3,000 turn out for 'Women of Faith' in Billings

2014-04-26T17:27:00Z 2014-04-27T08:05:10Z 3,000 turn out for 'Women of Faith' in BillingsBy NICK BALATSOS nbalatsos@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Women of Faith Tour kicked off this weekend in Billings, with more than 3,000 women at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark gathering to "refresh, reignite, restore, recharge and revive" their Christian faith.

The group was brought from "survival to revival" — this year's theme — with the help of comical, award-winning speakers and plenty of Christian Rock.

Billings is the first stop in the 20-city tour.

Grammy-nominated singer Kari Jobe, four-time Grammy nominee Matthew West and Christian rock band Gateway Worship all performed at the event.

As the Texas-based band Gateway Worship performed, a dazzling light display from above encouraged the crowd to their feet. With a single hand raised to the sky, the crowd swayed back and forth to the music.

Debbie Stuart, the head of church and leadership for the tour, said "hundreds of women gave their lives up to Jesus for the first time this year."

Stuart said the group coordinated with local churches beforehand so that women who came to the event without a place to worship would have a place to go after the event if they chose to.

Speakers at the event hailed from five different states and three different countries.

They included Christine Caine, an Australian author, preacher and founder of the A21 Campaign, a campaign against human trafficking; Patsy Clairmont, a Michigan-born author and speaker; Lisa Harper, an author and theological scholar from Tennessee; Anita Renfroe, a comedian from "the South"; Sheila Walsh, a Texas transplant from Scotland and best-selling author; and Liz Curtis Higgs, a best-selling author and award-winning speaker.

Higgs is also funny, very funny.

Speaking on Saturday, she had the audience in stitches as she spoke about "the bad girls of the bible."

Bad Girls of the Bible is also the name of one of her books. Higgs said she got the idea for it after a friend told her she was writing about all of the "good girls." She said she liked the "good girls," but could never relate to them. They were so innocent, she said.

"But Jezebel, now I get that chick," Higgs said, adding, "I never killed a prophet ... (but) she had a problem with control issues, and, frankly, I did too."

Higgs went on to discuss how few women in the bible have names and how seven of them are named Mary.

That proves the bible is fact, not fiction, she joked. "As a novelist, I don't even like to have a character's name start with the same letter as another character — it's hard to keep track of."

Her talk also had a serious message.

Through the story of the resurrection of Jesus, Higgs used Mary Magdalene to empower women.

"I'm no longer a card-carrying feminist, but I get pretty excited when the first word from the risen Christ is directed at one of us," she said. That word was "woman," she said.

She related the pain Mary "must have" felt when Jesus was crucified to the pain she felt when she lost her own brother.

Higgs found out through a text message that read: "You're brother left this world," she said. "Surely this is how Mary felt."

She also talked about the stone that moved from the front of Jesus' tomb. "What's your stone?" she asked the audience. "No stone is too big for God."

At the end, she asked the crowd another question.

"Have you heard Jesus speak your name?

"Help us leave behind survival mode and head into revival mode," she concluded.

Carol Plympton, of Rosebud, said she looks forward to the event all year.

Since "Women of Faith" has been coming to Billings, Plympton said she hasn't missed a year.

"You take something new home each time for spiritual growth," she said, adding that the event gives her "inspiration."

This year she brought her granddaughter and her friend, both 10. "They loved it," she said. "They laughed right along with everyone, and of course the singing is awesome," Plympton said.

She said that the event is especially important for women.

"We're insecure and we need to know that we're valuable to God," she said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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