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Growth in Faith founder Joyce Mendini inspired hundreds of women

For the two years before his mother died, David Replogle shuttled back and forth between St. Pete Beach and Cincinnati to help with her care.

Joyce Replogle Mendini died on Feb. 26 in Ohio, but for hundreds of women in Pinellas County, she lives on in the interdenominational, multicultural organization she started at a Seminole church in 1979.

Over the decades, Growth in Faith, the group that Mendini founded, has drawn as many 1,500 women to annual conferences that have featured such well-known female speakers as Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz and international Bible teacher Kay Arthur.

Harriet Aughinbaugh remembers when Mendini first mentioned her idea. They were at Faith Presbyterian Church in Seminole, where Aughinbaugh's husband was pastor.

"She was standing and talking to me and said she had a vision of something she wants to do for women. It started at Faith Presbyterian, but in two years, it was growing by leaps and bounds and we had to move it to other churches,'' Aughinbaugh said.

Though Mendini moved to Cincinnati about 16 years ago, after marrying her high school sweetheart, she occasionally returned for the Pinellas County conferences she started.

"She continued her friendship with many of us and she would send me notes and e-mails of encouragement,'' said Carolyn H. Reynolds, current president of the nonprofit Growth in Faith organization.

Mendini's life was immersed in her faith. Her father was a minister, as was her first husband. At one time she was the part-time director of Christian education at Faith Presbyterian. She also sang in a Christian folk group, the Right Spirit, which made an album that raised money for a new church organ, said Replogle, her only child.

"She set the foundation for my Christian life by having me attend Keswick Christian School during my elementary years and kept me active in the church youth group at Faith Presbyterian,'' he said.

In 1979, with Mendini as president, the first Growth in Faith conference drew more than 200 women. The third year, so many showed up that some had to be turned away. The retreats, which begin on Friday evening and end on Saturday, include workshops, a keynote speaker and music. Activity continues throughout the year with a prayer group and followup Bible study.

This year could be different. Reynolds, who hosts a Growing in Faith program on the Hallmark Channel with her husband, Dr. Michael Reynolds, said that no conference has been organized so far for this year. Several board members are new, she said, and the group feels that God has called it first to pray for America. "This year, we just heard that we are to wait on him,'' she said.

Mendini was last in the area at Christmas. Replogle said his mother, who was 66, died of mantle cell lymphoma, an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her husband, Daniel, died of a similar strain of the disease about a year and a half ago, he said.

Mendini looked beautiful during her recent Florida visit, said Evelyn Kuttler, a lawyer and Growth in Faith member.

"We really thought she had beaten it,'' she said. "This woman had faith and vision. Thousands of women have been influenced by this organization.''

"She essentially was an inspiration to all,'' her son said. "She had an energy. She was able to connect with people.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

Growth in Faith founder Joyce Mendini inspired hundreds of women 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 4:31am]
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