on Friday, March 1, 2024

A packed house of more than 1200 women gathered for Abide 2024 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, Feb. 23-24, to worship and embrace a calling to be “Women of Prayer.”

“We chose the theme ‘Women of Prayer’ because prayer is a vital discipline in the life of the believer,” said Tara Dew, wife of president Jamie Dew, adjunct professor and director of the NOBTS ministry wives certificate program, Thrive. “If we are to truly abide with Christ, then we will be women who pray.”

Keynote speakers were Donna Gaines, founder and director of the non-profit ARISE2Read and wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist, Memphis; Andrea Lennon, author, speaker and Arkansas Baptist Convention Women’s Specialist; Heather Johnson, educator, women’s ministry leader, and Thrive assistant director; and Tara Dew.

Worship was led by Nate Jernigan, Leavell College assistant professor of music and worship, with guest vocalist Meredith Andrews, a Dove Award-winning Christian music artist and worship leader.  

Women from more than 190 churches from nine states were in attendance.

The Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 was the focus of the keynote addresses.

Tara Dew, in the opening plenary, pointed to the “remarkable, earth-shattering truth” that believers have access to God and stand in relationship to Him as children.

“Jesus did not say ‘my father’ but ‘our father,’” Dew said. “We now have a relationship with the almighty God. We now have access as children.”

Though believers have an intimate, father-child relationship with God, Dew cautioned that God must be approached with reverence and respect. Only when believers understand God’s holy character will they be capable of praying that God’s will is done in their lives, Dew explained.

“Never forget He is holy, He is in heaven,” Dew said. “We must approach rightly and then we can pray, ‘May your kingdom come. May your will be done.’”

Donna Gaines, in the Friday night plenary that followed, pointed to verse 11 to stress the importance of focusing on daily needs in prayer rather than worrying about tomorrow. Gaines drew from her experience as her husband journeyed through cancer to say that understanding the depth of God’s love allows a believer to trust Him for provision.

“As I meditated on [verse 11], I realized I had enough grace for today,” Gaines said. “I will not dwell on the ‘what ifs,’ but on the ‘what is’ … one being, God will never leave me nor forsake me.”

Gaines reported that her husband is doing “very well,” and went on to relate lessons she learned in trusting God for daily provision through her work as director of the nonprofit organization ARISE2Read.

“Every step of the way God has opened the door,” Gaines said of the organization’s growth from its beginning twelve years ago. “Every step, God has said, ‘Donna, just take care of today.’”

Gaines encouraged listeners to focus on today’s needs.

“Whatever you’re facing today, take today, and say, I refuse to be anxious. I will not think about tomorrow,” Gaines said. “I want to choose to trust my Father who loves me.”

Breakout sessions highlighted the application and impact of prayer in life, evangelism and discipleship.

Michelle Chitwood, wife of IMB president Paul Chitwood, led a session on praying for the nations; Katie McCoy, Texas Baptists’ director of women’s ministry, addressed dealing with unanswered prayers; Catherine Renfro, NAMB’s national director of women’s evangelism, spoke on praying and preparing for gospel conversations; and Sally Burke, president of Moms in Prayer International, addressed transforming a child’s life through prayer.

Other breakout sessions were led by women faculty members, Thrive adjunct faculty members, and women ministry leaders.

The release of Dew’s first book, “Overflowing Joy: What Jesus says about a joy-filled life,” a study of John 15, coincided with the event.

“It was so special to have the book released this year,” Dew said. “It is my prayer that women would be drawn closer to Jesus and find their true joy in Him. As we abide in His presence, I pray that His joy would be overflowing in our lives.”

A first-ever pre-conference event featured exclusive time with Abide speakers in a smaller-group setting, special breakout sessions, and opportunities to interact with the NOBTS Global Mission Center and the seminary’s Museum of Bible and Archaeology.

A book-signing at the pre-event featured Tara Dew’s book as well as recently released books by Jamie Dew, “Let This Mind Be in You: Exploring God’s Call to Servanthood," and “Women Leading Well: Stewarding the Gift of Ministry Leadership,” by Emily Dean, NOBTS assistant professor of ministry to women and director of the ministry to women academic programs.

Featured speakers for the Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2025 Abide will be Katie McCoy, Catherine Renfro, Tara Dew, and Emily Dean. The theme will be “Women of Biblical Community.”

Friends and exhibitors at the event included the International Mission Board; NAMB’s Send Network; Guidestone Financial Resources; Texas Baptists; the Woman’s Missionary Union of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; Mississippi Baptists WMU; the Women’s Missions and Ministry team, Louisiana Baptist Convention; Moms in Prayer International; Lifeway; WorldCrafts, a compassion ministry of the National Women’s Missionary Union, and other women’s ministry organizations.

“It is our hope that the women who attended the conference left with practical tools and a greater desire to be women who pray,” Dew said. “There is power in prayer, and I pray that the seeds planted this weekend would bear untold fruit in the lives of the women who came.”