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Reaching out to "the unchurched'

Published Oct. 14, 2000
Updated Sep. 28, 2005

At the East Pasco Christian Women's Club, age, weight and politics are taboo. The goal is to help each other find a relationship with Jesus.

Ann Grassie found peace when she started attending the East Pasco Christian Women's Club.

Grassie said she had always been involved in church activities but had never had a deep relationship with God or done a Bible study until becoming involved with the women in the club.

"This group has touched me in endless ways," Grassie said. "I have now completed four Bible studies, am starting my fifth one and have made so many friends."

The Christian Women's Club is 60 years old and is one of the many groups under the direction of Stonecroft Ministries, in Kansas City, Mo. The East Pasco group is in its 10th year.

"The organization tries to meet women where their needs are and where they are at in life," said Betty Wray Boyce, the area representative for the national club. "Our focus is for Christian women to invite non-Christian women to come. We try not to get churchy and just love the women."

The east Pasco club meets once a month for a luncheon. Each one has a special theme and music, along with a speaker who gives her life testimony. Women that have experienced many different things in their lives share where they were at one point, where they are now, and how they got there.

"Usually someone in that room listening has had a similar experience and may say to herself, if she can do it, so can I," Boyce said.

The theme of this week's luncheon was harvest time, featuring Roxine Barthle, who owns Katy's Country Corner store in Saint Joseph, north of San Antonio. Barthle and her family live and work on 40 acres, which are loaded with kumquat trees. She says the farm is one of only three kumquat farms in the nation. Displayed on a table up front were autumn colored leaves, canned preserves and jellies, some crafts and gift baskets from her store.

Club chairwoman Diana Gadey led the forum, welcoming about 90 women of all denominations. She instructed women that they were not allowed to talk about age, weight, politics or their church.

"We open this way, so that no one will be excluded in conversation at the table," Gadey said. "Our sole purpose is to reach the unchurched women and make this a fun atmosphere."

To enhance the welcoming atmosphere, there was a hostess at each table. Gadey said that one of the group's goals is to expand and open clubs in other areas in east Pasco. Stonecroft Ministries also has groups for mom's day out, night meetings for Christian professionals and groups for couples. Stonecroft also has missionaries in rural parts of America and supports speakers that travel to groups.

At Wednesday's women's club meeting, a prayer favor in the form of a slice of orange candy topped with a green leaf and a name tag with the name of a person in the organization was at each place setting. This is to remind each woman to pray for that individual during the next month.

Another way some of the women of the club get together is at in-home Bible studies called Friendship Bible Coffees. Jo Ellen Higgins said any woman can open her home for the study and put on a pot of coffee. Higgins guides the studies and uses a curriculum developed by Stonecroft. Her group meets Monday mornings.

"This is a way for beginners to learn the Bible or for others to study more in depth," said Higgins, who started attending a Christian Women's Club in Ohio in the 1960s. "I have personally learned so much."

Renee Mathis of Sarasota was the guest speaker and soloist during the luncheon. She stressed to the women the importance of letting go and having God be in control of their lives. She said God has a perfect plan for her life, one that she has seen unfold through the years. Since 1986 she has traveled to groups, giving testimony and singing.

"The power of God is living in me, and I am just his instrument," Mathis said. "God can be enough to fill your life." She then asked everyone who would like to ask Jesus Christ to become their personal savior to pray silently after her.

Jo Anne Stanley has been a part of the group for less than a year. She picked up an invitation to a Bible study that was at Miller's Leap of Faith Christian book store. She is now a prayer adviser and guide and holds prayer meetings once a month in her home.

"This has shown me the importance of relationships. If you want to influence anyone's life, you have to first build a relationship," Stanley said.

_ Angela Miller covers religion news in Pasco County. She can be reached in Dade City at (352) 521-5757, ext. 29 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6108, then 29. Her e-mail address is angelasptimes.com.

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