“We are all part of an amazing story — God’s story,” said Global Women Executive Director Cindy Dawson, sitting at a table set for tea at the 2014 Global Women Summit in St. Louis on March 7-8.
Program notes pointed out that “the tea cup is a symbol of time spent together sharing the stories that connect us,” and the Summit was designed to do just that with stories of women from around the world.
Leaders invited the gathering’s 200 attendees to “write yourself into the story.”
“We’re here to celebrate. We’re also here to hear heartbreaking stories,” Dawson said. Global Women is an ecumenical organization, “guided by a vision of a world where every woman is empowered by the love of God, valued by her community, and equipped to fulfill her unique purpose.” It does so by building partnerships that address five identified issues: end sex trafficking, clean water, maternal health, education and economic development.
Global Women partners with organizations in Central Asia and the nations of Kazakhstan, Haiti, Moldova, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Uganda and Zambia. “We connect with Christian women leaders from around the world…and come alongside,” Dawson explained.
Natasha Clapaniuc, director of House of Change for Beginning of Life in Moldova, was the Summit’s special guest partner. Beginning of Life is an organization that works with vulnerable women, many of whom are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Clapaniuc directs the rehabilitation and restoration programs that help women receive the care and counseling they need, as well as allow them to continue their education, learn a skill and transition back into the world.
In Moldova, 95 percent of women have experienced violence, according to Clapaniuc. Over 30 percent are regularly abused. There are more than 300,000 victims of illegal migration and human trafficking in Moldova alone; sex and labor exploitation of minors is expanding.
Beginning of Life seeks “to restore God’s original intent for His creation, simultaneously transforming people physically and spiritually and integrating them into society.”
In addition to the House of Change, which works specifically with victims, Beginning of Life has three other programs, a psychological art studio, which uses art therapy to aid the healing process; an urban center for young men, to help prevent sexual abuse by changing the way men in Moldova view women; and the House of Hope, for women who are at-risk of being trafficked or going into prostitution due to extreme poverty and lack of education.
Global Women partners with Beginning of Life by providing funds and assisting with an annual camp. Clapaniuc emphasized it is important for Global Women to come to Moldova and help with the camp because Moldovans have the perception that Americans are rich but cold and uncaring. They believe Americans don’t give because they don’t care, she said.
Camp dispels those myths. “You are so soft and have big hearts,” Clapaniuc said. She said the women need to know about Jesus, “but when you come and just embrace, all the gospel is in your heart. This is very important.”
She told the story of one camper, Marina. After camp, Marina said, “I feel like I start to live again. I want to go to church because the Americans are all Christian, and I want to be around people like that.”
Summit participants attended workshops and visited booths about the five identified issues and the partners that address the issues.
An interactive prayer station allowed women to pray with their hands. At some stations, women could weave fabric on a loom while praying for economic development partners, hold a baby doll and listen to lullabies while praying for maternal health, and write prayers to be compiled into a book for Beginning of Life.
Participants were encouraged to give, pray regularly and/or go to Moldova this summer. For more information, go to GlobalWomenGo.org.