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101 years later...

I am a bit of a history nerd.  My favourite corner at the PAOC International Office is in the archives.  You could lock me in there for days, and I would not complain.  (Just remember to bring me the occasional sandwich…oh…and Starbucks coffee please.)  Recently, with the help of our PAOC archivist, James Craig, I started to explore the history of women in PAOC. I had begun to lead the National Women’s Network and firmly believe that we cannot know where we are going unless we understand where we have been.  

Oh the places PAOC women have been! 

Did you know that PAOC women began to organize in 1915?  (Let me do the math for you…that is 101 years ago!)  That means that women began organizing within our movement before we even officially became a movement. Under the direction of Mrs. A. H. Argue, a Women’s Missionary Society group was established in the Winnipeg congregation. Their purpose was to sew for local and District needs as well as overseas missionaries. As members moved out of that church to other places in Canada, they would set up similar groups. Ethel Bingeman, who was the first National Women’s Ministries director appointed, under the general supervision of the Missionary Secretary, George Upton in 1944, wrote in her records “women were busy about their Father’s business, serving as a great blessing to the local churches. They were all busy assisting the many home mission’s churches as well as overseas missionaries.”

Under the leadership of Mrs. Gladys Lemmon in the 1950s, "... thousands of our Christian women are praying, visiting hospitals and shut-ins, doing house -to-house visitations, wrapping thousands of pounds of literature, distributing thousands of tracts and standing back of all our Christian workers at home and abroad."  Mrs. Elma Scratch, the fifth National WMC leader, activated PAOC women to "get the vision" that the mission field was the whole world including their homes, neighbourhoods as well as the far off reaches of the world.  She said, "I would love to see Christian homes by the thousands across Canada get that extra room set up, move over and include the lonely, lost child at our table and in our hearts."  PAOC women have a long history of Spirit-empowered, outward-focused, fruitful mobilization! 

Vitality defined is “the capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence.”  If we are honest, in many parts of Canada, WM has lost its vitality. Women’s ministries “ain’t what it used to be!”  Programming that “worked” a generation ago is no longer proving effective. It would be easy to despair and give up, but I believe that PAOC women still have an essential part in God’s story.  Our form may need to change, but our function has not changed. Alan Hirsch states, “We must remain committed to constant critique of the structures and rituals we set up and maintain…” 

The National Women’s Network (made up of District Women’s Leaders) engaged in this critiquing process last fall.  Celebrating the past, with anticipation for the future, we together discerned our mission, as leaders of PAOC women.  

We determined that: we exist to empower, activate and mobilize, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every PAOC woman into the mission of God, here in Canada and abroad.  

Let’s unpack it a little further.

  • By “Empower”, we mean that we equip women with what they need to move forward and thrive in the Mission that God has for them.  This equipping includes skills training, resources, and opportunities.  We believe in women and let them know that through God, “they can!”
  • By “Activate”, we mean that we love action!  We ignite and spur women on to great things.
  • By “Mobilize”, we mean we gather teams of women around shared vision and goals, preparing them for purposeful action. 
  • By “Every PAOC woman”, we mean every woman connected with PAOC (including those traditionally outside the “WM sphere.”)  This includes every age group and every cultural group (including women from the 37 distinct cultural groups represented in PAOC).  We recognize and value the unique contributions of all.
  • By “Mission of God”, we mean God's mission to reclaim the world and reconcile everything and everyone to Himself.  As “sent ones,” we are invited to participate in His mission.
  • By “Power of the Holy Spirit”, we mean that we are not about “good ideas.”  We are Spirit-led, rooted in prayer so that we can together discern “God directives” that come from the very heartbeat of God.
  • By “in Canada and Abroad”, we mean the mission of God is all around us…both in our neighbourhoods and around the world.

