International Spanish Speaking Woman Virtual Conference “Deja Tu Huella’ (“Leave your impression,” or “make your mark”)
--by Olivia Hudson, Northern Virginia Church of Christ, and the Conference team of “Deja tu Huella”
As we all know, the world is going through quite difficult times in terms of health, economy, and fears in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, this has forced us to cancel conferences that took years to plan, vacations we were looking forward to taking -- and more. Many have lost jobs and even their lives during these difficult times. In the midst of this, we have found ourselves asking God to help us to not lose sight of what really matters and to give us the courage to remain faithful in these unpredictable times (Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”).
God hears our prayers and meets our needs in the most unexpected ways. He used a group of his daughters, including myself (Olivia Hudson), a disciple in the Northern Virginia Church of Christ, to organize an unprecedented virtual conference for women. As I learned to adapt to the Internet world, I proposed to organize a virtual women’s conference for a private Facebook group, formed of International Spanish-speaking disciples and their friends who want to draw closer to God. I have been facilitating a private Facebook group for five years, called “Lágrimas de Alegría” (Tears of Joy); it’s for Spanish-speaking women disciples of our churches and women that are studying the Bible, or any woman who wants to deepen their relationship with God.
God knew that a virtual event like this needed to be done for everyone who wanted to be part of it. I accidently posted the proposal to my personal page (a much wider audience) instead of the private group page (a much smaller audience). This mistake set us on the path of a wild adventure. Sisters from our affiliated churches heard about it and they began to dream of an event where many women could participate and see the unity among our sister churches.
The Holy Spirit of Jesus left us in awe with the outcome of this event.
There is a part of this I really did not want: organizing a conference of this magnitude was not my intention! I know very little about the internet; in three days I was forced to learn more than ever before! When the day came, it was such an honor to be able to share with all the women listening that this conference was clearly God’s desire to encourage them, or to help them seek him; I can take no credit for it. He made it happen for all of us.
A team was formed to make this event a reality and we created a group with the theme name for the conference. Within one week of the conference group being created on Facebook, 1,000 women of the ICOC and their friends expressed interest. By the day of the conference the Facebook group had reached 3,300 women! Prior to the conference, 15 days to be exact, we created various activities for the participants that consisted of a daily scripture and an activity, to help us focus on God and draw close to each other.
The first one was 1 Corinthians 14:33. The goal was to meditate on how much God desires order in our lives; and the activity was to post a picture of yourself with crazy hair or crazy make up. The last one was based on Romans 12: 1-2; the purpose was to prepare our hearts to hear a message that will remind us to not conform to the pattern of this world; and the activity was to create a special space in your home, a place from which you would participate for the 2 ½ hours of the conference. The idea was to dress up, prepare your special place, and take a photo of it and post it in the Group on the day of the conference. One sister jokingly said, “Oh boy, I am going to have to comb my hair.” Another said, “I have not worn a nice dress in weeks.” They all were excited to participate. From the first day to the last, the participation for each activity was more than we imagined it would be. Sisters began encouraging each other to get out of their comfort zone and join in the fun. Mothers and daughters bonded over the activities. One sister even posted a photo of her husband flat ironing her hair the day of the conference. The memories built during those two weeks are priceless.
On May 16, 2020, the day of the conference, both Facebook and Zoom were opened 30 minutes prior to the start time of the conference. Within minutes we had 689 women connected via Facebook Live, and 100 women connected via Zoom. We had an overflow of 48 on Zoom who could not connect because we had only purchased the small Zoom package that allows 100 participants. By the end of the conference, the Facebook Live had reach 2,000 views and now it has 4,500 views and continues to grow. We uploaded the unedited video of the conference on YouTube the next day and in 24 hours it had over 400 views. It's now up to about 700 views. Women from many parts of the world, Latin America, (Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, San Salvador, Ecuador, Honduras, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and others) and North America (Texas, Los Angeles, Arizona, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Boston, and others), gathered for a single purpose: to learn how to become the Salt and Light of the world. It was beautiful to see such union.
Twelve women gave their hearts to making this event possible. They had willing hearts to serve God, his people, and the world, during these times in which we are living. Among them was Evelyn Quiroz from the South Region of the Mexico Church, who, with her great voice, shared two amazing songs that connected everyone in one heart. Silvia Mendez De-LaMora from San Diego shared a great testimony that moved the hearts of all the listeners. Miryam Tijerina de Vargas, women’s ministry leader of Gam and The Super Metropolitan Region North of Mexico City gave an exciting and uplifting, well-researched class, on what it means to be the “salt of the world.” Julieta Jimenez from Acapulco gave some powerful closing words. Ana Lilia Razo Lopez facilitated the Facebook Live flawlessly! Patricia Maldonado researched and created a YouTube Video to show at the conference. Lupita Castaneda Montenegro and Luz Angela Moreno ran all the details of the Zoom platform, Katiuska Borjas, Yadira Gomez and Luz Angela Urrego were the virtual ushers. They took turns to make sure that every woman who was part of the group felt loved and heard, by giving them words of encouragement when they participated in the various activities in the days leading up to the conference.
This is how everything managed to reach the depths of the women’s hearts: by preparing them and reminding them that God desires for us to leave an impression in this world that results from the impression He has left on our hearts.
As a result of this event, many women are now studying the Bible around the world. A sister brought four friends and all four are now studying the Bible. A sister’s mom has also decided to study the Bible. A sister who decided, “I will just send the invitation to all my female contacts” -- her niece is now studying the Bible; and the stories go on. One woman said she had left our fellowship of churches ten years ago and needs to take steps to come back to God. I loved how another sister simply responded to her in the comments on the Facebook group, “God’s church family needs you, come back.” This woman is now possibly going to be restored.
As the conference unfolded, we were reminded over and over that what is impossible with man is possible with God, if you have a willing heart. Luke 18:27 NIV: “Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” To God be the Glory!
About the Author: Olivia Hudson was baptized in the church in San Diego, California in 1996 and is currently a member of the Northern Virginia International church of Christ. Married for 28 years and a mother of five, she is the author of From Lemons to Lemonade, and Caring for the Child Within: My Journey to Emotional Healing (English and Spanish versions). For the past five years she has been a motivational speaker and online facilitator for a group of about 2000 women. Also on Olivia’s resume: mentor of parents with special needs children, mentor of teen girls, preschool teacher.
Editor's note: Olivia has made a 13-minute video message, her personal sharing about finding strength in God, faith and purpose "at a time like this" : https://youtu.be/yXNUMtS3LLY