The Power of
By Emily Faison
God is working in the rising generation, and he is using Free Will Baptist women to do it. Anna Forlines is one such young woman following God’s calling. While churches provide the preaching, teaching, network of family, and voices of wisdom young adults need to grow spiritually, Anna realized small, intimate gatherings are also crucial
to spiritual wellbeing. Young women need their own spaces to come together to share, worship, and pray.
In response to that need, Anna and a team of young women recently held their first WAR Night, an event for Christian women ages 18-25, in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. The evening lineup included worship, testimony, prayer, snacks, and, of course, coffee. “We aren’t trying to be hip and trendy,” Anna exclaimed. “But you have to reach people where they are. Trends can be used as a tool to reach people.”
Based on the theme, We Are Royal, from 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out,” the goal of WAR Night is to create a space for young women to build one another up by sharing their daily Christian walk.
“So many girls feel as though there is no one to talk to,” Anna said. “They feel like they have to put on a ‘Sunday face.’” By coming together in a smaller group of young Christian women, Anna hopes to offset the mentality that girls must figure the hard stuff out on their own. Gatherings like WAR Night may help mend the rift girls feel between Sunday mornings and the rest of their week.
God has positioned Anna in just the right place to recognize these needs among young women—they are actually Anna’s peers. A senior at Welch College, Anna recently completed a year-long International Missions internship, when she studied at the university in Nantes, France, while working alongside Matt and Christina Price in their outreach to students. “Before I went to France, I went through some struggles,” Anna admits. “But God orchestrated all of it. While I was in France, God used that time to break me and put me back together.”
Now back in the States, Anna understands she can continue to build on the relationship-building skills learned in France to minister to fellow young women in college. “So many girls are in the same place I was,” Anna explains. “Struggling with life.”
Encouraged by the success of programs like WNAC’s Shine!, which helps 12- to 18-year-old girls discover their self-worth in their heavenly Father, Anna knew it was possible to bring similar themes into a conversation with women in the next age bracket. Young women in college also struggle with identity, especially when comparing themselves to their peers.
Anna believes a starting point to addressing this struggle is “to be known and loved where we are.” Creating a space where young women can be vulnerable while speaking God’s truth to one another is the first step in Anna’s plan to be known and loved. “I want to help other young women realize the ‘significant insignificance’ of being a child of the King.”
Geared towards Christian women, the goal of WAR Night is to encourage young women to share their walk with Christ—including the hard parts—without worrying about an end goal of evangelizing. “Before we can evangelize effectively,” Anna explains, “it’s important to be open and honest with each other.” In a space like this, girls can focus on helping each other heal and reenergize before stepping back into the important role of witness.
Anna is no stranger to these kinds of activities, having worked with Young Life, a Christian organization that ministers to adolescents and college students, as well as having helped the Prices in their Heart for the World student ministry in France. Still, Anna knew she couldn’t build this project on her own and consulted friends and mentors for guidance. “I want to reach out to women more mature in the faith to pray for this group of young women as we come together,” Anna said earnestly, recognizing the importance of both the preceding generation and the upcoming generation.
WNAC’s Executive Director Elizabeth Hodges has been instrumental in the early stages of WAR Night. When Anna and a friend first came up with the idea of ministering to young women from a conference-style approach, they didn’t realize how far out of their league they were. “We were dreaming big, big,” Anna laughs. “But we weren’t even laying a foundation.” Elizabeth’s mentorship, along with advice from other women, helped Anna transform her ideas into a feasible plan, leading to what is now WAR Night.
“I was thrilled when Anna approached me with the concept of WAR Night, after WNAC had hosted the Shine! Conferences for girls 12 to 18,” Elizabeth explained. “Her burden was for similar events for her 18-24 age group.” After Anna’s initial call to Elizabeth, Anna sat down with Elizabeth and WNAC board chairman Diana Bryant to discuss practical steps to begin moving towards fulfilling her dream. “I was impressed with Anna’s teachable spirit as she worked to develop an idea,” Diana shared. Elizabeth agreed: “Due to my life experiences and education, I posed many questions for thought. My heart’s desire was to encourage her passion and vision with realistic expectations.”
Over the course of the next few months, Elizabeth and Diana coached Anna towards laying that foundation she needed. With their guidance, Anna made plans for every logistical detail of the event and put together a team of peers to help her make her dream a reality.
While just one WAR Night event has taken place so far, Anna has put together a team to create more events and build a website, with hopes of planning a conference similar to WNAC’s Shine! in the future. Deborah Trifonova, native to Bulgaria, where her parents are missionaries with International Missions; Keren Delgado, a Cuban pastor’s daughter and recipient of a WNAC scholarship; and Kori Slemp; all students from Welch, have joined in Anna’s dream. Each brings different skills and abilities to the table, and together they can maintain a website, market upcoming events, and plan and host future WAR nights. “It’s exciting to see the places where others are so much better at different things than I am,” Anna said. “God has gifted us uniquely to help each other.”
About the Writer: Florida native Emily Faison is the interactive editor for Brief Media, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A prolific writer and blogger, Emily earned a M.A. in Literature from Florida State University in 2015. Learn more about the ministry of WNAC: www.WNAC.org.