhing over the outfits their fashion-forward young ladies selected for themselves. At the end of the conference, they hugged us and told us how much they enjoyed having us this weekend. The young ladies were so excited to have something just for them at the convention this year. A few talked of inviting us to their churches, and they just have to name a date for us to be there. These women couldn’t wait to see us gather with them next year. The truth is, neither can we.