Some of the best-dressed women attending the Gainesville (Florida) Christian Women’s Connection luncheons shop for their clothes at thrift stores, says Stonecroft volunteer Linda Moore.
They’re not retirees living on a tight budget or stay-at-home moms trying to stretch a dollar. Instead, they’re residents of Gainesville’s House of Hope – a Christian ministry helping people who’ve been released from prison transition back into society.
“These women have changed our lives – more than we’ve changed theirs,” says Linda, a Stonecroft Regional Administrator, Speaker Consultant, and Gainesville CWC Prayer Co-Coordinator.
Women from the house started attending the CWC’s outreach luncheons five years ago after the Group organized an outreach fashion show involving House of Hope and other local ministries.
Former Stonecroft Speaker Jennifer Smith, who directed the house from 2011 until recently, encouraged the women to attend these events, a Stonecroft Bible Study, and CWC’s Prayer Connections. Before each luncheon at the Gainesville Country Club, she took them thrift-store shopping to find just the right outfit to wear.
Most of the women have become Christ-followers through the house’s ministry, but others have made decisions at Stonecroft luncheons.
The House of Hope women also attend Prayer Connections where they hear about God’s love and grace.
The Prayer Connections are attended by women from other local Christian ministries including a crisis pregnancy center. Together these women have prayed fervently for a movement of God in Gainesville. One recent answer: Several devout Christians have assumed key leadership positions in the city.
“It’s changing the makeup of our city,” says Linda.
God is transforming the Gainesville CWC, too.
Six years ago, the Group had dwindled to 30 tired, discouraged women. Today, Stonecroft is known as “a vibrant ministry” in Gainesville, Linda says. “We’re the place to be!”
At each luncheon, the Group averages 110 to 130 attendees, 15 to 30 first-time guests, and 10 to 15 decisions for Christ. Linda credits that growth to the power of prayer.
“We pray for an anointing of God over our outreaches,” Linda says. “We want women to walk in and feel an excitement, an ‘electricity,’ a love that draws them to Jesus. And that’s happening!”