A few weeks ago I was AGAIN SO BLESSED to be able to attend the GEMS Leadership Conference! This year it was held at Montana State University and me & my GEMS Sister road-tripped ourselves out there and had a GREAT time!
First I drove myself out to Ephrata, with a little stop for myself in Bellevue at the Lakeshore Learning Store (aka Store of Teacher's Dreams). I wished I had more time...
After I arrived at Tami's, we loaded up, toured her school, filled the car with gas, got some coffee, and hit the road. We went only a few hours further than her house, to Spokane. We had walked to downtown for dinner before getting our rest for the next day of travel.
^^Spokane River downtown across from our hotel^^
It's always been on my bucket list to stop at Lake Coeur D'Alene in Idaho - it's so pretty! So, we did just that! We walked around the resort quite a bit and decided we needed to come back when we could spend the day relaxing on the lake and shopping in the cute shops.
We had a little trouble once we were on campus, finding where we needed to be, finding where to park, finding our dorm, etc. Thankfully, we were soon unloaded, fed, and in the Women's Night of Worship. Boy, did we need that to turn the focus off ourselves. There was very sad news for us while we were on our journey...a little girl in Tami's town was killed in a car accident by a get-away car in a vehicle prowl...just shortly after we left the area...it was sobering and sad. And yet it was good that we were there while we processed the news.
The next morning our conference officially began with Lenae and Alecia greeting us and we just absolutely love them!
Liz Curtis Higgs was our speaker and she was AWESOME! She spoke on the book of Ruth (which our pastor is also preaching on this month, so that's been super interesting!) and she was awesome! She has a "Righteous Ruth Rap" on YouTube which is basically a taste of what we experienced. So funny.
My sweet friend Brenda at Theme Night!
Perhaps the most meaningful and beautiful moments occurred for me with those two ladies right there. I've never met them before, but the one speaking is the GEMS International Director and the one on the left is Allison. To me, she's the face of the Esther School, but she also happens to be the wife of the Esther School's administrator. She spoke to us about the Esther School and later I had a chance to speak with both those ladies personally. After finding out in early July that a young woman from our community (Lindsey) has committed to teaching for 2 years at the Esther School, God has increased my love for that place and brought back my desire to go there. Allison was such a blessing to speak to - she knows the girl our GEMS Club sponsors! She had me in tears, describing to me how much our sponsorship has changed Betha's life and the life of her family. Both Allison & Jill (the director) affirmed that it is time for me to get to Zambia and to the Esther School, and with Lindsey heading there to teach, I can sense God may be opening those doors. I am beyond excited to share with our GEMS girls our new connections with Betha (Lindsey will be her teacher in 3rd grade!) and to attempt to meet that girl myself.
Our fun evening out was at Broken Hart Ranch and included Pitchfork Fondue. Yep, that's steak on pitchforks up there and below...they're basically scorching them in hot oil. I think it would have been amazingly tasty if it had still been hot by the time we got to eat it...and if we had had something other than plastic knives to cut it. Basically we stabbed it with our forks and ate it like a steak popsicle.
We talked with friends...
We played lawn Scrabble...
We did some square dancing...
And watched the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen transform by the second before our very eyes. The picture looks unreal. It even looked unreal as we looked at it in person. I promise the sunset pictures have not been edited in any way.
Another day of conference after our sweet night of fellowship at the ranch and then Tami & I headed for her house. We arrived at her house earlier than expected, but still too late for me to drive the 5 hours left home by myself. I spent the night and headed home myself the next morning. It was a long time to be gone (6 days!) but so worthwhile.