By KAREN HERZOGBy KAREN HERZOG
Women's lives have become so busy that many have really lost connection with people, said Kamie Beeson, of Bismarck.
One of the biggest benefits of last March's first Joy International women's gathering in Bismarck was that sense of connection and belonging, Beeson said.
Last spring's gathering was the offshoot of a women's event originally organized by Fran Dwelle while living in Europe. Dwelle and her husband, Arland, formerly pastor at Evangel Temple in Bismarck, lived for three years in Zagreb, Croatia, and for 10 years in Vienna, where they were involved in a variety of Christian ministries in Eastern Europe.
"God put this idea in me to provide some gathering place to share the joy," Dwelle said. "It's women connecting with other women."
The response to the Bismarck launch was even better than Dwelle had hoped, she said. The March event maxed out at 340 women and drew overwhelmingly positive feedback, she said.
People said they enjoyed the broad mix of denominations, the ethnic mix, the unity and the inspiring speakers, Dwelle said. Sharing breakfast and sitting together at tables rather than in an auditorium setting helped foster that connection, she said.
Organizers plan to hold Joy events two or three times a year; the next is Nov. 11, and another is already planned for March, Dwelle said.
The theme Nov. 11 is "Discovering Hope,"with speaker Beth Keller, of Jamestown. Keller is active in a grief support committee and will talk to the group about losing her son to cancer, "and how God has carried me through," she said.
All women face difficult decisions, dreary days and dashed expectations, Dwelle said. "In the midst of life's uncertainties, how can hope happen?" is the focus of this breakfast program, she said.
Since the event is Nov. 11, wives and mothers of service members are being offered complimentary tickets, Dwelle said. Women of all denominations are welcome and spiritual seekers are particularly invited, since Joy International is designed to be a bridge into the Christian faith, she said.
Stories of faith will allow speakers to tell how God worked in their lives, Beeson said.
"It's nice to see the care and grace God has for women," she said. "You receive encouragement. We're not out there alone. People are going through similar things. Finding that God wants to be involved in our lives is such a sense of relief and comfort.
"God has a purpose for our lives and the things we've experienced, and there's comfort in that," Beeson said.
Beeson attended last year's event with several co-workers.
"The nice thing about Joy International is the follow-up," she said. Women may choose to continue their get-togethers with Bible studies called Friendship Circles.
"It's always exciting to go to an event," she said, "but this is a way to extend the time of connection and encouragement we got during the breakfast."
At the end of our life, Beeson said, "Are we going to say, 'look at all we've accomplished and got everything on my list done,' or wish we'd made more connections?
"It's a choice. We have to choose to prioritize our lives for the important things. Choosing to attend and extend is a way to make connection with God and women part of our lifestyle."
Joy International unites women of all Christian denominations, ages, status and walks of life, Beeson said: "That's what true Christianity is."
Connecting with other women of faith was the most meaningful part of last year's event, said Royann Bold, of Bismarck.
Women often know each other through their children or through their church, but this a way to connect with women of faith outside that circle, Bold said.
"This is a way to celebrate being a Christian woman; that's what made it exceptional," Bold said.
"The thing that impressed me the most was just so much sharing going on at the table," she said. "People didn't know each other very well, but immediately there was bonding going on. It was impressive to me."
"Everyone was excited to be there, to share something about family and enjoy themselves.
"That word 'joy' was really underlying spirit was in the room."
(Reach Karen Herzog at 250-8267 or karen.herzog@;bismarcktribune.com.)