EmpowHer, one of the latest student-started campus ministries, is made up entirely of female students and took more than just two individuals and word of mouth to bring to life.
For almost one year, EmpowHer has been giving women on campus a place to feel loved and accepted, while also putting their passions into practice. Every Monday night at 8 p.m., 10 to 15 women gather at EmpowHer to share and explore their love for Christ.
The all-women campus ministry’s roots are as deep as most similar groups on school grounds, and even encourages these other groups to grow. Its purpose is to encourage women to become stronger and more confident in who they are in Christ.
These women come together every week, not specifically to spread a new or different message, but to offer another outlet. However, a focus on bringing women together is not the only thing setting them apart.
Senior Jozie Reeter, EmpowHer co-founder, says she and the other EmpowHer co-founder, senior Morgan Lewis, came together as best friends with an idea, and left as leaders.
“April 6, 2017, Morgan and I sat in Starbucks and wrote our ideas down on paper; everything from a name of the organization, to the vision, to our goals and to the verse we wanted to base the ministry off,” Reeter said. “The name of the ministry is ‘EmpowHer’ with the theme verse being Esther 4:14, “Perhaps you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.”
Reeter says the verse manages to stay constantly relatable, while also remaining a phrase of inspiration and empowerment for those who may be down. Overthinking can plague the mind, especially today. Reeter and Lewis want this phrase and EmpowHer to give hope to those who may be going through a rough patch.
Reeter added that these moments of despair are often defining, and can help lead the way by illuminating God’s plan.
“Making sure that women know they were created specifically for this time and God has a plan for them that surpasses their own thoughts and desires is what motivates me to share God's promises with women,” Reeter said.
Originally from Chillicothe, Reeter says she didn’t plan on even coming to Northwest in the first place, but guidance from a tour guide directed her to a path leading to eventual Bearcat pride. She says God was calling her to Northwest and that this was ‘something she was supposed to do.’ After the visit, Reeter returned home, telling her mother that she would leave her mark on this campus.
“I was not sure how, but I knew God was going to use me in ways I could not do on my own,” Reeter said.
When starting up EmpowHer, the girls realized their project could not exist as an official campus organization due to University requirements. If EmpowHer was going to be an official entity, they would have to recognize themselves as a sorority, an idea neither of the seniors agreed with in the context of their mission.
A lack of official title and placement was not necessary to change lives though, so the pair continued on, knowing their mission to provide the women of Northwest a regular Bible study was more than enough to sustain a dream.
Lewis says it took a lot of consideration before launching their project.
“Jozie and I thought and prayed a lot about this,” Lewis said. “We had to start from scratch, and find study materials, as well as decide what we wanted to base our vision off of. We knew we wanted to be supportive and welcoming of all girls, and really show them Christ’s love and friendship.”
Risking a less busy schedule was the least of their worries, as relationships and potential friendships were at risk too.
“We received a little bit of negative feedback in the beginning, just because we were doing something different that really hadn’t been done before,” Lewis said. “We were stepping out of our comfort zones and risking relationships.”
Since the organization started, a more active and regular group attending Monday nights has allowed for more involved community work. EmpowHer convened and decided to serve Maryville as a team. This means donating, doing community service and spreading the word about upcoming community events.
One of the upcoming events is a concert called AFTERDARK. The free concert takes place March 6, in Bearcat arena, with the focus phrase of ‘Is Jesus relevant today?’
One thing Reeter and Lewis are trying to do is organize the first annual Northwest Easter dinner.
“Our vision for this is to get all the campus ministries together, as well as churches in the community, and serve individuals and families an Easter meal that do not have a place to go,” Reeter said. “At this dinner, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection will be addressed.”
Reeter reflected on the reasons she was driven to come to Northwest in the first place. For her, it is not just about the present, but it is about the future too. The impact she and Lewis are making is the ultimate goal of EmpowHer.
“This organization is not mine or Morgan’s and it will never be ours. It is God’s,” Reeter said. “He is just using us to influence a group of women, who will then take what they have learned to influence more women.”
Lewis and Reeter are both seniors, and as a result have limited time before EmpowHer is left in the hands of another group of leaders.
“I hope and pray that EmpowHer does not end when Morgan and I graduate,” Reeter said. “I pray that some of the younger women that are in the group will see the same need we saw when we started the ministry and want to continue it.”
Reeter says that ‘Northwest needs Jesus just as much as the rest of the world.’ It is a simple idea, but an idea backed up by the verse and ideals EmpowHer was built on. EmpowHer and what Lewis and Reeter have done is, if nothing else, an example all should take when hesitant to start something of their own. All it takes is a leap of faith.