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Keep Calm & Finish Strong...Women's Conference in Grimsby!

by Marvelyn Schell

I must admit, I’m a FIFA Fan!

And with Canada hosting the Women’s FIFA World Cup 2015 right now, I am cheering on our Canadian team big time! (especially after their heartbreaking loss against the USA in the 2012 London Olympics!)

The Canadian women’s soccer coach, John Herdman, recently had this to say when encouraging us to cheer them on.

“Keep the faith, that’s all I’m going to say. Keep the faith. Don’t ever lose faith with Christine (Canadian Women’s Soccer Team – Captain). She’s a great captain, great leader, getting into great positions. …. So let’s give her a break and let’s just keep supporting the team and keep supporting Christine.”

Reading this comment, I couldn’t help but reflect on the “Keep Calm & Finish Strong” Conference in Grimsby, ON that ZOE Projects was recently a part of. It’s easier to finish strong when you’ve got a cheering section. When you know someone out there has got your back, and is championing you.

Paul writes in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The verb form of this word "witness" (martureo) refers to the giving of a (confirming) testimony rather than the mere watching of an event. So, as I understand it these witnesses are the saints (Hebrews 11) who have already run the race but are watching mine and shouting… "Go for it! You can do it. Exercise your faith Marvelyn, you can finish. I did it. And I know it can be done. Run. RUN!"

However, I must admit that when the going gets tough… friends, family, co-workers tend to scatter.

Sometimes, it’s simply because they don’t know what to say or do and so out of fear and apprehension they keep their distance, avoiding the difficult conversations.

Many of the women that ZOE Projects has partnered with are running extremely tough races.

They need motivation to keep going…not give up…stay in the game.

I was overjoyed that Lakemount Worship Centre’s first Women’s Conference (June 5-6) chose to join the ZOE Projects Fan Club!

They didn’t avoid the difficult conversations about oppression and injustice but chose to shout out strong and loud, “WE ARE FOR YOU! WE BELIEVE IN YOU! BECAUSE OF CHRIST YOU CAN LIVE THE ABUNDANT LIFE – ZOE LIFE!”

So, thank you Lakemount ladies…for not only cheering and encouraging our ZOE Project partner in India but for also encouraging women across Canada to get involved ….. And in the modified words of John Herdman,

“Keep the faith, that’s all I’m going to say. Keep the faith. Don’t ever lose faith with our ZOE Project partners around the world. They are great captains, great leaders, getting into great positions. …. So let’s give them a break and let’s just keep supporting them.”



My mom dragged me here...but I actually learned a few things! - Free to Lead Saskatoon

At the end of March, ZOE Projects was pleased to partner with Horizon College and Seminary on Saskatchewan's first ever "Free to Lead Conference"...and we had a GREAT time!

Women of all ages and backgrounds came to this inspiring weekend.  One of those participants was Dyanna, daughter of Carmen Kampman, Conference Visioner (is that even a word?!?).

Below is Dyanna's "take" on the weekend.

When I, a fifteen-year-old girl, first walked through the doors of Ebenezer Baptist Church for the first ever Free To Lead Conference to be held here in Saskatoon, I could sense there was a craving for something. Every woman that I interacted with seemed to crave the same thing – change.

We reflected on how women are always receiving mixed messages. We are told to be “sexy,” but also told to hold an innocent heart. Frankly, it is quite confusing being a woman in the church. When various interpretations about a woman’s role were on the rise in the church our self-worth began to crumble and our confidence began to get chipped away at. At this stage we began to accept the lies and many of us found ourselves in the midst of an identity crisis. We continue to ask ourselves two main questions: “Who am I?” and “What do I do?”  So, what does it mean to be a Christian woman?

Women were made in God’s image - no doubt about that! - so why do we belittle ourselves on a regular basis? We bear traits of God. He has set us apart for his own purposes. We are not “add-ons” or “side-kicks,” we contain attributes of God. We need to live creative and productive lives.

