Conference focuses on identity in Christ

Dave Keehn and Shelly Cunningham discuss the importance of women’s identities in Christ.


The conference staff gather together in prayer before the event begins. | Marika Adamopoulos/THE CHIMES

Jenna Kubiak, Writer

Biola women gathered in Chase Gymnasium on Feb. 7 for the Biola women’s conference entitled “Stolen Identity,” which centered around finding identity in Christ.

The conference featured associate professors of Christian education Dave Keehn and Shelly Cunningham. Keehn focused on identity in God’s love, while Cunningham emphasized the importance of a personal identity in Christ. Opportunities for extended worship and prayer were also offered during the conference.


The title “Stolen Identity” relates to the idea that a woman’s identity in Christ can feel taken away due to personal experiences and perceptions, but she can also reclaim it. Biola women who attended hoped to glean information about finding their identity in Christ. Between sessions, Cunningham and Keehn answered questions that women in the audience related to the theme.

Junior elementary education major Esther Barriga described what she hoped to take away from the conference.

“To see who God sees me, who I am to God and how I can be that person that he’s expecting me to be for his glory,”  Barriga said.Other women who attended the conference also connected with the theme of discovering their personal identity in Christ, including sophomore business major Katie Verburg.

“I’m hoping to learn how to focus on finding my identity in God instead of focusing on other peoples’ approval,” said Verburg before the conference’s evening session.

In addition to the concept of reclaiming personal identity, the attendees sought to learn other information from the speakers. Sophomore business major Clarissa Rusli discussed how she desired to recognize God’s love on a personal level in her life.

“[I hope to get] a reminder that God loves each of us as individuals, not just as a part of humanity in general, but he loves different individuals personally,” Rusli said.

The speakers’ words impacted the women in the room eager to listen to their insight on reclaiming their identity in Christ. After the conference concluded, sophomore intercultural studies major Dora Mahoe described how an analogy Keehn used during the first session impacted her personally.

“I really like the first speaker and how he used the analogy of being adopted and how God chose us because that really spoke to me, that I am adopted,” said Mahoe.


Keehn spoke during the first session and discussed how God adopts us into his family when we become followers of Christ. Keehn described his unconditional love for his adopted child and related it to the way God adopts women into his family with unconditional love.

“I am speaking on ‘The Father’s Heart’ — this will focus upon understanding God’s unconditional love for us as our Heavenly Father,” Keehn said.  “I am speaking from my experience as a dad and my experience adopting a child from South Africa.”

Keehn also spoke about how women often focus on external beauty that the world values rather than internal beauty that God values and emphasized the importance of finding identity in Christ.  He discussed how women should view themselves as princesses of God’s kingdom.

“I accepted this opportunity to speak, as I have a daughter at Biola, and I see the challenge for all ladies to build an identity based on God’s love and his adoption of us, not the world’s image of beauty,” Keehn said.


Cunningham spoke during the evening session and discussed the importance of realizing that people, experiences and choices cannot take away our identity in Christ, even if we lose sight of it. She centered the session around Ephesians chapter one and stated that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and because of this seal, we have an identity in Christ.

“Nothing can steal our identity in Christ away from us,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham kicked off the session with a fun icebreaker activity that encouraged interaction with other women in the room and related to the topic of the session. She provided two options for each individual to choose from. After the activity finished, Cunningham revealed how the activity related to the women’s personal identities.

“In order to make that choice, you had to have some sense of your personal identity,” Cunningham said. She told the women that even simple choices, such as the ones made in the activity, result from having a sense of their personal identities.

Following this activity, Cunningham told the women that God designed them with a purpose and once they have found their identity in Christ, it cannot be lost or taken away from them. She also encouraged the women to let go of anything that prevented them from finding their personal identity and give it to God.

Cunningham invited junior Christian ministries major Ashley Miller, adjunct professor of communication studies Chantelle Gibbs and junior public relations major Monica Lee to share their testimonies. Following these stories, Cunningham discussed the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand in the Gospels and related it to an analogy of a lunch sack. She described how the boy in the story gave the little amount of food in his lunch sack to Jesus. Using this illustration, she discussed how we can offer God what is in our lunch sack despite how we view the significance of our story that God gave us.

“What you have is not only enough, but it is designed for a purpose,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham described how God gave each individual gifts and talents to accomplish a unique purpose. She also shared part of her testimony and described how the circumstances of our lives that make it difficult to see our identity do not change God’s plans for our lives.

“He plucked us out of eternity and positioned us so that we could bring our five loaves and two fish and let it go and watch him break the bread,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham ended the session stating that each woman has her own unique story that God can use despite how little she feels that she has to offer.-

“We give out of our poverty, not out of our plenty,” Cunningham said.

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