Nestled within the beachside town of Port Sorell on Tasmania’s scenic north-west coast, the doors opened to the rustic timber hall at Camp Banksia on the Friday night of conference with the log fire roaring, bubbly drinks and hearty platters on offer on arrival. There was bohemian styling and warm lighting around the room, and a photo booth to capture images with our team mates and friends.
The evening had a surprise beginning as the wait staff around the room suddenly joined the MC in a burst of song, kicking off the night with a stunning acapella “flash” performance of ‘Shackles’ by MaryMary. This set the tone for the night with an uplifting song of freedom and release. We were blessed to have MOPS Australia Board Chair, Karen Dickson, with us for the weekend. One of her tasks was to present the 2017 Hands of MOPS Award to our very deserving – and surprised – State Leader, Ruth Overton, who has served as a MOPS team member, coordinator, and field leader for the past ten years.
Ruth then guided us beautifully through the night, briefly unwrapping the 2018 theme of ‘Free Indeed’. Leaders we encouraged to Let Love Be the Loudest Voice with a challenge set to not just tell people you love them but to tell them why. Each leader was given a number of small cards that simply had printed across the top ‘I love you because…” and a tally sheet to see who could hand out the most cards over the weekend.
We were privileged to hear a story of God’s grace from one Gutsy leader who shared her personal journey of freedom from an incredibly difficult situation thanks to the connections she has made through MOPS and her chartering church, where she has since been baptised!
As the evening began to draw to a close, leaders were challenged to Take The First Step towards freedom by writing down something they chose to be released from as they chase wild, unexpected freedom and what they would commit to so they could achieve it. These were then tied to lanterns which were lit and released as we huddled around the fire pot outside – a fun, fiery, freeing and slightly alarming activity for a bunch of ladies out in the breeze whilst wearing flowing boho garments!
We headed back inside to the warm fire where we were treated to a hot drinks and a delicious dessert bar provided by Antidote Desserts, a local family business of one of our group coordinators. Leaders were able to continue to sit and chat whilst folding origami creations while an epic session of Minute To Win It provided some hilarious fun and fierce competition to finish off the evening.
Saturday’s session began with a beautiful time of worship together lead by MOPS Board member, Pastor Peter Shurley, before Karen Dickson brought a very real and inspiring keynote address. Our guest speaker Annette Mace spoke from experience about freedom, sharing her amazing story of healing and how we can live in freedom every day. In the afternoon, we heard three touching “Letters to My Younger Self” stories from leaders who had written to their pre-mother selves. Then we broke into positional electives – always a highlight – and finished the afternoon with time for reflection and discussion together in our teams.
As the program drew to a close, we realised we had given out almost 250 ‘I love you because…’ cards over the conference weekend, which had created a beautiful atmosphere of love, care and encouragement for the leaders.
As always, conference was a great time for the teams to spend together and with the other teams from around the state, and for leaders to be equipped and encouraged in their role within the MOPS ministry.