Wholehearted Leadership

19 April, 2023
A woman at the front of a classroom speaking to a group of people.

Amy Gannett leading a workshop on “Raising Tiny Theologians.”

When Merry Baldwin urged her friend Kimberly Baker to join her at the Called Conference on April 15 at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, she wondered if it would be worth her time. She was not disappointed.

“I struggle with women’s events, but this here—this was par excellence,” said Kimberly, a teacher and leader at Valley Kingdom Ministries International in Oak Forest, Illinois. “I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life. The theology, the fellowship, the knowledge, everything was just so wonderful. It was awesome—I will be back.”

Kimberly Baker (left) and Merry Baldwin at the Called Conference.Kimberly Baker (left) and Merry Baldwin at the Called Conference.

The women’s ministry leadership training conference, which included a pre-conference on April 14, included 21 speakers and 18 workshops and attracted 462 women, including 144 attendees who watched the event on livestream.

Held annually since 2017 with a two-year break during the COVID pandemic, Called featured several alumni speakers including Dr. Pamela MacRae ’79 MA ’02, Amy Gannett ’11, Megan Brown ’21, Emmanuella Carter ’16, Anna Coto ’08, Simone Halpin MA ’09, Kristin (Shirk) Jacobsen ’09, Dee (Marquez) Jobe ’88, Cyndi (Pittman) Leamon ’19, and Christy Spader ’12.

Next year’s Called Conference will take place on April 13, 2024, and again will be held on Moody’s Chicago campus. 

Take seriously what God takes seriously

The conference theme “Return to Me with Your Whole Heart” (Jeremiah 24:7) fit well with Dr. Lina Abumjamra’s closing session, “How to Gain Back Your Influence in a Culture that Desperately Needs It.” Her speech focused on Israel’s worship of the golden calf and challenged women to deal with personal sin, based on Exodus 32-33.

A pediatric emergency room doctor and Moody Radio host of Today’s Single Christian, Lina delivered four key points in her message: (1) Recognize the danger of weak leadership (e.g., Aaron); (2) Resolve to take seriously what God takes seriously; (3) Refuse to move forward without God; and (4) Return to God with your whole heart.

“This is a call to repent from sin and to put our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins,” Lina said. “Sin must be killed. You cannot coddle it, you cannot protect it, you cannot hide it, you cannot ignore it, you cannot hope it away. If you have sinned in your life, you need it to die.”

Lina ended with a prayer to God for revival: “Forgive us for our short temper, our impatience, our desire to be liked, for the spirit of compromise, for allowing our eyes and our ears to see and hear things that are hated by You, God. For gossiping and slandering and hating and unforgiveness and all the things You’ve told us You hate. For disunity, God, for confused identities, for forgetting who You are and what You’ve done for us. God, we repent and ask You, God, to give us a spirit of joy and gladness and praise and thanksgiving. Lord, meet us. . . .” 

Equipping women through ministry workshops

The workshops were many and varied, including the popular “Emboldened—Saying Yes to Your Calling” taught by Emmanuella Carter and “The Intersection of the Gospel and Human Trafficking” by Simone Halpin.

Heidi Starr and Megan Brown talk with Dr. Pamela MacRae, professor of Ministry to Women and Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.Heidi Starr and Megan Brown talk with Dr. Pamela MacRae, professor of Ministry to Women and Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.

Megan Brown, a military spouse for more than 17 years who gave two workshops on ministering in a military context, was grateful for the “redemptive conversations—the gift of sharing our stories and encouraging one another and celebrating all that God is doing in our individual communities.

“I feel like the Lord is lighting revival on fire, and it’s in the women in the communities,” added Megan, a Moody Bible Institute graduate, founder of MilSpo Co., and author of Summoned and Know What You Signed Up For (both Moody Publishers). “In our community, we say that He’s raising a fighting force within a fighting force—He’s raising up military spouses to carry the gospel. But we’re seeing that that’s happening in women all over the country.”

Moody student Madelyn Ham at the Called Conference.Moody student Madelyn Ham at the Called Conference.

Megan’s talks attracted Madelyn Ham, a junior Communications major who’s engaged to become a military spouse this summer. “I got to learn a lot from her,” she said. “There are women hurting in the military and most of them don’t know the Lord. I have an overt sense of ‘this is exactly what God is calling me to,’ and He’s confirmed that so much. And today was a God moment, definitely.”