In Salt Lake City, Utah, it is estimated that only about seven percent of adults claim to be evangelical Christians. Melanie Ratcliffe, Evangelism Strategist at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, described the area as "hard soil." Over the last three years, Melanie has led two trips to Utah specifically to encourage and train church planters' wives. Tarah Browning, who also attended the trip two years ago, said that when they "traveled to the same location two years ago, church planters' wives were isolated from one another and the impact of other ministries." After the first trip, Devon Cooper and Lindsay Wood, SEND Salt Lake City strategist wives, continued connecting the wives and encouraging them.
During the trip, women's ministry leaders spent three days intentionally investing in women who lead ministries in the state of Utah. Through teaching and working in small groups, the women focused on building authentic relationships and spiritual vitality. In an area that can feel so isolating and lonely, Melanie and the team realized how important it was to partner with these women, giving them an opportunity to meet, and providing them with a sense of comradery as they move forward in making relationships and sharing the Gospel. These women and their families work diligently for the Lord, being a light for the Gospel day after day.
The women on the trip felt that it was an honor to serve and love them. As one participant, Becky Walker, said, the women on the trip felt that they were "able to imitate Christ and mimic Paul as he wrote to encourage the ones in the battle."
Some of the women brought together by the event even lived in the same neighborhood and were unaware of how close they were to each other. Melanie described that many of the men are able to meet with one another and encourage one another, but many of the women don't have the same opportunities with children at home or other jobs. This year, Tarah said, "as we gathered with almost 20 women in the same location, it was apparent that the work Melanie began two years ago had begun to bear much fruit." We are so thankful for Melanie and her team of women and for the church planters and their wives in Utah. Let's pray that the relationships forged over the week will continue to grow into avenues for effective Gospel sharing and ultimate life change.