The women of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge are celebrating with a purpose during their annual women’s day.

And this year, they have invited a national speaker whose main purpose in life is helping empower women for what God has for them.

The Women’s Day service is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at St. Mark, 6217 Glen Oaks Drive.

The theme is “Sisters With a Purpose — Making it Happen” taken from Mark 6:30-44 on the feeding of the 5,000.

“We are here and we have been given a purpose,” said Edna Hickman, of St. Mark. “God has given us basically a job to do, a purpose to do and he expects us to do it. He expects us to make it happen.”

The guest speaker is Yvette Richards, of Kansas City, Missouri.

Richards is midway through her four-year term as national president of United Methodist Women, the mission arm of the United Methodist Church and one of the world’s largest faith-based organizations with 800,000 members.

“We want to give her a big Louisiana welcome and show her love and support for what she is doing. She has worked extremely hard on behalf of women, children and youth. She just brings just a wealth of knowledge and experience and foresight,” said Hickman, president of the South Central Jurisdiction of United Methodist Women, one of five jurisdictions in the country.

Julia Carnes is president of St. Mark’s United Methodist Women.

Richards joined the Methodist Church in 1986 and the United Methodist Women a year later.

“I’m a firm believer that everybody has a journey that God has you ordained for. Mine just happens to be working to empower women,” Richards said. “As I travel and visit places and listen just to the women, so many of their spirits are broken. They’ve been told that they are not a leader or have been told what they can’t do.”

United Methodist Women, with its national office in New York, deals with issues such as social justice, human trafficking, health, domestic violence, immigration, climate control and poverty. It works to help women grow spiritually through prayer, Bible studies and spiritual retreats. Women are also trained in leadership development through hands-on missions in local communities and other programs.

“The work that we do has always been for the church,” Richards said. “Now we can show women that as a woman, as a leader, as a person in your church, in your pews, in your community, even in your family, you can uplift your family. You can show other women and other girls it’s OK to be a leader and a woman. We are here to empower women to be strong enough to speak on their own, to defend themselves, to have a voice, to have a place at the table.”

United Methodist Women is focused on missions, said Richards, who has a mass communication degree from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s in leadership from Walden University.

“A lot of time women groups get together and they just have a tea, they eat or whatever,” she said. “But if they really look at our mission statement and our purpose and the work that we do, we’re always looking to make something better for someone else.”

The group boasts of putting faith, hope and love in action.

“If you have a problem, we’re going to help you find a way to get help, whether that’s education, whether that’s leadership ability, whether that’s dealing with domestic violence, child abuse, hunger. Whatever it is, that’s what we’re going to do.”

For more information on the St. Mark Women’s Day program, call (225) 357-6150. For more on the United Methodist Women, call (212) 870-3725 or go to UMWOnline.org.

40 Days for Life

The 40 Days for Life Prayer Breakfast has been an answer to a prayer for Marti Luke.

She coordinated the first one last year and returns for this year’s free event set for 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday at Woodlawn Baptist Church, 5805 Jones Creek Road.

“I had been looking for something in the area of pro-life, to get involved,” she said. “I had a lot of background in media. I was in TV and radio, and I felt I had a lot of experience to offer and pro-life had always been very close to my heart. I actually was involved in the pro-life movement 35 years ago and I had kind of gotten away from it.”

The pro-life breakfast is in conjunction with Respect Life Month and 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge.

Collaborating with former East Baton Rouge Mayor Pro-tem Mike Walker, Luke said an effort was made to reach out to varied denominations in the pro-life effort. Walker is a member of Woodlawn and CEO of Mike Walker & Associates Real Estate, the sponsor of the event.

“I was sort of given the task of reaching out to other denominations other than Catholic,” said Luke, a member of St. Gabriel Catholic Church. “Forty Days for Life had been at the beginning and pretty much an inclusive Catholic event.”

Speakers expected to address the breakfast are Walker; Charlotte Bergeron, coordinator of 40 Days for Life Baton Rouge; Clelie Carpenter, of Bethany Church Pro Life Group; Deacon Jodi Moscona, of St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church in Gonzales and host of “Catholic Life” on CatholicLife Television; and the Rev. Lewis Richerson, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church.

Special music will be by Tommy Evans, music director and cantor at St. Gabriel Catholic Church. His selections will include “We Are Called” and “Always Be a Child.”

For more information, contact Luke at (225) 572-5959 or martiluke9141@gmail.com or call Walker at (225) 291-1117 to reserve seats.

‘Prayer, Praise on the Bluff’

Sharing prayers, personal testimonies and offering hope is part of what makes North Baton Rouge Churches Ministry’s “Prayer and Praise On the Bluff” so special.

The fifth annual event is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Scotlandville Plaza at Scenic Highway and La. 19.

“We try to call all the churches together because of all that’s going in our communities, in the city of Baton Rouge and in the country and in the world,” said Sandra McLauren, chairwoman of the program and a member of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church. “This world is just in a crisis and we come to lift up the name of Jesus to give hope to people and offer prayers for the schools, prayers for the family, prayers for the community, prayers for city government, prayers for the churches.”

The free event is being sponsored by Camphor, Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, Holy Trinity Christian Church and Elm Grove Baptist Church. Thirty-two churches have been invited, McLauren said.

A host of people will lead prayers. McLauren said among the invited guests offering testimonies will be the parents of Terrez Coleman, a 7-year-old killed while riding in his family’s car in August.

“People need to hear how do you get through day by day in the midst of the tragedy. Somebody needs to hear a word of hope from the Lord,” McLauren said.

McLauren, 56, said she could easily share her own testimony. She left her native New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“I am a victor of Katrina,” she said. “I have a story all of my own of how God has brought me through. I know him as a healer. I know him as a restorer.”

For more information, call McLauren at (504) 344-1219.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com