Courtney takes message of hope, forgiveness to women on university campuses

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)-Like the woman at the well who met Jesus, Vicki Courtney often struggled with letting go of her past sins.

As a college student, she fought with the shame of an eating disorder and the guilt of terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

It was not until her junior year in college that Courtney discovered forgiveness in Christ. However, it would take several years for her to forgive herself and come to the understanding of what it truly meant to be like the woman at the well, admitting her sins and leaving them behind.

Now an ambassador to college women, Courtney, author of "Virtuous Reality," a book for college women published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, is taking that message of forgiveness and hope in becoming an ideal woman to college campuses throughout the country.

Presented by LifeWay in association with Courtney's Texas-based CrossRoad ministry, the Virtuous Reality conference tour was kicked off the weekend of March 3-4 at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

"College women are desperately searching for identity, worth and purpose, yet God has a different standard in mind," Courtney said. "It is my prayer that God will use this ministry to radically change lives and allow young women to discover how to become the woman God desires for them to be."

More than 250 college-age women from Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and Arkansas gathered for praise and worship, workshops and fellowship.

"Each of us struggle with knowing who we are," Kristin Wicker, a junior at Union, said. "There's a deep yearning in the heart to know who we are, because to know who we are is to know who we belong to." Wicker is the co-founder of Klemata, a women's Bible study which meets weekly on Union's campus, drawing more than 200 women.

One of the highlights of the conference was the unique ministry offered by "Titus Women." Based on Titus 2:3-5, older women serve as mentors for the younger women.

"Recently, God has been impressing upon me the need for accountability from an older woman in my life," said Union sophomore Allyson Liberto, a volunteer at the conference. "I am looking for a woman of God who can give me guidance and accountability, and this conference is leading me in the right direction."

Workshops focused on life issues such as choosing between career and family, handling dating relationships and preparing for marriage.

Courtney said she focuses her ministry on college women because that is a time when life-changing decisions are made.

I want young women to know that virtue is 'in,' although the world may tell us something different. The world says that the ideal woman has beauty, body, brains and a boyfriend, but becoming a woman after God's own heart is the truth related to the ideal woman."

Courtney uses her book as a tool to instill the concept of God's ideal woman in young women's minds. The book, which can be used by an individual or for a small group Bible study, has been used in Bible studies held on college campuses such as University of Texas and Texas A&M.

Candace Edwards, project coordinator for Virtuous Reality from LifeWay's National Student Ministry Department, said the turnout for the first conference showed the interest in college women in the life issues addressed in the sessions.

A second Virtuous Reality conference is being held April 7-8 at First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and a third is scheduled for Nov. 3-4 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

Amy Edge is a freshman at Union University.

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