“Everything begins with a dream,” said Lucy Benitez, vice president of SCC Hispanic Region Women’s Ministries (HRWM). “I dreamed of an event which would bring together as many women as possible on one day for a ‘mini’ retreat without restrictions, without a fee.” Her dream was embraced by the HRWM Committee, and on February 11, a cold rainy Sabbath morning, HRWM, led by director Gloria Huerta, held its first convention at the Forest Lawn Hall of Liberty. This grand event celebrated friendship while bringing awareness to heart health. Themed “Weaving Bonds of Friendship” (“Entrelazando Lazos de Amistad”), the event was also a call to unite as sisters and “GO Red for Your Heart Health.”
According to Mayra Garcia, the Committee’s treasurer responsible for registering the attendees, more than 45 churches RSVP’d to the event. “It was an amazing response; we were receiving RSVP’s and phone calls as late as the night prior to the event,” Garcia reported. The rain did not keep them away. Some 500 women RSVP’d prior to the event and approximately 700-800 women showed up, wearing red dresses, scarves, hats, pins or other ornaments in support of heart awareness. More than half the attendees took advantage of the services offered and had their blood pressure taken.
Yamileth Bazan, Ph.D., Vice President of Student Affairs at La Sierra University, took the audience on a walk through Old Testament book of Ruth and the friendships it contains. Through vivid explanations, she made sure every woman present knew she was not alone in her walk with God. Dr. Bazan then asked each woman to stand if she had lost a child, a friend, a relative, a marriage. In the end, every woman in the auditorium was standing. She then asked the women to look around. “We are united to tell each other that we are not alone,” she said. “We may not realize that we have holes of pain due to our losses, but we are all here to see that we do not walk this walk alone.”
Elizabeth Hernandez, West Hollywood Spanish church, was impressed with the clarity of the message and the importance of forging strong friendships that create bonds to help us heal in times of pain as well as happiness. Bazan ended with a call to action. “It’s time to do the work God has called us to do,” she asserted. “God can take anyone, from any place, with any purpose and make great things happen. When you have God’s eyes and you use His eyes for eternity, you will start to see, act and change, not only your legacy but your family’s legacy as well.”
Patricia Carrillo, youth pastor of Indio Bilingual Adventist church and former missionary in Swaziland, Africa, spoke of personal experience with friends experiencing grief due to suicide was heart wrenching. Attendees watched a short news report of two women who came together through shared experiences of domestic abuse and almost loss of life. The women’s friendship proved successful in overcoming physical and emotional obstacles. Pastor Carrillo stressed the importance of forging strong bonds. “It is through those strong bonds that we can share in good and happy experiences as well as adverse ones,” she noted. “With each other’s help, we can overcome.”
Reyna Sanchez, El Shaddai church, was impressed and happy that a young lady was allowed to present at the convention. She strongly believes that as daughters of God, we need to be able to cut through generational differences and learn to understand, support and love one another.
The convention closed with a presentation by Lilliana Guadron-Hernandez, Certified PA, Newhall Spanish church. She shared the importance of having a healthy heart, a healthy and nutritious diet, regular exercise and rest as well as checking blood pressure routinely, while asking God to provide peace in our hearts.
Dr. Hernandez noted that women tend to attribute high blood pressure to menopause, age or exhaustion and do not check their heart rate or blood pressure regularly. Lack of exercise can also lead to physical handicaps in later age due to lack of movement. The only way to be in charge of one’s health is by regular checkups combined with a healthy and active lifestyle.
Huerta shared that one of the most touching comments was made by Noemi Garcia, member of the Lincoln Heights Spanish church. “For more than 20 years, I have been listening to my sisters share testimonies and stories of their experiences at the yearly women’s retreats,” Noemi commented. “For more than 20 years, I have desired to experience what my sisters have experienced. Today, I experienced that. Thank you so much for having planned this event. I am so happy to be here with my daughter. This is a day I will never forget.”
The program united and empowered the attendees. “The unity that came about from the program impressed me the most,” said Hannah Garza, Crosswalk church. “I was so inspired to see such a huge community of women, young and old, come together for the sake of Jesus.” The annual spiritual retreat, “Created for His Glory,” is scheduled for May 19-21, at the Pali Mountain Retreat Center, 30778 CA-18, Running Springs, CA 92382. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under new direction, the Hispanic Region’s Women’s Ministries will promote community involvement and networking, urging its local leaders to be creative in making an impact in their communities.