EAST LIVERPOOL - Steady rain showers may have kept some from venturing outdoors on Saturday morning, but it did nothing to dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the ladies who gathered at the amphitheater in Thompson Park to launch a new outpost of the Aglow International evangelical movement in the area.
Prayer, praise and testimony echoed from the small group on the amphitheater stage, sheltered from the rain, who came together to rededicate the movement in the East Liverpool area.
Aglow International is a women's Christian ministry organization with groups in 170 countries worldwide. Candace McCoy, president of the new East Liverpool group, says its mission is to bring the message of hope found within the Gospels stories and teachings of Jesus to area women.
Cassie Direnzo (center) led a group prayer during a celebration of the new Aglow International ministry in East Liverpool on Saturday morning at the amphitheater in Thompson Park. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Candace McCoy (with microphone) spoke to attendees, alongside Cassie Direnzo (left) and Teresa Gilmore, during the launch of the new Aglow International ministry at the Thompson Park amphitheater on Saturday morning. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
"It's to see women come together in their faith to receive the healing that they need, the deliverance they need to be uplifted and encouraged in the word of the Lord through prayer," she said.
Aglow International refers to these community groups as lighthouses. Though there had been a lighthouse in East Liverpool before, McCoy says the event marks "a brand-new chapter" in the organization's presence locally, which dates back more than three decades.
Though the previous lighthouse came to an end in November 2013, McCoy says that by the following month, she knew that a new beginning for Aglow would come to the area. "God was already on the move," she said.
Erica Flowers, a vice president of the new lighthouse, says the group tailors its message to the special concerns of women, addressing the issues of marriage, family, health, prosperity to their particular audience. "Our vision is for women to walk in the fullness of what God has for them, to overcome every obstacle, every attack of the enemy," she said.
Several attendees prayed and gave testimony, including Cassie Direnzo, who spoke movingly during the meeting about Saturday also being the two-year anniversary of a cancer surgery that ultimately saved her life, but nearly claimed it in the short-term from a sepsys infection.
"The big connection is healing for me personally and seeing this ministry in the valley to see people in a good way," she said.
Direnzo, who is married to Mike Direnzo, pastor of Everyday Church in New Manchester, says she had a few years of darkness afterward, but has returned to full health and is thankful to have a new place of ministry in the River Valley. "I just really feel that God is wanting to do something in our area."
Patti Forbes, a past president of Aglow in its previous form, said she is excited and happy to support the new venture. She says the ministry has ebbed and flowed over the years, but was always been a strong source of outreach for area women.
Forbes believes that women are so busy now with the responsibilities of family and career, there's little time for friends and fellowship in personal life - including faith. She says Aglow helps connect members to each other and to resources of Bible study, prayer and ministering.
"I think it's a place where women can come - regardless of their denominational affiliation or lack of it - and find fellowship and love," Forbes said.
The group will hold its first formal meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, at the Salvation Army on East Fourth Street in East Liverpool, with subsequent meetings set for the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.