- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - Constance Jackson, a member of Greater Faith Baptist Church in Orangeburg, has formed a bond with women from other denominations and cultures through an outreach ministry that she says has positively impacted her life.

During a recent Thursday night Bible study, Jackson enjoyed a meal, songs and prayer with Catholics, Methodists, Pentacostals and others. Despite their differing backgrounds, they have all found a welcoming place through Spoken For Ministries Inc., an Orangeburg-based women’s outreach ministry.

“I felt the Holy Spirit the first time I came. I just enjoy being with the ladies,” Jackson said. “I have really never been around a bunch of women that made me feel so warm and welcome. I don’t see color; I see a sister.”

The Soul Sisters Bible Study class gathered on Feb. 11 in Orangeburg for fellowship and prayer, but that’s just one part of the nonprofit ministry, says Beverly Thomas, its director.

Thomas, a member of Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, started the nonprofit Spoken For Ministries in 2013 with one goal in mind.

“It’s a women’s outreach designed to offer a safe haven. It’s a place of refuge for women to join with other women of other denominations, races and cultures to find encouragement, acceptance and love they may not feel in other places,” she said.

Jackson has only been attending Bible study sessions for a few months, but she said she is pleased that the ministry also participates in outreach work, including donating items to the DAZZ pregnancy and sexual health center at 923 Chestnut St. in Orangeburg. The center also helps women facing an unplanned pregnancy.

“That’s the marvelous thing about it. We have a soup kitchen on Saturday at Greater Faith so I told the ladies about it when I came here. The women in this group come from different places and churches, but we are the same. We are really sisters. We’re here for each other,” Jackson said.

Thomas said her ultimate goal is to create a women’s crisis center.

“Women can come when they are in a crisis and don’t have anywhere to go or stay. We’ll be able to offer them a room, a warm meal and also help them get back on their feet,” she said.

“We already have some clothes and shoes that have been donated. St. Andrews United Methodist Church has also helped us in times of need with food from their emergency food bank,” Thomas said. “We will be working to build our funds starting in the spring, and all proceeds donated will be used to keep our ministry working and to assist women in crisis.”

Conferences, weekend retreats, mentoring, life skills training, workshops and seminars are among the activities in which the women in the ministry participate.

“We do some conferences and retreats here in Orangeburg and surrounding areas. We’ve already been to Georgia twice and we’re going again in the spring to do a women’s conference,” Thomas noted.

She added, “We also do seminars for different areas. We may teach on how to study the Bible, or we may teach on how to develop your prayer life. That’s the spiritual aspect.”

The ministry also brings guest speakers to their headquarters at 955 Riverside Drive to speak to women on heart health and other issues that may affect their well-being.

“We had one speaker to come in to talk about skin care. We had one to come in to talk about how to handle stress. We also have life skill classes in money management and organization, and we want to start teaching how to garden in the spring,” Thomas said.

“We’re going to do our own little garden, maintain it and learn how to can. Women don’t know how to can anymore and put things up in the freezer,” she said.

Darlene Goodin of North and Faye Thomas of Orangeburg, both members of Soul Sisters, said the Spoken For Ministries has been beneficial in their lives.

“Beverly has been a doll. She helps organize and set things up. Life is good. We do missionary work, including working with DAZZ and burned-out families,” Goodin said.

A member of Fellowship Baptist Church in North, she said group members keep up with each other during the week, even sending expressions of love and encouragement through cards and other means to those who are sick or “just having a down day.”

“We try to cover all our bases as Christians. It’s a group of women who can sit and talk about anything. We really are a sisterhood,” Goodin said.

Faye Thomas, a member of The Missionary Church International in Columbia, agreed. She is respected By group members for being a prayer warrior and is also known for her warm hugs.

“What I’m seeing through this ministry is God bringing his kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. Broken people are coming in. They’re behind masks, but they feel welcome. They feel like, ‘I’m free here and no one’s calling my name except people that just want to help me because they really love me,’” Thomas said.

What does she get out of the ministry?

“I get fellowship with other believers and sisters that are part of my life. All my family is grown and gone, and here comes my new family,” she said. “I love it. We’re an army of women who are taught how to fight the good fight of faith.” She said the women stay “knitted” together through the week with prayer.

The Bible study class is currently studying a book titled “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Heart and Our Minds.”

“We’re teaching them about how to read the Bible and understand it’s a message to all of us from God about who he is and how he relates to us,” Thomas said.

Livingston resident Anna Carr, a member of Livingston United Methodist Church, is events coordinator for Spoken For Ministries. The ministry also has a board of directors, advisors, an assistant director and a secretary/treasurer.

“Soul Sisters is a very good group of women from different churches. We just all get along, study the Bible and love God and people,” Carr said. “We’re here to do whatever God has for us to do. Outside of the Bible study group, Spoken For Ministries has retreats for the homeless and teens that are in trouble.

“We just take the word to them and give them a chance to get to know Jesus. We tell them their situation is not hopeless. There are still people in the world that love them no matter what they do.”

Beverly Thomas said she hopes the ministry will serve to change women’s lives for the better.

“The vision for this ministry is to help women move into their destiny of what God’s called them to be and not be defeated because of life’s circumstances,” she said.


Information from: The Times & Democrat, https://www.timesanddemocrat.com

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