It is a big dream! How will we begin to live out this mission?  There are a couple of ways that we have already started…

      ZOE Projects – ZOE Projects, an initiative of PAOC International Mission, connects Canadians with the work that our PAOC Global workers and National Partners are doing with women around the globe.  We work in four keys areas: Health, Human Trafficking, Economic Empowerment and Education…all with a heart for spiritual transformation. ZOE Projects educates and offers tangible avenues to get involved.       

     ZOE Discipleship - We believe that every woman is given a unique "deposit" of gifts and passions that God wants to use for His purposes!  Through ZOE Leadership, we empower, activate and mobilize everyday women to respond to the nudging of God.

 

Are you interested?  The story of PAOC women is far from over!

Check out our website (www.zoenetwork.ca) and look for us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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My Braver 15 Year Old Self...

For as long as I can remember I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I can’t help myself, it’s just who I am.

It’s what I do.

It’s in my DNA, right along with my female chromosome XX.

I root for the least likely to succeed.

God purposed this. For ‘heaven’s sake’, my birth country (Tanzania) was the only African country willing to stand up to the bully Idi Amin….and win! God made sure this part of history was built into my story.

Jump forward a few years….

When I was around 15 years old, a young girl in my high school got pregnant.

Of course she was not part of the “in” crowd (neither was I for that matter!). But she also didn’t have the advantages that I had (stable family, nice home…love) Back in my day, young girls like this were marginalised. It was, dare I say, shameful.

But of course, my advocate spirit kicked in and I became her friend.

While her belly grew so did our friendship.

We talked and shared our stories together like 15-year-old girl’s are prone to do.

I visited her in the hospital after her son was born and vividly remember her saying to me, “Marvelyn, you’re the only one who came.”

The only one. No one else dared to go?

As a woman who’s now pushing the half century mark I’ve gained some perspective.

What I now know is that if I had asked, some girlfriends would have joined me.

ZOE Projects is about standing up to the bullies of social injustice but it’s also about becoming friends with marginalized women and advocating for them.

Women. Just. Like. You.

…But without the advantages of education, healthcare, security, and economics.

And so today, I want to be a braver 15-year-old self and ask.

Will you dare join us?

Will you choose to be a friend and listen to their stories?

Stories of resilience, courage, leadership and worthiness?

Will you visit the issues of human/sex trafficking, maternal death, female genital circumcision, child marriage, HIV/AIDS, inequality, poverty and lack of education and not turn them quietly away because they’re shameful topics and make us uncomfortable?

Will you courageously choose to join us – we could use the support - because it’s scary confronting bullies alone.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‘Lord, when did WE see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did WE see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did WE see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers & sisters, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:35-40 ESV

WE.

Did you notice the “WE”?

You and me, together.

Who knows, just maybe as we join in solidarity, Christ will show up in their lives AND ours so that we all succeed!

Marvelyn Schell

ZOE Projects

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2015 ZOE Highlights and Looking Forward to 2016!

Happy New Year from ZOE!

What a year 2015 was...and it all happened so fast!

We thought it would be good to review the 2015 highlights, as we look forward to 2016.

What happened in 2015?  Here are some highlights:

  • In January,a group of 200 hundred students from University Christian Ministry in British Columbia raised over $3000 for ZOE!  It was invested with Monique Shaw, as she ministers to women in the sex industry in Kolkata, India.  Incredible!
  • In February, we took a group of 11 women from various parts of Canada on our first ever Short Term Mission to the Dominican Republic where we worked with female leaders in the church and community.  What a life changing experience. 
  • Over the year, we partnered on four different Women's Leadership events across Canada...in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Langley and Calgary.  There is a growing interest and hunger for women to be empowered in their communities in Canada, as well as abroad.
  • We believe in women!  And so we provided scholarships for female students in India, Ukraine and Kenya.
  • In April, we visited Zambia and connected with Steve Bowler, who works to alleviate the suffering of rape victims in Malawi.
  • In June, we toured the Yangon Bakehouse and saw first hand the ZOE investment of the industrial kitchen that benefits the skills training program for women in Myanmar.  That was a highlight!
  • In August, we launched ZOE Leadership.  God is as it work in our world and we believe that all are invited to participate with Him in it.  We want to help women see the part they can play and rise up with courage and confidence.  We have had ZOE leadership groups from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec! Interested? MORE INFO HERE
  • This fall we saw local groups engage like never before...using what is in their hand to bring awareness of the needs of women worldwide and then raise funds to invest in ZOE.  It was very exciting!  
  • In December, we did the "Advent Challenge"...which encouraged women to engage in women's issues as we prepared for Christmas.  We hope that it was a blessing to you.  