Undervalued. Belittled. Misunderstood. Unappreciated. I’ve been there before. We mustn’t allow the fear of failure to determine our success. Be yourself, and yes I know that sounds cliché, but once you accept who you truly are and what you are capable of you will be unstoppable. God never will ask for you to become who you are not. Rise up and live up to your full potential.

- Dyanna Michelle

P.S. I’ll come willingly next year!


Can you imagine receiving this message of value and empowerment as a 15 year old girl?  Our hope and prayer is that our daughters would rise up to the vision that God has for them!



And dare we say it... even called. Free to Lead Winnipeg

Free to Lead Winnipeg

ZOE Projects was excited to partner with Jo-Ann Porterfield and Manitoba and NW Ontario PAOC Women on the Free to Lead Winnipeg Conference January 23 and 24. It was awesome!

We know that women didn't really know what they were coming to... but they dove into the weekend and by all accounts the conference was deeply impacting.

One woman said that "this conference was not at all what I had expected... it was like heart surgery... so deeply transforming.  I am so glad I came."

Today's post is by Ruth Unger... one of the conference participants. 

by Ruth Unger

Have you ever attended an event because you just thought you should be there? You went not knowing exactly what to expect because it was something sort of new in your world. And yet, there had been things stirring in your heart, perhaps even troubling you… maybe for a short time, maybe for years. So you went. 

I think that is what I saw. I am pretty sure it is what I experienced – a group of women gathering under the banner of Free To Lead with a whole range of questions, doubts, expectations, even fears, and yet with the courage to check this thing out. Women who recognize and embrace their place as leaders and women who wondered if they really could be leaders. Women who were unsure of their ability and yet feeling a nudge toward more. Women who know their giftings and are yet unsure of the path. And often, all of those things are in each woman… sometimes we are complicated creatures! 

Even with all of that, or maybe because of it, there was a sense of anticipation in the room. 

With the panels and the speakers, stories were shared that were easily recognized, themes we live by. I need to prove my worth… prove that I am smart enough or, on the other hand, hide my intelligence. Be responsible for everyone. Don’t make mistakes. Don’t be yourself. 

All of that and leadership too? 

We know the verses from Psalm 139… you created my inmost being… you knit me together… all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be… (from verses 13-16). 

Many of us have probably said the words to others – You are God’s masterpiece – and we easily believe it - for them. 

The statement was made that “we honour God when we take time to discover His handiwork – and that handiwork is you.” Murmurs of understanding. Heads nodding. That seems to be one of the keys of the conference for many. 

Identity. In Christ. Unique… with weakness and strength. And dare we say it… even called. 

In that, there is a recognition that this will look different for each of us. Some will intentionally mentor. Some will quietly influence. Some will make the plans. Some will lead the charge. Some will pick up a mic. Some will pick up a pen. Some will find solutions. Some will challenge. Each path as unique as each of us… each leading, influencing, as God has planned for us to lead and influence. 

One of the opening comments that had many of us scrambling for our pens was this: “God can’t use what we won’t acknowledge.” What do you need to acknowledge? What do I need to acknowledge? What strength? What stirring of your heart? Where do you need to take a step? 

The closing admonition – be open to being used… let your heart be moved… do something! 

In all of this, it is not about claiming a position or recognition for ourselves. Hear the Father say “That deposit in you is for me.” It is all for Him, for His Glory and His Kingdom.

God is certainly up to something... empowering His daughters!

Free to Lead Saskatoon (which is being initiated by Carmen Kampman and Horizon College) is just around the corner, March 27 and 28. 

We would love to have you join us! 

You can get more information here.

One more thing...we want to clarify last week's post.  We told the amazing story of a Ugandan woman who had been trafficked to Thailand being returned home because of the generous gift of women in Manitoba.  In addition to the women in Brandon, the Manitoba NW Ontario Women raised funds at their annual retreat.  (Go Manitoba!)  Their contribution made that plane ticket purchase possible.

Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.

