Model Women Missionaries
Ms. Sajitha Varughese
In the beginning, God created human beings in his own image and he blessed them. All the blessings God gave in the Garden of Eden was to both man and woman. Both man and woman disobeyed God and went away from the Lord. But our God, who is the first missionary, came down, looking for them (Genesis 3:9). ‘Missions’ is not a human initiative; it is the redemptive plan of God, to bring back human beings to wholeness. In God’s redemption plan, he gave the promise of a Messiah and declared that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. God continued his mission through Noah, Abraham, David and many others in the Old Testament who were willing to listen to him.
Many women such as Sarah, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth and Esther also played key roles at strategic points. Mathew has included some of these women in the genealogy of Jesus, showing the importance of their role. The promised Messiah came to earth at the appointed time, through the obedience of a humble woman named Mary, who was willing to take shame to be part of God’s mission.
Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus passed on the call of mission to his disciples. The Great commission call (Mark 16:15 – Go in to the entire world and preach the good news to all creation; Mathew 28:19 – Go and make disciples of all nations) is for all Kingdom Citizens, both men and women, to reach ALL nations of this earth.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he started the Gentile outreach through a woman and it shows the strategic role a woman can play in reaching a society. One woman, who was socially and culturally marginalized, was enough in Samaria to reach her whole town for Christ. She testified what God has done in her life (John 4). Gospel accounts mention that it was few women who supported Jesus’ ministry on earth ‘out of their own means’ (Luke 8:3). Again,it was Mary Magdalene to whom resurrected Jesus appeared first, and she became the first to herald the good news of resurrection. It is to be noted that all these were happening at a time where women were looked down and socially marginalized. It speaks greatly of the heart of the creator God to uplift the status of woman in the society and to involve them in his missions.
Paul started his European missions by sharing the gospel to a bunch of women met at the bank of the river. The first church in Europe was started with the help of one of these women named Lydia (Acts 16:15), a purple seller. As soon as she came to know this truth, she found her position in the ‘missions’. Just as the women who helped Jesus, Lydia became part of missions through her own means of opening her house for the people of God. In Romans 16, we find a list of women who were pioneers with Apostle Paul in the missions in the first century, ‘they worked hard for the kingdom and many of them, risked their lives’.
In church history, God has used many prominent women for the work of the Lord. Women in mission, in the past, have demonstrated a holistic approach with emphasis on both evangelism and meeting human needs. Amy Carmichael, an Irish woman, understood true discipleship at a very young age, followed God’s guidance and eventually went to India in 1895 where she spent fifty three years without furlough. She helped in eradicating temple prostitution, which was so prevalent in those days. She founded the Dohnavur Fellowship in TamilNadu, a refuge for children in danger – children who were orphaned or unwanted or sold as temple prostitutes.
Gladys Aylward from London worked as a home maid at an early age. She had such great passion to go overseas as missionary. When she approached the China Inland Mission (agency that was started by the great missionary leader, Hudson Taylor) to go to China, they turned her application down because her academic qualification was inadequate. They thought such a poorly educated person couldn’t learn a difficult language like Mandarin Chinese. Her determination was so strong that in 1932, she spent all her savings (saved working as a house maid) and bought a ticket to China. The perilous trip took her to Siberia, where she had to get off the train and had to face many difficulties and many alternate modes of transportation to reach her destination. While in China, she worked with the government to enforce the new law against foot binding of young Chinese girls. Aylward became a Chinese citizen in 1936 and took care of many orphans and adopted several children. She advocated for prison reforms, risking her life many times to help those in need. In 1938, when China was invaded by Japanese, Aylward led over 100 orphans to safety over the mountains, despite being wounded herself.
Lottie Moon, an educated American woman, found her calling as a missionary to China. As she watched her fellow missionaries fall to disease, exhaustion and mental breakdowns and death, she became just as dedicated to educating Christians about the preventable tragedies of missionary life while she was educating Chinese people about the Christian life.
Rachel Saint was a young woman when she committed herself to go to Ecuador’s Waorani Indians, where her brother and four other young missionaries were speared to death. She boldly persisted in following God’s plan of holistic mission for the Waoranis and moved to their settlement in 1959 and lived among them for the rest of her life.While involved in the tedious task of translating the Bible to the Waorani dialect, she worked hard to teach those stone-age people about clothing, hygiene, medicines etc.The list goes on, with Ann Judson of Burma who helped translating and publishing the first Burmese Bible, Ida Scudder who came as medical missionary to India and many other committed women who worked towards fulfilling the call for missions. Christian women today need to know and celebrate their heritage.
Today women can be part of missions in various ways, especially in reaching out to the hostile nations. Philippines Missions Mobilization Movement seeks to train and commission a million diaspora Filipinos as ‘tent maker’ missionaries, which means reaching out intentionally while they are on their secular job. Majority of them are women and many of them work as nurses and maids. It reminds me of the strategic role played by a Jewish servant girl for the deliverance of her master Naaman (2 Kings 5) and of the Moravians who sold themselves as slaves to reach out to the slaves.