All in one year...whew.

What is next in 2016?

  • We will continue to build our ZOE partnerships and give Canadians tangible opportunities to be informed and strategically engage with global women's issues. ZOE PROJECT PARTNERS
  • We will promote the IDENTITY course through ZOE Leadership...and launch the second course called TOGETHER.
  • We are excited to translate the IDENTITY course into FRENCH!  Want to help with this?  DONATE HERE
  • A "ZOE Toolkit" is in development...so that local leaders can easily engage and educate those around them in their community.

Leanne McAlister

It is going to be good!

Are you in?

Leanne and the National ZOE Team

P.S. Amazing things are on the other side of COURAGE...what are you waiting for?

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This International Day of the Girl Child: Stand with Her - Judith Kasiama

Judith Kasiama

October 11th is "International Day of the Girl Child."  

The 2015 Theme for this day is: The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030

To help us bring awareness to this day and its focus we have invited Judith Kasiama to write this week's blog post.  We are huge fans of Judy!  Judith is an under-gradutate student at Trinity Western University, where she is studying International Studies and History. A refugee herself, from Democratic Republic of Congo, she is deeply passionate about promoting and advocating on behalf of women and children. She believes in education and self-sustaining development that can help equipwomen to be their own advocates. Judith is currently studying in Amman, Jordan and serving a group of Syrian refugees who are displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. She enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time in nature.

by Judith Kasiama

Fifteen years ago, the international community implemented the Millennium Development Goals, which aimed to help alleviate poverty throughout the world by 2030. Their aim was to meet these goals through social, economic, and political means. 

According to an EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2012, “about 62 million girls are not attending school globally, and about 80 percent of all human trafficking victims are girls." (Check out more here...Girl Rising.)

Currently we are halfway through our given timeline. The girls born in the year 2000 (when the Millennium Development Goals were set) are now 15 years old. As an international community, we must fulfill our promise to be sure that girls are safe and have access to education and healthcare. Investing in young girls is significant.  When girls are given an opportunity to stay in school and have access to health care, early marriages and childbearing is delayed.  These small actions not only benefit the girl herself, but will also benefit her future children, community, and country.

Girl Effect, which is a nonprofit organization whose sole aim is to empower girls says this: “If every Ethiopian girl finished school, it would add almost $4-billon to the country’s economy.” They also estimate that “if early marriage in India was delayed, it would add about 767 billion in potential lifetime income.” (Girl Effect). 

While we have made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood, we must now take a further step in helping girls obtain higher education and join the workforce, unhindered by their gender. One of my favorite poets Dr. Maya Angelou writes, “each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” In supporting young girls, we are supporting the next generation to truly reach their potential.  

On this day, International Day of the Girl Child, let us do more in our efforts to support girls. My worldview, my ambition has been fueled by amazing people who saw my potential and help me achieve my dream. I have three younger sisters and each day I am honoured and humbled by their accomplishment.  I want girls around the world to be able to have the same opportunity. We, as an international body, are obligated in recognize the potential that girls have and it is up to us to help improve gender equality on a global scale. 

This International Day for Girls: Stand with Her!

Thanks Judith!  What would it look like for you to "stand with girls" in your community?  In the nation of Canada?  How about abroad?  This may be a great conversation to have in your circle of friends and church.  We know that ZOE is an excellent way to stand with girls...