Your generosity is making an impact on lives... real lives. 



She Leads Conference...Blazing a Trail in Canada

She Leads was a conference for women that ZOE was delighted to partner with last month in Cobourg, Ontario.  She Leads is the dream of Wendy Burton and the Eastern Ontario Women’s Network – PAOC.   I (Leanne) was excited to be one of the speakers for the conference which focused on calling out the potential of every woman. 

One of the conference attendees was Donna Leck. 

Donna is our "guest blogger” this week to share her impressions of She Leads.

Donna Leck

Tell us a little about yourself...

I’ve been married for 22 years. My husband is a minister and I’ve been very active in partnering with him in ministry for 18 of those years.  I’m the mother of 3 teenage daughters (15,17,20) and in my spare time I’m a full-time manager at a financial institution.

Coming into the She Leads Conference , where were you "at"? 

My husband, girls and I are confident that we are in the centre of God’s will for our lives. As a family we had relocated to life in the fast lane to southern Ontario a year ago moving away from  our extended family. My oldest daughter transferred universities, 3 of my girls began working, within 6 months I was offered a promotion to manager, we went from a traditional large Church to a inner city small Church. On any given day during the week each of us are in 4 different city’s/communities. Gone are the days of my husband and I doing lunch dates! It’s been a whirlwind of change in the Leck household this year.

As of late I had been praying for something more. Often as a women we give at work, we give to our kids, we give to our hubbys, we give to our extended families, and we give to our Church. Regardless of how content we are life still has this incredible way of sucking the zeal right out of ya! And that’s just where I found myself. I felt like I wanted to do more for God but what would that look like in our new Church setting? What did I have to truly offer that would make a difference?

What was particularly impacting in the messages at She Leads?

  • Leanne challenged us as women to be the EZER - "the strong warrior" that God created us to be. I was reminded that there is a Spiritual war going on for my identity. Satan is in the business of getting us to believe the lies that we are just a ‘helper’ which leads us as women to under vision our lives, rendering us powerless. I remember sitting there thinking "been there, done that, got the t-shirt". When you grow up being a shy kid and lack confidence, it’s easy  to fall into the enemy’s trap of believing you are powerless. This concept of being an EZER - "the strong warrior" was refreshing and a great kick in the pants!
  • God’s not asking us to be someone we are not but simply to be who He has wired us to be. We need to understand what God has deposited into our life.
  • I absolutely love Leanne’s catch phrase. "God can’t use what we don’t acknowledge.”

What does this mean moving forward in your life?

I guess that means that I better start acknowledging how he’s wired me! For years I’ve wrestled with acknowledging my God given strengths. I couldn’t have told you what they were if you had asked. I tabled it as trying to be humble - :)   

God used this conference to refocus me on what’s truly important. Recognizing who He’s created me to be and confidently running with that. I’ve created some tangible goals with God in areas that I’m ready to step out in. 

It makes me think of Esther in the Bible (Esther 4:14) ... she was wired ‘for such a time as this’. The impact of  her little gesture was not so little! I’m left pondering ... now that I’m acknowledging, what does God have in store for me? We can be assured that each one of us is His best for His purposes! 

This is SO encouraging!  Thank you Donna for sharing what God is developing in you.

Intrigued?  Wish that you had gone to "She Leads"?

ZOE Projects is pleased to be partnering with Jo-Ann Porterfield and her team on "Free to Lead" in Winnipeg, January 23 and 24, 2015.  (It has always been our dream to visit Winnipeg in January!)

...check out more here:

Free to Lead - Winnipeg

We would love to see you there!


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4 Conferences that are helping Canadian Women Thrive!

As we have developed ZOE Projects, we have come to believe strongly that if we help raise and empower female leaders in Canada, it will have a ripple effect on the international work we engage in.  So we are excited to develop what we are calling ZOE leadership.  It is still incubating but we are working with leaders to develop quality leadership material in the form of modules and conference material.