As I travel around the world, I find that the biggest need of today’s mission field is not money, but committed workers. God desires to see his children being ‘intentional’ and ‘focused’ in finding their position in missions. Every disciple is a ‘full time’ missionary and their profession (jobs) or status need to be seen as an opportunity from God rather than a hindrance for the missions. India has emerged as one of the largest work force in the world with a wide range of skills and if only our engineers, doctors, nurses, accountants and every other Christian professional find their call of God for missions! Indians have the advantage of open doors in many hostile nations where western missionaries cannot enter. There are thousands of Christian nurses working in countries hostile to the gospel, especially in the Middle East, and if only our nurses could see the heart of God!!
While the term ‘missionary’ is often understood as Gospel workers, all Christian women are not called to move overseas as cross-cultural missionaries, but the call to mission is on all of them. Some are called to minister in their own neighborhood or nearby towns or even in the neighboring states, while others are called to leave their country and go to where God wants them to be. Around us people are suffering from poverty, diseases, lack of education, victims of injustice, and many other problems. We have to ask the Lord of the harvest to show us which of these are our harvest fields and for strategic plans to reap them.
Gospel is not just about saving souls and sending them to heaven; it is also bringing the power of Jesus’ Kingdom into every areas of life to bring holistic transformation. Women have a very important role to play in bringing this holistic transformation into the communities and nations. Women’s role in mission starts in their own home and have a great role in teaching children and family members on the Kingdom values in areas of hygiene, education, legal matters, music, fashion etc.
Our common excuses about our inability and inadequacy become the greatest hindrance for participating in God’s mission. The foundation of the Great commission is very important for us to understand and do this mission. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go….” We depend on the Holy Spirit and go in the authority of Jesus. Taking care of widows and orphans, feeding the poor and hungry, being with the hurting, cooking, cleaning, encouraging, teaching, preaching are all parts of the big picture of God’s missions.
Beginning of the 20th Century,many women societies existed to support missions. They volunteered their money, time, energy, organizational ability and prayer support. Another effective way any woman can be in missions is through prayer and intercession. We are called to intercede when we see immorality and injustice happening around us. We need to question the effectiveness of our‘religious’ gatherings and ladies meetings with routine programs and see how much these contribute to God’s mission on earth.
In countries like China, Mongolia and Cambodia, most believers are women and they gather in house churches (what is known outside as underground churches). Women leaders often lead these house churches. How these Chinese house churches begin and grow is really simple but fascinating. Almost every house church starts with one or two committed believers who share the gospel to others. Then they start a bible study or fellowship at their homes for those who are interested to know more about the gospel. Many of those seekers accept the gospel and they become a group of disciples who pray together, study together and have weekly fellowship together and thus a church is formed.When the church grow to 10-15 people, some of the new disciples start new house churches at their own homes, thus multiplying the work. We can see this biblical pattern in the early church as well.
In Chinese house churches, the contribution of women for Gospel advancement is enormous. Majority of the Chinese hymns sung these days in the house churches are written by an uneducated woman from a village. They were the outcome of her beautiful private fellowship time with the Lord. Many Chinese women are starting kindergartens, play schools and music schools these days to reach families through children.
In Mongolia,church is growing mainly through women reaching out to other women and children, through which families are reached out for Christ. Passionate, mission minded women go out to other‘gers’ (one room circular tents made out of sheep wool and skin) and share the gospel. They also identify the poor and needy in the community and teach these womenvocational skills for livelihood, so that they can feed their children. One of our close friends, is currently working as a missionary in Mongolia. When there was no church and no missionary work, she felt the burden to reach out to these people. A medical doctor as well as an MBA graduate, working in a reputed firm in USA, left everything for the sake of Christ to be with the people in the Gobi desert where the temperature goes below zero for most part of the year. Now they have a growing church at their base, due to the obedience and commitment of a single family. They are in great need of people to support them in other areas, such as teaching English, music, vocational skills etc.
Everytime I go to Cambodia, its heart breaking to see thousands of young women selling their bodies on the streets of the capital city to make their livelihood. God’s heart is broken over these people for whom He sent His Son to die. We need to ask the Lord to break our hearts for things that break His! God is calling women to come and teach these Cambodian women other vocational skills to earn a living and share the love of God with these people. Cambodia is a field ready for harvest and God is calling for intercessors who can cry out for more workers to be send to this field.
In order to reach the women of our generation, God’s mission definitely needs a women task force. In the recent past, secular world has recognized the role of women in the society from sales desk to space shuttle. We have female officers at immigration desks and security check, women police officers, pilots, drivers and the list goes on. What makes us think women believers are not needed to equip and train the unreached, unequipped women of this world? We can reach nations from our home through prayer or we can grab the opportunities to be physically out there for the harvest. Distance, career or education is not the hindrance ,but the question is about our willingness and availability. I have an American friend, living in China, who makes use of every vacation of her own kids to reach out to kids in unreached places. This year she led a team to Philippines to conduct VBS for 600 kids. God will give you ideas and strategies to reach out, when you make that commitment. The task is too big to be completed without the involvement of godly women. Lift up your heads!! Let the King of Glory enter your family and community and nations around you!!