  • Through supporting Kim Hodgkiss in Honduras as she provides economic empowerment opportunities for teen girls through her training centre.  
  • Through Steve Bowler in his work with "Fountain of Life" in Malawi which supports rape victims of all ages.
  • Through providing Dignity kits (menstrual products) with Transformation Textiles that help girls stay in school. 

There are many, many opportunities to "stand with girls" through ZOE this weekend.  Want to do something? 

DONATE HERE.

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Tackle a campaign to make the world suck less!

by Marvelyn Schell

I just finished a book about addiction. I read it to educate myself and help understand those caught in the grip of addiction. In reading it a comment that my colleague, Leanne McAlister, once said came to my mind. “Really, the world is broken.  We’re all broken.” , she said.

Yes, we are.

Many just don’t realize it – I didn’t.

We desperately try to fill our cups, all the while life is slowly seeping out leaving us feeling empty and unfulfilled. We keep ourselves busy and full of activity because it’s too frightening to stop and recognize the void. In the words of Bill Radmall from Insight into Addiction: “…ask people on the street, and it is unlikely that many would acknowledge that they have a gaping chasm inside them….they may only be aware of an undefined dissatisfaction....(they have) defended themselves from any awareness of their emptiness – perhaps by not allowing any time to think or reflect on their lives.” (pp 29)

So, let’s take the time …and do some thinking and reflecting…..

ZOE is Greek and means: absolute fullness of life, life which belongs to God, life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, to last forever, …..abundant life (John 10:10).  We at ZOE Projects, believe this “life” is for those we seek to help and empower around the world…but it is also for us. You see, I look around and see many women who struggle with an ‘undefined dissatisfaction’. A restlessness…a hunger…to be a part of something larger then themselves…desperate to get involved and make a difference in this world.

One catchphrase I came across in doing some research on women’s issues was, “Tackle a campaign to make the world suck less”.

Please tell me you’ve noticed. Women are speaking up and women’s issues are the hot topic, at the forefront of global discussions! It’s splashed all over the media, literature, politics and entertainment. The messaging is strong, women matter …and want to matter.

So what is it that we’re missing? Is life just about tackling another campaign so that the world sucks less? How on earth do we live ZOE life?...full, real, genuine, active, vigorous, ABUNDANT.

Well, here’s Webster’s definition of ABUNDANCE: large amount, plentiful, present in great quantity, more than enough. Abundance seems to imply a place of unlimited resource. One of the great lesson’s I learned from the women I served while being a Global Worker with PAOC was how to live the abundant life. They showed me that it is not the absence of struggle or pain (something we North Americans resist vigorously) but thepresence of Christ in the struggle or pain that was evidence of living the abundant life. You see, we attempt to change our circumstances in our effort to fill the cracks and live life abundantly.

Get a new job, new house, new church, new degree, new dress, new friends, new husband,…the list is endless …but these are limited resources, quick fixes….and dare I say, sometimes addictive?

But there really is only one “fix” and that’s Jesus Christ. When we yield ourselves to Christ and when we seek to be filled with His Spirit we find freedom and the ability to thrive in life …to live an abundant life…despite our circumstances.

I’ve personally learned that only Christ can supply me with the unlimited resource of PURPOSE, VALUE and HOPE.

But wait!

It’s doesn’t end there. When we live the abundant life…remember our definition of abundance?….we should have more than enough…but more than enough for WHAT?!?!

TO BECOME LIFE GIVERS!!!!!

Isn’t that awesome?!  We become a conduit of Christ to the world! So long undefined dissatisfaction! I’ve got PURPOSE, VALUE and HOPE because of Christ in me and I choose to give it away.

I’ve become a life-giver so that the world sucks less.

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Want to Hear a A Couple of Cool ZOE Stories?

We love a good story...Do you want to hear a couple of really cool ZOE stories?

