Women: Messengers of Hope
We've read about women who traveled with Jesus and used their resources to aid in and finance the spread of the gospel. Lydia opened her home for believers to gather. Priscilla led many people to faith. Since then, there are still untold stories of countless women who answered God's call to serve Him in foreign lands. To this day, “overall, probably two-thirds of the total force has been and currently is, female”.
It cannot be overstated how important women are in organizing, evangelizing, and discipling (Titus 2:4-5), and their work has become crucial in cross-cultural missions. Women served in positions of leadership and in areas where their male counterparts did not, including living among head-hunting tribes to translate the New Testament, founding orphanages, combating child exploitation and sex trafficking, sharing the gospel with Imams (Islamic teachers), working in clinics for women and children, teaching in schools, and establishing new mission avenues.
You may be familiar with the work of Elisabeth Elliot (Ecuador), Lottie Moon (China), Amy Carmichael (India), Stella Cox (Japan), Mala Moe (South Africa), Alberta Skinner (Soviet Union), Gertrude Dyck (UAE), and Barbara Chapman (South Korea).
But there are thousands more to this day. It would be an enormous undertaking for me to write about these Messengers of Hope in this blog post. My effort would not do justice.
As impressive as these women's work is, they have faced obstacles throughout history, including the notion that "women are to stay home," the idea that they are not called to preach, and opposition from mission boards. Most of these obstacles have been overcome.
It is unfortunate, however, that there are still churches out there that deny women the opportunity to go into the mission field. They in fact do not encourage or support (to train and finance) women to answer to their calling. Some of the challenges faced are:
Men are more financially supported in the mission field than women. This includes training.
Women still need to advocate for themselves in order to be heard during group decision-making.
Safety issues in the field, family and societal expectations, and absence of community support.
A mismatch between the service they are assigned to and the training they receive.
In spite of it all, the women are unfazed despite these difficulties. Whether single or married, they continue to pour into the mission force, and they come from both the western and eastern sides of the globe. But should we accept the current state of affairs? No.
The gender gap between the proportion of men and women working in missions needs to be closed. Making disciples requires both men and women to reach the unreached. The church needs to take more initiative in encouraging young men to get involved in missions.
Churches (across denominations) should support women by giving them training in a variety of mission fields, and providing holistic support financially, spiritually, and emotionally.
I fervently hope that the church—men and women—will carry out Jesus' "marching order" to "go to the nations and make disciples" even as we honor the enormous contribution that women made to the great commission.