Women in Urban Mission
Dr. J. N. Manokaran
In a globalized world, a majority of people live in cities today. Estimating the women population in the cities as 50%, quarter of the global population of women live in cities. Reaching women would be a great challenge in the twenty first century. The Bible has several examples and models for urban missions. God used women in Old and New Testament as His Holy instruments for fulfilling His purpose and plans. It may not be possible to study all characters in the Scripture, we will pick up a few.
1. Miriam in a risky mission
This amazing incident (Exodus 2:1-10)is the foundation for the history of Israel, Judaism and also Christianity. God uses a girl of about 12 years to bring salvation for the children of Israel and shape the history of humanity. This happened in the banks of River Nile, in the capital city of Egypt the most powerful nation in the world.
Slaves in Egypt
Miriam as a small girl should have learnt from her parents and her community that they were slaves to Egyptians, hence powerless. As slaves, they had no human rights or legal rights. The social, political and economical status of the slaves offered no hope of freedom.
When there is no hope or help, God brings hope through his people. Miriam was helpless in a hopeless situation, but God made Miriam the 'hope' of Israel. Miriam was the right person. Her parents Amram and Jochebed could not take risk as there were other children to look after. Three year old Aaron was too small. Miriam was the 'hope' in a hopeless situation.
Wait and Watch
Miriam either volunteered or was sent by her parents to wait and watch. Emotionally and spiritually Miriam would have been deeply disturbed. It was dangerous for the baby boy floating in a basket in River Nile, as well as Miriam who was standing on the shore.
Wisdom & Words
God bestowed her with Godly wisdom. When we have Godly wisdom, we have courage, grace, and presence of mind. Miriam understood her mission and call on the shores of River Nile. Godly wisdom calls for action. Many in her situation would have been overwhelmed by emotion - weeping, groaning, murmuring, and hence experience paralysis of thinking. Miriam was wise to discern opportunities in the midst of helpless and hopeless situation. Godly wisdom gave her this spiritual insight.
Miriam did not repeat a memorized script from a drama or skit. It was a spontaneous response to the situation. Miriam did not have any right to speak to Pharaoh's daughter. However, she skillfully and courteously asked whether she could bring a maid to bring up the abandoned boy. Cleverly, she did not reveal her identity or the identity of her mother. Speaking the right word, in the right time and to the right person is Godly wisdom.
Pharaoh's daughter impressed with the cheerful response of a small girl accepted her suggestion. Pharaoh's daughter should be credited for her willingness to listen to a small slave girl. A simple conversation changes the history of the Children of Israel.
Miriam’s act was an act of faith. Not knowing what lay ahead, Miriam takes a step of faith. Pharaoh's daughter accepts Jochebed as foster mother of Moses and pays for being foster mother. God provided miraculously for this slave family so that Moses could grow up healthy and wise to bring out the Children of Israel from slavery.
2. Slave girl in a Strategic Mission
A small girl from Israel lands in the home of Naaman, Army General of Syrian army. The army officer must have lived the Capital city in a mansion. This girl was a migrant, slave, stranger and orphan. However, she was doing the menial job with uttermost integrity. When the family of Naaman went through crisis due to leprousy, she was able to give the message of hope in the home. She was an evangelist par excellence in a home and her message was trusted by Naaman, his wife, and the King of Syria. Naaman was wonderfully healed, the credit should go to this unassuming girl, who was a witness in a hostile nation in adverse circumstances.
The gospel from under class or marginalized reaches the rich and super rich in the society. Urban mission has plenty of surprises like this.
3. Esther Confronts evil conspirator
This is another history of an orphan girl. She was adopted by her uncle, Mordecai, who served in the Palace of Susa where King Ahasuerus reigned. As an orphan, slave, immigrant she was looking for an opportunity to move up in life. Then 'Miss Persia' contest was announced. She decided to participate, even though her religious beliefs and upbringing did not approve this. Her economic desperation pushed her to do this. And she succeeded and became the Queen of the Empire.
God's faithfulness to Israel is clearly demonstrated in this. God used Esther though she did not qualify. She was able to penetrate the power structure and halt the 'ethnic cleansing' of Children of Israel. Such disaster would have wiped the nation from the face of the earth and God could not have fulfilled his Promise of sending His Son. A self-made, timid girl was used by God to preserve the nation of Israel.
4. Priscilla an evangelist
Aquila and Priscilla, a wonderful couple who were professionals - tentmakers. (Acts 18) In modern parlance, real estate builders. They were exiled from the city of Rome by Caesar Claudius for being Jews. They took refuge in Corinth where Paul meets them. As a couple they come to know Lord Jesus Christ as personal saviour and become ardent disciples of the Lord. Later, when Apollo's, who did not know about the salvation came to preach in the synagogue, they strategically invited him to their home. Over a sumptuous meal they were able to lead Apollo to Lord Jesus Christ. Later Apollo is termed as a great leader in Corinth who led many to the Lord. Priscilla is a city woman professional who could be an inspiration and model for urban women.
5. Lydia a pastoral leader
Paul visits the city of Philippi and has a conversation with a business woman Lydia. She was a retailer in purple cloth, worn by kings, nobles and upper class people. Legend states that she was an officer bearer in the guild of purple dealers. She was a single woman, but woman of high social standing. Later we understand that a church met in her home. God used this woman to bring many to His Kingdom.
6. Tabitha, social worker
In the city of Lydda, lived a woman named Tabitha alias Dorcas (Acts 9: 36-43). Lydda was an industrial city know for smiths and craftsmen. She died and Peter was requested to come and pray so that she may be restored to life. When Peter arrived at the scene, there were widows showing tunics and other garments; how Tabitha helped the hapless women. Peter prayed and she was restored back to life. The contribution of Tabitha to the poor, marginalized, and widows is an inspiration and model for urban ministry even today.
Women in ministry today
With the above biblical examples, we understand that God uses women for His Ministry and Mission. The gender, age, education, social status, ethnicity are not hindrances for the Lord to use any person including women. These women are models, examples and inspiration to women in urban mission today.
Women are used by God in risky situations like Miriam. There are several mission tasks that cannot be carried out by men. Miriam's mission of saving Moses was a risky assignment. God places women in strategic places to be His witnesses. Medical professionals (Nurses and doctors) in closed countries are good example today. They can take the good news to high and mighty in a quiet and silent environment. Esther serving the Empire, was able to stop 'ethnic cleansing' of Jews. Today, many women are in position of influence and could bring righteousness in those spheres of life. Priscilla was an evangelist, working with her husband. Today there is a need for wives of Pastors and women who could serve as counselors especially in cities. Like Lydia there is a need for pastoral leaders who could care for new disciples. India has nearly one third of people living Below Poverty Line (BPL). Poor are always around us. There are numerous opportunities to serve the poor like Tabitha.
All women disciples have a strategic, appropriate and satisfying role in the Kingdom of God. In many local congregations, women out number men. If these women are motivated, envisioned and equipped they could be powerful, fiery women of God. Local churches would be healthy in ministry and mission, if these women are optimally used for His Kingdom and glory.