Deena Burnett, whose husband was aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the Ladies Luncheon speakers and so was Julie Williams, who worked for Morgan Stanley on the 46th floor of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Three Arkansas first ladies, several Miss Arkansas title holders and speakers from Africa, Germany, Brazil and throughout the United States, have all spoken for the Ladies Only Luncheon held for over 24 years on the fourth Tuesday of every month (except in December) at Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado.
Adah Mayhan, who started the luncheon on May 18, 1993, will be the speaker Tuesday, for the last Ladies Only Luncheon at the church. Her daughter, Cindy Greer, will provide special music. Serving will begin at 11:30 a.m. and the program will begin at 12:10 p.m.
“This ministry of the Ladies Luncheon has been one of the most rewarding I have ever been involved with at the church,” Mayhan said recently. She said throughout the run of the luncheon, there have been over 225 speakers – with very few duplicates – and over 200 singers and singing groups to provide special music.
“When I think back over that, I wonder how we were able to get that many people over that time. It is a God-thing,” she said.
Some of the other notable speakers through the years include a chaplain at an Arkansas prison for women, who was previously an inmate. “She started the ‘Prison to Purpose for Women’ program,” Mayhan explained.
“We’ve had several Christian comedians over the years and two chaplains – one from Baptist Hospital and one from the Veterans Administration in Little Rock. One of our speakers from Garland, Texas, was completely deaf. She wrote music and was a radio announcer,” Mayhan recalled.
One of the more riveting speakers was a lady from Louisiana, who had been kidnapped in a K-Mart parking lot and lived to tell her story.
“Sissy Jones, of Sissy’s Log Cabin, came after a heart attack and brought her nurse with her,” Mayhan said, adding that three Arkansas first ladies, Janet Huckabee, Ginger Beebe and Susan Hutchinson, have all been speakers for the luncheon.
One speaker from Houston talked about human trafficking and three from KATV in Little Rock, Jason Peterson, Scott Inman and Christina Munoz, all spoke at various times throughout the 24-year ministry of the Ladies Only Luncheon.
The late Dee Post, who was a long-time school teacher in El Dorado and a member of Immanuel, presented a dramatic recreation of the life of Rahab in the Bible during one Ladies Only Luncheon and “we had multiple counselors who shared their wisdom,” Mayhan said.
Another speaker was a young child in Vietnam during the war and “she was flown out of Vietnam at the fall of Saigon and now lives in Mississippi,” Mayhan said, noting that several local Vietnam Veterans attended that luncheon.
Lauren Hall of Pine Bluff, told those at the luncheon about her daughter being kidnapped in 1999. “She has never seen her daughter again,” Mayhan said, noting that all of the speakers have told how God has helped them survive their struggles and given them the words to say to help others in similar situations. “God helped them and brought them back from disaster,” she said. “We’ve had a few men speakers and multicultural speakers from multiple races – all unique.”
There were over 100 women from throughout this area who attended that first Ladies Luncheon and since that time, at least 100 women gather at the church every fourth Tuesday for the event.
The largest crowd – about 500 ladies – attended the luncheon to hear Deena Burnett tell about her husband on Sept. 11, 2001, who was aboard the flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. She said she spoke to her husband, Tom Burnett, about four times while he was on the airplane.
“Don’t worry, we’re going to do something,” were the last words she heard him speak. “I told him about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and he formulated a plan and led others on the plane against the terrorists,” Burnett said, recalling her last conversations with her husband and the father of her three young daughters, Halley, Madison and Anna Clare.
Through Tom Burnett’s actions and others on board Flight 93, “the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field rather than its intended target of the White House,” she said. Since 9-11, Burnett has become a well-know voice for families of victims of the terrorist attacks.
She successfully spearheaded an effort to have the Flight 93 cockpit voice recorder released in April 2002 and in February 2002, Burnett and five other Americans who also lost loved ones during the attacks, traveled to Germany to testify in the criminal trial of the Al Qaeda member Mounir Motassadeq.
Burnett has traveled the country speaking to communities, organizations and political leaders on a wide range of subjects – from impacts actions have on others, how the events of 9-11 have affected families of victims and changes in immigration laws.
The first Ladies Luncheon speaker was Dianna Walker, who was the former teaching leader of Bible Study Fellowship, Mayhan said. “We saw the ministry as a way to help women who are hurting, need encouragement and women who are working with stress and pressure.”
“Our scripture that we took (when the ministry first began) is Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”
“None of us (members of the church who helped with the luncheon) feel it would have lasted this long if God had not been involved and been our guiding leadership,” she said.
During Tuesday’s luncheon, Mayhan will “share from Psalm 23, what it means to trust God.” She will tell about trusting God, by relying on His character, ability, strength and truth. Everyone is invited to attend. For more information, call the church at 862-4264.