USA: Uplift, Collaborate, Transform: Northeast and Midwest Leadership Retreat
In the beautiful hillside of Upstate New York, 23 women aged 18 to 70+ gathered for a transformational and informative Leadership Retreat for WFWP leaders both seasoned and brand-new from June 6th to 9th, 2019. It was an intergenerational and interracial gathering.
The annual WFWP retreat is where leaders, volunteers, and supporters of WFWP share and disseminate our best practices. It is an environment where we take chances and open our hearts to give and receive love from each other. It is a place where we gain the confidence to reach out to all women, from the inspiration of our WFWP Co-Founder Mother Moon, whose words continue to inspire us to grow our character and heart.
This year, women from the Northeast and Midwest gathered at Camp Pinnacle, a well-kept site which had its origin as a place of prayer, reflection and study of the Bible by Christian women. One could feel the peaceful environment of the setting which added to the experience.
Various topics were covered including the vision and mission of WFWP, connecting to WFWP’s Founders’ direction and heart, how to lead others based on example, as well as many practical topics such as financial stewardship, tools and resources for outreach, and our goals. Many of the women commented that they were inspired and refreshed not just by the deep bonds and connections that were formed through discussions and activities but also the practical skills and knowledge that they can take back and use to outreach and educate their communities.
As always in our retreats, each day began with exercises and spiritual morning sessions. On the first day, WFWP USA President Angelika Selle shared words from Mother Moon, and spoke about acquiring a new mindset and heartset. Music and meditation emphasized the themes of gratitude in all circumstances, joy, and simplicity.
On the second day, after some spiritual reading and discussion, Vice President Katarina Connery shared a slideshow about Father Moon that she had put together herself in his honor after his passing, which brought forth many tears.
Midwest Regional Director Kathryn Davis then concluded the retreat with a morning session on the third day, reading from Mother Moon’s speech “The Hope of Humanity Comes from Mothers,” adding 21 inspirations from the heart to solidify WFWP’s vision based on her own experiences and life of faith (available here).
DAY ONE: Internal Connections & Vision
After an orientation and icebreakers the night before, the first full day of the retreat started with an overview of the mission and vision of WFWP, as well as a review of new developments in 2019 and the goals for 2020, shared by Angelika and Katarina. Kathryn concluded the session with a presentation regarding WFWP’s relationship with the United Nations, with its General Consultative Status with the Social and Economic Council. She also explained a campaign of the UN to eradicate 17 social ills world-wide, referred to as Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, and the valuable way in which WFWP USA and international chapters work to chip away at the goals.
Session Two was led by Angelika, discussing Pointers for Peace Leadership from her many experiences in leadership roles. Kathryn presented a PowerPoint developed by Southeast Regional Director Myrna Lapres on Qualities of the Heart, accompanied by a list of qualities (such as generosity, ability to forgive, and being receptive), that participants could elect to work on personally and pair share with another woman. This session was rounded out by Katarina introducing a portion of the WFWP Chapter Handbook, highlighting points of personal leadership: being proactive, starting with the end in mind, and putting first things first. During these three different but complementary presentations, participants were able to reflect deeply on their own leadership strengths and weaknesses and how to improve.
Some of the deepest sessions of the day included a sharing about the Bridge of Peace by Angelika and the curriculum in development based on reconciliation. That was followed by a sharing from Katarina on her experience as a white person growing up in the South and learning about the realities of racism. That opened up the opportunity for a more honest sharing among all the women of different experiences and how we as women and mothers must heal historical hurts. One participant commented that she could feel the potential for global change in the room during such a deep sharing.
The evening concluded perfectly with a session on self-care, where the women could connect with their inner selves and reconnect to God’s love for them as God’s daughters. Practical pointers were shared by Rev. Juanita Pierre-Louis on “Using the Principle” to heal ourselves and by Peggy Brewster, who offered Tongren and homeopathic healing. The spirit and energy was exceptionally high as everyone enjoyed manicures, massages, face masks, and art therapy, taking time to take care of ourselves so that we are better equipped to love and care for those around us. The high spirits did not stop there, but continued throughout the evening, with an energetic drumming circle led by Patsy Onatah and free-spirited dancing to modern and classic hits. No one cared about skills or intergenerational differences; we were dancing with our sisters and freely feeling the joy and simplicity of God’s love as was portrayed in the morning.
