With dolls, stories, tea parties and books, A Life of Faith Girls' Club shows youths "how to love a life of faith."
By EBONY WINDOM
Published October 4, 2003
DADE CITY - In the angel tearoom, girls can be girls. With dainty lace curtains and tiny porcelain tea sets, it transforms tomboys into ladies.
Soon, the tearoom will double as a meeting place for A Life of Faith Girls' Club.
Cathy Hayter, 45, owner of Dade City's Heavenly Treasures on Meridian Avenue, plans to head the group and is looking for charter members.
"Apparently God has given me a gift," she said. "And an anointing to reach out to the youth and make a difference."
Hayter said she prayed for an opportunity to make a difference.
She attended a Christian booksellers conference recently and discovered Mission City Press, a Tennessee publishing company that developed the club.
"I think God led me to that booth," Hayter said. "I felt like this was an invitation from God."
Since Mission City Press launched the Girls' Club in July, more than two dozen have formed. The club developed around a popular book series based on 19th century fictional protagonists Elsie Dinsmore, an antebellum Southern girl, and Millie Keith, Elsie's second cousin, whose family lived on the frontier.
The revised novels are even more kid-friendly. The 200-page books use the same characters but have adopted an updated language. Though slaves are still characters in the Elsie book, their dialect has been changed to standard English. The Bible verses that were quoted from the King James Version have been replaced with translations for the New International Version. The books have spawned a line of dolls and accessories, journals and a Web site where girls can e-mail the characters.
The company provides most materials: membership cards, lesson plans and craft ideas. Hayter will furnish the rest: decadent desserts, tea and an intimate setting where girls can make friends and grow in their faith.
"We felt that there was a need for young girls to have this ministry," said Donna Phillips, Girls' Club national manager. "We strengthened the Christian message. We want girls to gain fellowship and more encouragement on how to live a life of faith. They (the books) give you a pattern of steps that you can take."
Girls' Clubs are forming at churches, libraries and homeschooling groups. Hayter's club will be the first in the Tampa Bay area.
Hayter says her past work with a youth group at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Tampa helped prepare her for her new mission.
"I really feel like God is calling me to do this, to be a role model," Hayter said. "I'm trying to live my life for him. I worry about the role models girls have today. Hopefully I can make a difference. I think that's why there are gangs. (Kids) just want to belong."
Here, everyone belongs.
Hayter says she welcomes people from all Christian denominations and those who don't belong to any particular church. Girls ages 7-14 can bring their favorite dolls to the monthly meetings and take part in book discussions that support Christian values. One lesson centers on how to overcome fear, using an excerpt from an Elsie Dinsmore novel and a Bible scripture. Another focuses on how to live a life of faith at school.
"It's focused on (the girls) making good choices when they're tempted," Hayter said. "We need to have support to make good choices."
Other activities include crafts and journaling. Hayter will encourage girls to share stories and ask questions.
"If (there are) other girls here and they're sharing their stories, you don't feel like you're alone," Hayter said.
After every meeting, Hayter says girls will recite the club's motto: "I will seek to live a life of faith: growing in God, treasuring his word, shining his light and sharing his love."
To learn more
For information about A Life of Faith Girls' Club, call Cathy Hayter at 352 518-5683 or visit www.alifeoffaith.com