The second annual Karen Women’s Retreat was held this past November in Omaha, Nebraska. This division-wide gathering brought together nearly 30 attendees from all over the United States, including several from the Iowa-Missouri Conference.
Members of the Omaha Karen Church welcomed visitors to stay in their homes, and some of the men from that church even took vacation time from work to cook and serve meals for the ladies.
Pastor Jimmy Shwe, who oversees the 47 groups of Karen believers throughout the North American Division, initiated this training for women to develop their spiritual leadership. In addition to morning worships, seminars were presented on a variety of topics. Trudi Starlin of Berrien Springs, Michigan addressed the group regarding personal finances; Gail Coridan of Winterset, Iowa spoke on family spiritual life; and Priscilla Sein of New York taught about discipleship and spiritual nurturing, as well as meeting physical and psychological needs of families and communities.
A special guest presenter was Elmer Myiang, father of Trudi Starlin. He brought with him a Bible that was miraculously spared in an all-consuming automobile fire many years ago. He also gave evidence of divine help being available for every need, sharing personal testimonies from his former life in Burma (now Myanmar), and what it was like coming to the United States and starting over with his wife and six young children.
On Sabbath, the entire Omaha Karen Church gathered with the ladies for worship. Judy Aitken, founder of ASAP Ministries (Advocates for Southeast Asians and the Persecuted), brought the morning message. Sabbath afternoon, the current director of ASAP, Julia O’Carey, presented “Lessons on Parenting and Discipleship from Gardening.” Dr. Arla Barelli of Topeka, Kansas also encouraged the ladies through her personal testimony to never underestimate their power for good. Kyi Tway, a pastor’s wife from California, helped with much of the translation.
Pastor Stephen Po of Des Moines, Iowa and Pastor Sah Kler of Omaha, Nebraska not only helped transport ladies and presenters to and from the event, but worked in every way possible to facilitate presentations. When asked for impressions of the weekend, Pastor Po said, “This was wonderful. The training in how to meet family, church and community needs was very healing to the group. Not only were the ladies revived and encouraged, but they experienced more love and understanding for one another.” His wife, Paw Moo, agreed saying, “Now the ladies feel more prepared to become involved in all aspects of church ministry. We understand each other better and how to help our husbands and children. Hearing from several speakers helped us to grow. We want to do this again.”