OTTUMWA — Sometimes women may feel as if they can never get away from the real-world problems. They feel tired, worn out or unsure of what to do when adversity overwhelms them.

From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Bridge View Center, women will have the opportunity to escape those feelings.

This is the first women’s conference in Ottumwa that the Bridge church will host. Church Director Rachel Kooistra said the idea for a women’s conference first came into play several years ago after the church learned about regular church conferences happening in southeast Iowa.

“After thinking about this idea,” Kooistra said, “we pitched the idea to the broader staff and [Pastor] Marty Schmidt. We made sure to get everyone’s ideas before going through with it.”

“This was always a thought,” Executive Assistant Kenda Gaspar said. “We’ve sent men to other men conferences. We thought it would be awesome for women to enjoy something.”

Gaspar said the conference took several months to plan, from ordering food, deciding on the speakers, planning worship and what the day will look like.

“There will be multiple worship sets and three different speakers [Becky Zuithoff, Hannah Bechtel and Marty Schmidt] talking about the seasons of life,” Gaspar said. “There will also be breakout sessions. We’ll break off for lunch at the Hub.”

Kooistra said one of her goals for this conference is for women, whether they be Christians or not, to come together, enjoy the conference and also learn from it. “I would tell women no matter what their faith looks like, they can come and get something out of this weekend,” she said. “Women in any season of the ir life can come and be encouraged.”

Gaspar agreed with Kooistra. “Even if they aren’t believers,” Gaspar said, “they can come for a refreshing moment and experience something new.”

Gaspar said women may not remember everything taught to them, but they will not forget how they conference made them feel. “I’m excited,” she said. “If someone walks in, I hope they will feel loved. We are really excited to deliver the content. Whether or not they remember a thing, we are excited because it will get people together in Ottumwa or in the Bridge church.”

While Kooistra and Gasper both want women to enjoy this conference, both hope they will take away these concepts: feeling loved and community.

“I’m looking forward to having women come together, passionate communication and get inspired and encouraged,” Kooistra said. “I hope they say it felt like a retreat — restful and encouraging and allowing them to feel connected to God and other people.”

“For me this conference means community,” Gasper said, “and deepen into God’s word. As women we can feel anonymous — we shouldn’t have to feel that way, but we can look at how we can deal with it and come out of it. I hope they feel encouraged afterwards and find other women to talk to and feel loved. There’s more to life than feeling hidden.”

Cost is $35 per person. Women can sign up for this event at or pay the day of.

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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