  • On November 8th, a group of women met in Brandon, Manitoba for a "You Matter Day"...which is a great gathering for the encouragement of local women.  (More Here)  They knew that they didn't want this day to be just about them...they wanted to do something for women in need globally...and so they asked ZOE what they could do.  They chose to highlight Nightlight International and Krista Couts as their ZOE Project. End of story?  Not at all.  This week we got an email from Krista sharing the rest of the story.  The funds that the women in Brandon raised went to purchase a plane ticket for a woman that had been trafficked from Uganda.  This woman was able to return home with her baby daughter and begin to rebuild her life.  Amazing hey?  Something "small" but oh so life changing!
  • In mid-January, a group of students from BC Campus Ministries went on their annual retreat, which is called Emerge.  They always choose a global project that they, together can invest in.  This year they chose ZOE Projects and were excited to invest in female leaders globally.  A group of 200 hundred students (let's face it - students are not always flush with money) raised over $3000 for ZOE!  The organizer, John Engels reports that it was a very special weekend and that "God highlighted the value of women throughout the weekend"!

Emerge Conference - BC Campus Ministries

These are just ordinary people.  Just like you.

One of the reasons we share these stories is to inspire YOU...

What do you care about? (AKA - What tugs your heart?)

Who is in your community that you could collaborate with? 

 What could you do?

We LOVE to connect people...so ask us how you can help!

Want to share your own ZOE story?  We’d LOVE to hear from you and share your story with others.  Send your story to info@zoeprojects.org today!

We so look forward to hearing from you and getting to share in the excitement!

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4 Reasons You Can't Make a Difference on Your Own

We are often told "go big or go home",  While I like the concept (particularly on my "I am Woman, hear me Roar" days), if I am honest, the thought of trying something BIG freaks me out and often sends me to the couch...

I wonder if we are going about this all wrong, trying as individuals to "make a difference".  Maybe the question isn't "what should I do" but is actually "what should we do"

What would happen if women across Canada began to work strategically together for BIG things? 

Today's post is by Carmen Kampman.  Carmen works in Community Relations at Horizon College in Saskatoon and is passionate about empowering women in Leadership. In April she is leading an Event called Free to Lead Saskatoon.

(Check it out here.)

She is also a great friend of ZOE. 

by Carmen Kampman

Life has many phases, and if you are one of those people that has a great memory and can remember your childhood years, you’ll likely remember well the I’ll-do-it-myself phase. My mom tells me that I was a frequent “me do it!” kinda girl. Not only that, I enjoyed letting everyone else around me know just how much I liked to achieve things on my own. 

But when we grow up we recognize (or at least we should!) that there are a great many things we can’t do on our own. (I confess I’m still a work in progress in this area!) And when it comes to Kingdom work, I’m convinced that it is imperative we understand why we can’t make a significant difference solely on our own. 

Here are a 4 reasons worth thinking about:

  • Women are uniquely shaped by their life experience, carrying with them with them a unique perspective. Collaborating together empowers us to view a situation through multiple lenses helping to ensure a “big picture” view. In other words, we might see or learn something we didn’t see or know before – how exciting!
  • Outcomes matter. So if outcomes matter, collaboration matters. If our primary mission as Christians is the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on earth, then healthy Christian living recognizes that the wisdom of community is deeper and wider than wisdom of self.
  • It’s both empowering and strengthening to converse together. The Didache (a compilation of early Christian teachings) says, “...every day you should seek out the company of the saints so that you can be helped by their conversation." (Didache 4.2)
  • Individually we are limited resources. No one person posses all of God’s gifts or wisdom. A rich tapestry is created when diverse gifts collaborate together.

Learning to collaborate and work well with others has been a big part of my journey these past four years. At times it has been messy – icky messy! And on more than one occasion I have hurt someone and have had to ask for their forgiveness. As a high-functioning, high-energy, results-oriented person I have learned the importance and value of intentionally seeking out others in order to collaborate. As a result, the outcomes on projects or decisions have far exceeded anything that I could have done alone.

So let me conclude with a few questions for us to consider: 

Do I understand that I’m a limited resource? 

What value do I see in collaborative conversation? 

