Jen Hatmaker Comes to Visalia
For the Love
By Jordan Venema
Photos provided by Jen Hatmaker Press
If a conference calls itself For the Love, the question naturally follows: for the love of what? But before we ask the what, we might want to deal with the who.
On September 16 and 17, Jen Hatmaker will host a two-day women’s conference at Visalia First Assembly. Like any celebrity, Hatmaker’s appeal has a lot to do with her personality, though she’s no less an accomplished author, blogger, mother, pastor, teacher – she even had a go at reality television on HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation.”
“Number one, she’s hilarious,” says Angela Bouma, an organizer for the conference. “But that’s just one of the reasons people love her.” Another reason, explains Bouma, is Hatmaker’s transparency.
“Jen is real, she is honest about all the parts of being a woman, being a Christian. People are drawn by her honesty, because theirs is no perception of perfection. She’s just honest about her struggles, about motherhood.”
In a 2013 blog titled “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” using equal parts humor and brutal honesty, Hatmaker admits to skipping reading assignments and putting together a last-minute Ben Franklin costume for her son. “I cannot even handle signing a folder in late May; a colonial costume is cause for full, unrestrained despair,” Hatmaker writes. “Just whatever, man.” That blog post briefly catapulted Hatmaker into the national eye, and soon after she was even a guest on the Today Show.
But let’s be real. Authenticity and a blog do not a role model or teacher make. But Hatmaker isn’t just making a name for herself by speaking what’s secretly on everybody’s mind.
“Her dad was a pastor, she went to seminary, she helps pastor a church in Austin with her husband, so yes,” assures Bouma, “she has a deep Biblical background. She’s been writing for about a decade, and she preaches and teaches all across the world.” And Hatmaker will bring that background, education and experience (and of course, her sharp wit) to For the Love.
While you can get lessons though Hatmaker’s blogs and books, Bouma says there’s just something about seeing her in person. She attended one of Hatmaker’s conferences in Santa Barbara, which attracted women from their 20s to well into their 70s. Bouma believes Hatmaker’s message will resonate with women here, much in the same way it resonated with her.
“Her blogs are great, and her Facebook posts are engaging, even controversial, but at the conference she’s really going to be teaching, and you’re going to gain a new perspective on what the Bible is saying.
“I’ve been going to church my whole life,” says Bouma, “and trying to live a perfect life was one of the focuses. And that’s one of her main messages” – love, embracing imperfections – “and that’s something we’ll focus on during the event, but in a much more brilliant way.”
While attendees will be getting instruction and anecdotes from Hatmaker, there will also be chances to network and learn about local and international organizations Film School Africa, Compassion International, Nehemiah Project, Magdalen Hope and Safe Families.
“We wanted women to connect with each other,” explains Bouma, “because if we work together, we can do more.” The organizations, she says, “offer chances to love on our community in better ways than we’re already doing.”
For the Love tickets cost $65, and though about 750 have already been sold, there are still some 500 tickets remaining that can be purchased through their website. Attendees are coming from as far as Bakersfield, Fresno and the central coast, and though Hatmaker is likely the main attraction, musician Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture will also perform. “It’s more like a concert than worship, to be honest,” says Bouma.
Ultimately, For the Love will be an opportunity “to talk about struggles, to be real about where we’re at, and realize, hey, I’m not alone,” says Bouma. “We’re not called to be perfect, and that’s been freeing. I think Jen is really freeing for other people, too, which gives them time to focus on things that are important.” Important things, says Bouma, “like loving people.”
For the Love, September 16-17
Friday, 6-9pm; Saturday, 9am-3pm
Visalia First, 3737 S. Akers St., Visalia