DAY TWO: Practical Tools & Knowledge
After the many connections of heart and internal focus of the previous day, the second full day of the retreat focused on putting vision into action. We dove right in with tips on creating an “elevator pitch” and how to introduce WFWP naturally to anyone you meet. Each woman then had a chance to practice their introductions with each other and receive constructive feedback on what worked. This was followed by an update on WFWP’s financials and results for Schools of Africa fundraisers across the country delivered by Irmgard Baynes, WFWP USA Financial Administrator. Several chapters were highlighted and thanked for their tremendous effort for the Schools of Africa. WFWP Membership drives were addressed in a video provided by Hanabeta Deshotel, WFWP USA Membership Coordinator. After receiving much information, the ladies were excited to try out their skills and new ideas in a role play to ask for a gift from a potential donor.
Another important topic of discussion for the day was on outreach. Kathryn shared with participants how to take every opportunity to educate members and guests with an “Outreach Folder” that contains material about everything WFWP is doing. She also encouraged them to invite each guest every time to become a member, give to the 1% Love Share or Become a Friend of WFWP. They will say yes to one of the options, but they cannot say yes if you do not ask. When people’s inspiration is high, that is the time to invite them to contribute. Everyone was eager to receive a sample to replicate in their chapters. Next, a video was shown of Aimmee Kodachian on outreach on “The “Four Types of People.” She spoke on how to identify people correctly so you can “speak their language” and get them involved in ways that are meaningful to them.
The retreat was perfectly culminated in an experience where the women washed each other’s feet. As facilitator, Katarina shared stories from the Bible on Jesus and Jacob and Esau as well as our WFWP founders’ path to always humble themselves and serve and how we as leaders must also exemplify that heart and commitment. We must always be wary of thoughts and feelings that make us feel superior to others; when we feel superior, it’s impossible to serve. One participant expressed, “One thing that will stay with me forever was the blessing to wash a sister’s feet. As a relatively newer member of both WFWP and FFWP, I realized I was washing the feet of someone who laid the groundwork for me being able to be present today. Very humbling, very precious.”
The deep love and connection that was felt among the women did not go unnoticed by Camp Pinnacle and their staff. The retreat center’s nurse, Heather, felt very drawn to the group. She said that she’s seen many different groups come to the center, but has never experienced a group in which she felt so much love from each person in the group. Maybe from a few individuals, but never from an entire group. She said, “I was so touched by your love and beauty of your spirits that you will forever dwell in my heart.”
Two of the women shared how a split-second decision can change your life and lead it into an unexpected path. Both shared that at the last minute they decided to attend the retreat with no expectations and little information. They were grateful they came because they made new friends and encountered a “current of love” they had not expected to experience. Both felt renewed and armed with new tools which gave them more confidence to help Mother Moon and God at this juncture in human history.
Mother Moon has often said when two become one, that’s where heaven can start. But how difficult it is to unite in heart with another! Unity is the beginning point. Each retreat participant is on a life-long journey to co-create and discover her unique and authentic self, with God’s facilitation. The internal work of women “living by the logic of love” has been to discover and create “the self” and the tools necessary to bring WFWP’s God-given vision and mission to fruition. Initiating and sustaining the process of respecting, serving, and loving each other is the challenge. Today, after a 27-year growth period, WFWP has created pathways and the development materials which did not exist before, but now have come to fruition through the collaboration of both young and mature women. We are excited by what the future will bring.
“All sessions and activities we had were very good and helpful. In my opinion, the retreat was very good and I got more energy and strength to revive our WFWP Chapter. I hope my motivation and determination will remain and bring victory in my chapter. Thank you for everything and more blessings for WFWP USA.” – Charlotte Kiluba, Kingston, New York
“I gained more love and understanding about what Mother (Moon) wants to accomplish. I got a deeper feeling and understanding about what we can do as women together to heal this world. We have God’s new given role. I learned so much from my dear sisters.” – Rosalinda Burch, Maine
“I liked the sessions where practical life application knowledge/experience was shared and discussed (i.e. the accounting presentation and Katarina’s testimony of racism). The subsequent discussions following these two presentations were fruitful and practical lessons were learned through the revelations during discussion.” – Lisa Louis-Marijanski, New York City
“All sessions were interesting. I gained a circle of women who are willing to help change the world for the sake of the next generation and learned more about the importance and role of women in our society and family. I need to gain confidence to encourage a friend, family, or circle of friends to make a difference together.” – Wendy Dayagon, Houston, Texas