What holds me back from asking others for their input? (Be honest!) 

What “company of saints” should I seek out so that I can be helped by their conversation?

Blessings in your journey,

Carmen Kampman

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A Life-Giving Movement

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about”…But you will receive power when the Holy spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4,8

One of the hallmarks of Christmas is giving!

We give gifts to our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, our co-workers and neighbours.

So in this blog post I’d like to reflect on this well-known passage in Acts about THE gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, let me begin by being honest with you (and myself).

I tend to be a “task-orientated” type personality.

Waiting for me is HARD!

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Interesting to note that following Jesus’ instructions to “wait”, the disciples blurt out, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6)

They wanted to get on with the job.

Sometimes we surge ahead of God instead of waiting.

Waiting involves patience (a fruit of the Spirit) and when we patiently wait for the LORD in our circumstances, an eager anticipation of what God is going to do replace’s our frustrated impatience.

To use a familiar holiday experience to help us recognize the benefit of waiting, think of Christmas.

Don’t we all wait with expectation to open our gifts?

Concerning the word “power” in verse 8, the Life Application Study Notes say, “We need to understand that power from the Holy Spirit is not limited to strength beyond the ordinary – that power also involves courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability and authority.”

How many times have I sought power with regards to the above from sources other than the Holy Spirit?

Too many times to count!

I’ve often relied on my education, my position, my skills, my personality….However, in order for us to joyfully fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we need to start by asking the LORD to fill us with His Holy Spirit.

I’m reminded of something one of my husband’s seminary professors said, “Be careful that the work of the LORD doesn’t replace the LORD of the work”. Too often in ministry we see the need so we rush off to do the work, expecting God to somehow catch up and empower the work.

It’s WE who need to be empowered, not the work!!

Over and over again in Acts we read of how the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit as they witnessed of the risen Christ (Acts 4:8, Acts 7:55, Acts 9:17, Acts 13:52)

We should not use the Holy Spirit to do ministry, rather, the Holy Spirit should be using us to do His ministry.

Let me be clear.

ZOE Projects involves meeting needs.

However, we don’t just want to recruit you to a needy cause.

We want to invite you into Kingdom work.

ZOE is a life-giving movement.

A movement that believes that the transforming power of God can do the impossible.

So this Christmas season as you give your gifts, remind yourself of His gift to you and determine to be a person who develops the spiritual discipline of waiting on God so that He can empower you to be His witness in a world that so desperately needs to see Christ!

Get involved, speak up, pray, write a song, host a party, write a poem, raise funds, give, share their story …

Marvelyn Schell

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Time to Celebrate!

Christmas is the time when we remember the incarnation of Jesus...light breaking through the darkness.  God entering the brokenness, pain and spiritual poverty of all humanity bringing His life that He generously shares with all who would receive.  What a beautiful narrative!   I can't think of a better way to celebrate His birth than by supporting women around the globe through ZOE Projects.  Jesus came for the "least of these"...and every time we live and give in such a way that honours the worth and dignity of others, it raises a banner that says: "This is what God is like" ...and it is beautiful! 

This week, ZOE Projects is raising that banner by distributing money to our first two projects.

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If we just told the story...

Here is a quick update on ZOE Projects!  We "launched" six weeks ago and the response has been amazing.  I always knew that if we just told the story, Canadian women would respond with passion.  Here are some highlights:

  • We have received several thousand dollars of donations to support our current projects and we believe it is just the beginning.
  • ZOE Projects has been highlighted at several of our Women's Ministries gatherings across the nation (Thanks Jo-Ann, Andrea and Lori)...so the word is spreading.
  • Young college aged women are highlighting ZOE on their university/college campuses.
  • Our list of "ZOE advocates" is growing.  A ZOE advocate is one who is committed to raising awareness and providing fundraising opportunities for the projects.  If you are interested in becoming an advocate, please let us know...we will get you started.
  • Little video update  - Dreaming for a future project!

In this together...

Leanne

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