There is a growing network across Canada that is working to empower women in their communities and we are excited to partner with these "pockets of energy" across the nation.  For links to these Leadership Events click here.

But here is a bit of a teaser...  

  • Free to Lead Conference in Winnipeg, Man. – Jan 23 & 24, 2015 - Jo-Ann Porterfield and the Manitoba NW Ontario District of PAOC are organizing this event.  More info here.


  • Free to Lead Conference at Ebenezer Baptist in Saskatoon, Sask. - Mar 27-28, 2015 - Carmen Kampman and Horizon College are organizing this event.  More info here.


  • ...and in the works...Free to Lead Conference in Langley, BC – Fall 2015 - Joanne Knight and Living Waters Church are organizing this event.  More info here and here.



The caliber of leaders across this nation is ri.dic.u.lous! 

ZOE Projects is proud to partner with them all.  If one of these conferences is in your area...fill your car ladies!  


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The Hands, Feet and Heart of Jesus...

Sue Keddy is the Women’s Connection director of the Western Ontario District of PAOC.  The mandate of the group she leads is to be"the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to the broken, the lonely, the sick, the ignored and the helpless."

At a recent women’s retreat that they held in Cambridge, Ontario they embodied this mandate by featuring Monique Shaw and her ministry "Jewels in a Crown".  Monique is a ZOE Projects partner that we featured here last Fall.  Together this group of women on retreat raised $2000 to support Monique in her ministry that reaches women in the brothels of Kolkata.


One of the best parts of my role at ZOE Projects is to let our partners know that there has been support raised for them.  When I Facebooked Monique to tell her the good news, here is what she replied: 

WOW!!!!! It is such an incredible encouragement to know that ZOE Projects is supporting Jewels in a Crown and playing a vital role in helping women from the sex trade in Kolkata, India find freedom and new life! A big thank you to Marvelyn Schell and Sue Keddy for their compassion for women around the world!

Jesus is Enough Retreat in Cambridge

The Hands, the Feet and the Heart of Jesus...What a beautiful mandate!  

How will you embody that today?

Blessings! - Leanne

PS - You can now subscribe to the ZOE blog...follow the instructions to the right (then you can automatically get our weekly blog updates) 



It has been a busy few weeks for ZOE!

This has been a busy (and exciting) few weeks for us at ZOE Projects...wanted to give you a quick update (personal update at the end): 

Ron Davis presenting ZOE at COTM

ZOE Projects was presented as a 2014 missions giving focus at the PAOC BC and Yukon District Conference on the Ministry.  We were grateful to receive funds, but also to increase awareness of what ZOE Projects is and what we network together to do.  Blown away by the generosity!

Leanne and Everlyn at Free to Lead

 Living Waters Church in Ft. Langley hosted the "Free to Lead Conference" on March 14th and 15th.  It's purpose was to inspire women to leadership and it was amazing!  One of our presenters was Everlyn, from Village of Hope in Zambia.  She shared with us the blessings and challenges of being a woman in leadership in Zambia.  She encouraged the conference to "not despise small beginnings"..."great things begin as small things".  I couldn't agree more!  ZOE projects was presented by our ZOE intern Jennie Piedalue...we have some great, young leaders rising up!

Christian Life Assembly in Langley and Maple Ridge, BC invited us to share ZOE Projects as a part of their Missions Convention in early March.  They have agreed to take on two projects in Ethiopia and Chennai, India...we will share more in a future blog post.  Awesome to partner with this church community.

Leanne presenting ZOE at Christian Life Assembly in Langley

And finally,  I (Leanne) announced my resignation from Living Waters Church (of Ft. Langley, BC) early in March.  After ten years of ministry as a pastor there, I am stepping down to give more focus to ZOE Projects and to Leadership development of women in Canada (and maybe even around the globe...we can dream, right?)  Though it was a difficult decision, it was necessary in order to move forward through the doors that are flinging wide open.  Can't wait to see what God will do!

Hold on for the ride!

Leanne McAlister