Screen Shot 2021 01 19 at 4.45.37 PM How an invitation led to flourishing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How an invitation led to flourishing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Shaw Thomas was intrigued. She’d been invited to join Women Doing Well for a Yale University course on happiness with a biblical perspective. So she prayed. According to Shaw, CEO and Executive Producer of The Iconist: The Art and Science of Standing Out, “God didn’t say ‘No,’ so I said, ‘Go!’” 

Her decision made, Shaw immediately thought her friend, Ruia Kontos, would enjoy the course. So she invited her. Ruia lit up. 

An Answer to Prayer 

For years, Ruia had prayed to be part of a tight-knit group of Christian women. Motherhood made it difficult to do more than attend Sunday morning worship. Then COVID-19 hit, making it impossible to even attend church. Ruia felt even more isolated. She didn’t know it, but Shaw’s call was an answer to prayer. 

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Ruia says, “but I was excited.”  

Initially, seven women from across the country met for the Zoom-based happiness course. Each came from different backgrounds and were in different seasons of life. There were working professionals, retirees, stay-at-home mothers, and grandmothers.  

One dropped out, but the group continued. From the first meeting, God was working, uniting the women together.  

It started when Shaw bragged on Ruia’s journey as an adoptive parent. Unphased, Ruia opened up about her story. Another woman stated that she, too, had adopted. Tears were shed. Participants were vulnerable and honest. All felt safe.  

In that instant, there were connections made, bridges built, friendships forged. 

Everyone loved the happiness course. But soon, working through the material became a secondary concern. The group spent most of their time discussing life—what was going on and how they could pray for one another. They shied away from giving too much advice. Rather, they listened and then offered heartfelt prayers on one another’s behalf. 

“I’ve always heard about the power of prayer,” Ruia says, “but this is a place where we put it into practice.” 

The Gift of an Invitation 

In Shaw’s eyes, this group of women did not gather by accident. “God wove this group together for a time such as this. With everything upside down with politics and social unrest, God niched out a safe space for us to have fellowship and community. We were chosen to be here.” 

Amazed by how simple an invitation can be, Shaw laughs at God’s goodness. How he brought these women together when connection was needed so desperately. How he did it through computers and not church potlucks or home-based small groups. How he used her mistake to make something beautiful.

Today, these women depend on each other. They encourage one other on their journeys, celebrating their victories, and mourning their losses.  

“Week after week, we hold each other up. As a result, I see God as I’ve never seen him before,” says Ruia. “There is a sincere authenticity in this group.” 

This authenticity drew them together. It gave Ruia the community she needed, the community we all need. And this authenticity continues to bind the group together. 

While the course ended months ago, the meetings have continued. The members can’t get enough of each other. Their lives have been impacted, and the weekly online gatherings may never end.  

“None of us saw this coming,” Shaw says. “We just showed up to be part of this blessed experiment, and God has done something truly miraculous.” 

That’s the power of invitation. 

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