Terry Robinson’s Faith Matters column for Aug. 11, 2012

The “Wholeheartedly, Get In, Get Out, or Get Run Over” Conference at Living Faith Christian Center is going public.

The fourth annual conference begins at 7 p.m. Thursday and runs through Aug. 18 at the church, 6375 Winbourne Ave.

The conference took a low-key approach its first three years, targeting ages 18-35 at Living Faith. But this year, the conference is inviting more people in the community, said Tia Bridges, who heads the college and youth adult ministry at the church.

“This is the age range where there’s a lot of transition as far as leadership is concerned,” Bridges said. “So we wanted to kind of fine-tune what we were offering and make sure what we were offering is something that was productive and could be brought to a larger scale before we brought it out to the public.”

The theme for the conference is “Hunger Games,” asking attendees what are they hungry for and are pursuing with their whole hearts. Scripture is taken from Mark 12:30: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the first commandment.”

Bridges, 28, said the free conference will allow attendees to hear from their peers. It will feature praise and worship, a skit on real-life situations and prizes. Speakers will include ministers Wuan Miller and William Bates, of Living Faith.

“It’s going to be ministry but it’s also going to have something for their level where they are,” she said. “The individuals that are hosting this are in the same age range, so we know exactly what we’re speaking to and what we’re speaking about.”

Conference organizers want to offer hope to an age group that faces many challenges, Bridges said.

“People are living for today,” Bridges said. “They’re not thinking about their future and I think the reason they’re not thinking about their future is because they’re not connected honestly to a church home, someone telling them that Christ has a plan for their lives and he wants them to prosper.

“We want to really get to them and make it hit home that your life is not just for today. You have a higher purpose, you have a high calling on your life. Don’t just try to fit and follow the crowd.”

Call (225) 357-0377.

Distinguished ladies

St. Mark United Methodist Church is set to celebrate its 123rd anniversary and honor a special group of seniors.

Nine women 90 years of age or older and still active in the church will be honored at the anniversary celebration set for 3 p.m. Aug. 19 at the church, 6217 Glen Oaks Drive. The speaker is the Rev. Joey D. Connelly, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Derrick Hills, St. Mark’s pastor since 2008, said the honorees represent more than 700 years of history and bring a spirit of love to the church.

“They remind us constantly of the faith in which we live is more than lip service. But the faith in which we live must be exemplified at all times,” he said.

Among those faithful seniors is Mildred Bowie.

“We’re all friends in that church,” said Bowie, a bowler who averages into the triple digits even though she is nearing triple digits in age.

“I bowl pretty good,” said the 96-year-old member of the Golden Nuggets League.

But as much as Bowie enjoys the bowling alley, she finds no greater joy than continuing to serve in her church.

“It’s hard to express how I feel because I feel so blessed to have lived this long and be active as I am,” she said. “I like all kinds of activities but church is first.”

Bowie has been a member of St. Mark since 1957.

Like many of the women, Elouise Williamson, 95, served as a Sunday school teacher among many other church activities.

“To God be the glory — that takes care of all it,” Williamson said. “I thank God that he has left me here for a reason.”

Eleanor Miles, 95, said she and the other women don’t let age stop them from work in the church. She still assists with communion.

“Because you get old don’t mean to have to stop … I don’t ever tell them too I’m old to do. If I ever did it, I could do it again but I can’t do it as fast. Leave me alone and I’ll get it done,” she said.

Miles has been an active member of St. Mark since 1940.

“People want to know how did I do it,” Miles said. “I didn’t do it; the Lord did it, and I’m still trusting him. I’m 95, but I’m looking at 100.”

Other women to be honored Aug. 19 are Doris Thompson, 94; Mary Taylor, 93; Alice Stepter, 90; Mabel Jackson, 91; and Ruth Ella Lanns Myers, 90; and Vertlee Washington.

St. Mark traces its beginning to 1889, when a mission was established at a private house in Pete’s Alley downtown. The church made several other moves before securing its current location.

Twenty-five pastors have served the church through the years.

On a mission

As the missions pastor at Istrouma Baptist Church, Dwight Pitre has taken numerous trips to mission trips.

His most recent trip in late July to the Dominican Republic provided Pitre, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and a medical team with a new experience: house calls on the mission fields.

“Usually, you’d go into a little village, which we did a couple of times, and set up shop in a clinic or a church,” Pitre said. “You share the gospel with the community and they’ll see the patients there.

“But one day, we actually went and made house calls with some of the families that the local churches were ministering to.

“There was a connection, so we would go see them and share the gospel and we brought pharmacists with us, so we had two different docs walk through the streets seeing patients,” he said.

Pitre was part of a mission team working through the Istrouma Sports Organization from Istrouma and SCORE International.

The groups sent six baseball teams to play against Dominican teams and provided baseball equipment to underprivileged teams.

M.L. Woodruff, the sports outreach director at Istrouma, said it was his sixth trip to the Caribbean island.

“Every time I go, I come back a little changed,” he said. “Probably the reason I’m doing what I am today is because of trips to the Dominican Republic to see those kids do so much with so little.”

The U.S. group also held Vacation Bible School.

“We had an exceptional time,” Pitre said. “The Lord did some great stuff in us and through us.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.