As we prepare for our fourth annual gathering in Texas and our first gathering in Oklahoma, we’re sharing an interview with our co-founder, Carol Vantine and Oklahoma City Volunteer Coordinatior, Melina Moses. You’ll learn more about how assigned seats at an IF:Gathering, the Lord’s divine intervention and unplanned relocations can turn into beautifully laid paths for friendship, community and collaboration.
Anyone else here with social anxiety? Control issues? You need to know what’s going to happen before it happens or it is just not going to happen? Well, that’s me. I like to know the plan, and when it goes off the script I have played in my head, I’m not a happy camper. Surprises are not for me.
Our move to Oklahoma City was very quick and unexpected. Everything, it seemed about September 2017 came by surprise!
We had just found out that we were pregnant with our third baby, while our twins were just eleven months old. MONTHS!! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the positive test. We’d just spent over five years of praying for positive tests and this was the first one that had actually taken me by surprise. That same week we found out that my husband’s company would be relocating to Oklahoma and, after a day on the market, our house was under contract.
I was not happy about moving. Uprooting our entire family, finding out we were newly pregnant with another baby, and going to an unknown place without any family or friends. This was so scary to me. The worst part about it, we were leaving the community we’d spent the last several years building. They were there for our losses, hospital stays, surgeries, hospital bedrest, and NICU. We raised our children together, they were my mentors, but most of all they were my friends.
Oklahoma City quickly became “home”, but it didn’t make the next year any easier. Wes was just transitioning into a new role and was extremely busy with work. Winter had made its arrival and, with two toddlers who were stuck inside most of the time, the sicknesses just kept going round & round.
My friends from back home invited me to the IF: Parker County conference and I couldn’t wait. I needed a break by this point and was excited to have some girl time. When we arrived at the conference, we found out they had assigned seats & were disappointed. This was supposed to be a fun-filled girls weekend, not get to know a group of strangers thing...or so I thought. God’s humor is the best.
In February of 2018 when I attended the If: Parker County conference. I was attending with friends from my church and meeting up with my sister once we got there. My sister called me just before I left my house to let me know that the first night there would be my worst-case scenario for the event...ASSIGNED SEATS (gasp!!). I nearly decided to call it off right then and there, but knowing my friends were waiting on me to meet them, I begrudgingly went anyway.
Assigned seats meant awkward small talk, nervous laughter, and a lot of uncomfortable silence, all of which stress me out...but I pressed on. I found my seat at the very front of the auditorium and sat. The people were friendly, but it’s just not my thing. Not long into the evening, they had us all introduce ourselves and tell what we did for a living. At the time, I had just left teaching and was doing some tutoring and websites to earn a little extra money. For some reason though, when it was my turn to talk, I didn’t mention those jobs. I said I was involved with Gathering Hope, a local outreach that walked with women in pregnancy and infant loss. I was confused as to why those words came out of my mouth because it wasn’t what I planned to say. God definitely had a plan though, because a girl at my table named Melina said, “Hey! I know Gathering Hope!” If the story just ended there, that so early into our ministry people had heard of what we were doing, I would have thought that was amazing but God had so much more in store for us.
We all sat around while people filled the auditorium, and you know how that goes.. you just awkwardly sit there smiling at your peers, saying hi occasionally, but mostly keeping to yourself. Just hoping the music would start so you don’t have to actually talk. And that happened. But once we got to introductions and the lady next to me said she was involved with a non-profit called Gathering Hope, I immediately said “Hey, I know you guys. I love what you’re doing, if you ever want to get Gathering Hope outside of Texas, I’d love to talk about what that looks like.” Introductions went on and as soon as we had our first break I found a mutual friend, and current board member for Gathering Hope, to tell her how funny I thought that it was that I sat right next to Carol.
I’m pretty sure I texted Peyton during the next break and said, “Somebody I met had heard of Gathering Hope!” as if that was the coolest thing that could happen. Later that night, Melina and I talked and she told me how her chiropractor had invited her to be on the team of GH 2017 but she was moving and newly pregnant at the time so she wasn’t able to do it. She said, “But if you’re ever interested in spreading Gathering Hope to OKC, let’s talk!”
We had discussed expanding to other places but had no idea how it would ever start spreading. My heart did that quickening thing it does when God is moving. I told her how we had discussed this before and we were definitely interested.
We were in touch a few more times before the next gathering in 2018 in which Melina was able to drive down and attend.
I had never attended a gathering, so I decided to make plans to attend Gathering Hope 2018. Of course, it was another excuse to come back home, to my friends, but God had something much bigger in store. I met with Carol and Peyton the next morning to talk about what a Gathering would look like outside of Texas, and I think my first thought of what it would look like was a bible study or a small watch party of their main gathering in DFW. I never once thought actually having a second gathering in a new city was even an option. That is.. until we met for a second time.
The next morning, we met for breakfast to discuss possibly partnering with her to bring Gathering Hope to Oklahoma. Though it seemed overwhelming, Peyton and I thought it was doable and were very optimistic. Melina saw the enormity of what she’d be taking on and was a little more hesitant. She had in mind a Bible study or something, not taking on an event with all the planning, organizing, recruiting and funding. We knew we would be able to walk beside her through it all, but I’m sure it was overwhelming to her to think about. We parted ways with the understanding that she would pray about it, but Peyton and I felt like it was happening.
Carol and Peyton drove up to Oklahoma in January of 2019 and after a brief conversation, with the help of a few local ladies, I mustered up the confidence to say YES! They all believed we could do it. I was still second-guessing, but I was excited and got started planning right away. My local MOPS group has been such a blessing through this entire process. They have stepped up to volunteer, some are signed up as attendees, and they have been a huge part in spreading the word.
Since that day, Melina has been incredible, meticulously organizing and planning a beautiful event for moms in Oklahoma and the surrounding areas to experience the community Gathering Hope brings. She has assembled a team of nearly 40 people to make this gathering a reality.
God has used Melina’s move to Oklahoma to heal the hearts of so many women that wouldn’t have been reached without her. Gathering Hope OKC is filling up quickly with just over 25 seats left as of the beginning of August.
I love how God uses things in our lives that make us uncomfortable to bring about his plans. From small things like assigned seating and social anxiety to moves out of state. When all we want is to stay where we are, God stretches us and brings about His glory. What a cool God we serve.
What I’ve learned more than anything through this process, is that nothing happens by accident. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God put this on my heart years ago and now I get to help others who are hurting. There’s not a better feeling than being right where God meant for you to be.
If you are looking for comfort, to realize you are not alone, to share your story, and to hear a message of hope, strength and encouragement, we invite you to join over 150 women who have already signed up to attend Gathering Hope 2019 in Texas or Oklahoma this year. We hope you’ll join us as we come together to both seek solace and to share encouragement as mothers who have survived miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss.
If you are a woman who has not personally experienced a loss but would like to support a woman in your life who would benefit from this evening of remembrance, we welcome you! Just be sure to register, along with the mom you’ll be joining that evening!
We weren’t meant to do this alone, no matter how lonely it can feel.
Dates and locations for Gathering Hope 2019:
DFW Area: October 5, 2019 at Doxology Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX
OKC Area: October 26, 2019 at Firehouse Community Outreach in Moore, OK
Go to www.gatheringhope.net to register and for more information.