- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

What started out as something new and different to do has turned into a tradition for Judy Soper.

Mrs. Soper, of Chesapeake, Va., will accompany two buses filled with more than 95 women on the Women of Faith “A Grand New Day” event in Washington, which brings women together to share stories of challenges and perseverance.

A veteran of the event, Mrs. Soper loves bringing new women to take part in the annual weekend.

“As a group leader, I think being able to see people I know, bringing them to that experience and watching someone who was going through a hard time in their personal life come out with such joy has just been so rewarding,” Mrs. Soper said.

Women of Faith hosts a tour every year featuring different artists, performers and speakers to encourage women of all ages to grow in faith and spiritual maturity. Washington is the 13th stop of the 28-city tour, which will arrive July 31 and Aug. 1 at the Verizon Center.

Established in 1996 and based in Plano, Texas, the organization takes a humorous and honest approach to help provide a weekend for women to come together and escape, said Leslie Nunn Reed, vice president of marketing.

“It’s a getaway weekend escape for everybody to hear and share stories amidst the craziness and hard times of life,” she said. “When women get together, it really does provide a time of refreshment and encouragement. They laugh, and that’s a huge part of what we do - provide laughter and humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and, in the midst of that, find the joy in life that is hard to find right now.”

Mrs. Soper, who said she has attended the tours for “at least eight to 10 years,” said the experience is much more than just a weekend.

“I think my daughter put it very well when she said, ‘We serve a very happy God, and we are called to share that happiness,’ ” Mrs. Soper said. “What that does for me is puts a joy in me that I can draw from all year long. For me, it’s not about the weekend or the funny stories; it’s about the whole package of spiritual growth.”

This year’s tour theme, “A Grand New Day,” is perfect for the lives of women today, Ms. Reed said.

“We believe that’s what everybody needs right now, an opportunity to look ahead to the challenges that today brings and the challenges you are holding today,” Ms. Reed said. “Look at today with different glasses and a different perspective that may help us see that, even in the midst of the challenges, there is a God who loves us and is in our corner and really wants the best for us.”

The organizers bill the tour as the nation’s largest live event for women, with 4 million attending more than 275 events in more than 70 cities across North America since its inception. Ms. Reed expects about 12,500 women to attend the D.C. event this year.

Grammy-award winner Steven Curtis Chapman and Grammy nominee and “American Idol” finalist Mandisa, along with many others, will perform at the D.C. event. Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that fights poverty and injustice, will be one of the speakers.

Women of Faith and World Vision have joined forces to help women reach out to more than 120,000 children around the world, Ms. Reed said.

Mrs. Soper, whose two grown daughters attend the tour, said the weekend is a “highlight” of her year.

“We women love to laugh and then turn around in the same sentence and cry, and you get that in such dynamic speakers, with such a great sense of humor, but everything they say and do reflects what godly women they are,” Mrs. Soper said. “To see that many women in one place worshipping the Lord and having all those needs met has been such a tremendous experience for me.”

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