New Life SDA Women's Ministries Department
Elder Gail Ellison
Administrative Elder for Relationship Ministries
The History of
New Life SDA's Women’s Ministries Since 2010
As told by Elder Gail Ellison
In the beginning when someone spoke of Women's Ministries (WM) I turned up my nose and walked the other way. I was never fond of all women groups, but I became curious about WM because New Life had two dynamic co-Leaders, Sisters Debra Stansberry and Ellen Drake. They encouraged me to attend a luncheon, and the rest as they say is history. They made New Life’s WM luncheons fun and interesting always thinking outside the box. I wanted to be just like them so when Ellen Drake mentioned that she wanted to step down I let her know that I was interested in the position and she suggested my name to the nominating committee. I was so excited when they asked me to serve!
The First Prayer Breakfast
My first prayer breakfast fell on a rainy Sunday morning. The time was scheduled to move forward by one hour for daylight savings time. My daughter, Jasmine and daughter-in-law Ebony had been up all night helping me label envelopes for each guest. They were ice breakers that would help the ladies get to know each other. It was around Easter time so the center pieces consisted of different colorfully wrapped chocolate pieces. Breakfast consisted of French toasts sticks, quiche, a variety of vegetarian meats, Danish, fruits and juice. I had sent out invitations inviting the ladies to attend. I asked for RSVP’s just to get a head count for food preparation. I was very nervous. I prepared for 50 women. Not one person signed up. No one rsvp’d. Omgoodness was I stressed and filled with anxiety!!!
Let me set the scenario. The Prayer Breakfast was planned for 9:00 am on the morning that the clocks were scheduled to move forward one hour. It was still chilly and raining. No one likes to venture out under those conditions. My crew and I got there early, we set everything up and waited. My first guests started rolling in before 9:00 am. When all was said and done we had about 60 woman in attendance. We praised God together, we cried together, we laughed and we bonded. No one wanted to leave. God truly blessed us that day and my love for WM was born. We went on to have fun events, with great speakers, themes and wonderful bonding moments.
The First WMAWM Retreat
Ever since I can remember Brinklow SDA church was always the dominating force at the Washington Metro Area Women’s Retreats. They had more attendees and an enthusiastic leader! New Life on the other hand was a much smaller no name entity in that arena, but that all was about to change. With the support of Pastor Taylor, my team and I worked diligently to increase New Life’s attendance to the retreat. We received donations, from husbands, other supportive woman and my company. I wanted New Life to be well represented because I knew that the retreat would be a huge blessing to anyone who attended. Roll call was a major event on Sabbath morning. Each church name would be called in alphabetical order while their members would stand, wave, clap with huge fanfare. Churches had representatives from as far away as Texas, Georgia and South Carolina.
As I mentioned Brinklow was always the church with the most attendees and received the most attention. Of course their name was always called first to huge applause. But this year when they called out New Life we stood up with pride, each one of us wearing red over the shoulder sashes with the words New Life printed in bold letters. The room erupted, Brinklow’s WM leader looked at me and mouthed “it’s on”. I was so proud of our ladies that day. We were no longer invisible and had brought a fun, creative energy to the roll call event. Sometimes at these events you only sit with people that you know, but the roll call event had ladies speaking to each other and loving our sashes. In 2018 under Sister Kenyetta Joseph’s leadership we had our biggest group of attendees at the retreat. For roll call along with our sashes we opened up fans with attitude. Now that was a huge conversation piece!
Men of Honor Program
I must admit I was not enthused about the idea of honoring men. We were a ministry for women so New Life did not participate in that first MOH program in 2010. As a matter of fact, I was only at the event to deliver the programs I had created and be supportive of Denise Crarey’s (the creator’s) event. I soon regretted my decision. The event was a huge success and I finally understood the reason why we honor the men in our lives with awards for Helping Hands, Community Service and Unsung Heroes. I watched men cry and get overwhelmed from the attention. The year my son received an award in the Helping Hand category he told me, he felt so honored to be included and highly thought of with the other men he was seated with.
In 2012, New Life not only had nominees, but we were the loudest church in attendance. From that day forward I tried to never miss an opportunity to be supportive while serving on the Executive Committee and as the WM Leader for New Life Church.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. As a child my grandmother never celebrated Christmas (because she didn’t believe in it), but our family always came together and celebrated Thanksgiving! So Christmas is not a big deal for me, but Thanksgiving truly is. I originally wanted New Life to serve a Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving to the community, but then realized folks wanted to be with their families on that day. I then came up with the idea of “My Sister’s Closet”. In looking back over previous announcements we started My Sister’s Closet in the Fall of 2010. Our first event was dated for October 29th.
By 2014 we were including turkeys and having the event on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Pastor Defoe started including My Sister’s Closet in our Community Service event in August of each year. Our first event included shopping bags, which we have incorporated into the shopping experience. These events have become huge and would not be successful without the dedication and funding from our church members, from our sensational seniors, to our young adults to our Pathfinders. It truly takes a village!
It has truly been an honor to have been included as a WM Leader for New Life Church. I have no regrets (with that one exception). I enjoyed every moment and truly believe God has a great sense of humor.
Writing this piece brought back many happy memories. Being of service was an honor and privilege that I did not take lightly. Years ago if you had mentioned anything relating to WM I would have scoffed and walked away. But God had bigger plans for my life and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.
Our Deepest Fear
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that
we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant,
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically
By Marianne Williamson