Apples of Gold program acts as biblical mentor for young women

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Elaine Ehrhardt shows members of the Apples of Gold program how to make a dessert at a meeting in her home. The program brings older and younger women together for mentoring and fun.

For three hours a week for six weeks, Carmen Blaise looked forward to “girl time” with no husband, no children and no duties.

She was pampered, cared for, served. She didn’t have to lift a finger. She was treated like royalty.

But Blaise also left those evenings empowered to bring Jesus Christ and a servant’s heart into her home, her marriage and her role as a mother.

Apples of Gold taught her how to prepare a variety of new recipes, which she would try out on her family the following week. And it taught her biblical ways to look at her family.

“As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to forget what a blessing they are,” Blaise said.

So even though she has been out of the six-week course taught at Faith Lutheran Church for nearly a year, she still returns to those lessons for inspiration, especially on the rough days.

“It makes me a better mom the next day,” Blaise said. “I look at it more pleasantly now. Home was my job, and now it’s my purpose from God — I didn’t realize it before.”

Blaise also values the relationships she’s built with the mentors, whom she looks up to as examples of how to live the Christian life, she said.

“It was important to see Christian women who still have a good time,” Blaise said. “That was not my perception (before Apples of Gold).”

The mentors and the young women build a close relationship through the sharing and growing they do each week, said Sharon Buffington, who coordinates the Apples of Gold program at Concord Baptist Church.

“I don’t know who has more fun,” Buffington said. “It’s a blessing to feel like you’re part of their lives.

“And we are growing as much as they are — serving is how you are blessed.”

Each of the mentors taps into her strength — where Nancy Doering enjoys preparing and presenting the Bible study, Debbie Goldammer found her strength in the kitchen teaching a recipe.

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Apples of Gold program members at Dottie Bemboom’s home learn hospitality during a meal.

“I’ve been in many different activities, since I joined this church in the late 1970s,” Doering said. “This experience, by far, is the most rewarding.”

Kindness, purity, hospitality — these are qualities that the mature women need reminders of too, Doering said.

And being with the younger women “makes you feel younger, too,” said Elaine Erhart.

“They come to us not because we’re older, but because we’re experienced,” Goldammer clarified.

Concord is completing its 11th class in five years through the ministry, based on Titus 2:3-5. And their program, which is open to people in the community, now has a waiting list.

“The purpose is for the old women to teach the younger women,” Buffington said. “They realize God does have a plan for their home.

“This is an area in society today that is lacking. Women (often) are not taught the skills for a godly home.”

Apples of Gold is a national ministry, which Betty Huizenga started in 2005 with a sixweek Bible study in her home kitchen.

The lessons come from the Bible. The examples come from the mentors and volunteers. And the motivation, in part, may come from memories of grandmothers, apronson and hospitality abundant.

Once involved in their first session, the mentors realized the need for this ministry.

“We were not in the kitchen growing up, we were playing soccer or studying,” Blaise said. “We didn’t learn lessons about bringing up a family.”

The obedience to the husband topic “was a new concept to all of us,” Blaise said of her group. “We all tried it out, and it works.”

At Concord’s program, the home hostess wears a red apron, representing the warmth of opening her home. Servers wear black aprons, traditional for serving. And the cooks wear green aprons, as they are teaching how a family may grow.

Upon completion of the Apples of Gold season, the participants receive their own apron, encouraging them to pass on what they have learned, Buffington said.

“It changes them totally; their home totally changes,” Buffington said. “It’s lifechanging, a unique, spiritual ministry.”

Although it’s a one-time course, graduates may come back as volunteers. And Concord hosts a winter and a summer party for all alumni to stay connected.

Faith continues the girltime get-togethers with cookie exchanges, wine and cheese parties and movie nights.

“It’s like a sisterhood, something we all share,” Blaise said.

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