Women Crossing Borders | CBE International

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Women Crossing Borders

On October 16, 2013

On December 11, 2005, eight Youth with a Mission staff workers were killed in a tragic road accident outside Port Hourcourt, Nigeria. One of those lost, Brianna Esswein, was a graduate of Wheaton Graduate School’s Intercultural Studies Department. My book Women Crossing Borders is dedicated to her memory. Four days before the accident, Brianna expressed her commitment to the Lord in a letter: 

He has called me to a life of both joy and suffering. I am willing to live and die for my Lord and will follow him to the ends of the earth, knowing that it may cost me everything, but that there is no greater joy than serving my God and only through him can my life and my joy be made complete.

Brianna exemplifies the dedicated women who have given everything to cross borders for Christ. In the early church, women such as Priscilla, Lydia, and Dorcus worked in partnership with men, as well as independently, to bring the gospel to others. As years passed, women’s ministry gradually became limited to Catholic cloisters. Within the Protestant tradition, Reformation practice restricted the role of women to caring for their husbands and families.

During 19th century Protestant missions, women were accepted into the missionary force as wives and mothers. Eventually, they were integrated into the work to reach women in other countries, but soon became over committed, needing help. Single women were sent to assist in the care of missionary children and households. However, some of these women also discerned God’s call to full time vocational missions. As a result, women’s missionary societies were formed to send out single women as educators, medical workers, evangelists, Bible translators, and to train women for ministry.1 These societies recruited qualified women to world missions and paved the way for the commissioning of future generations of women missionaries. In addition, the women’s missionary societies helped support educational institutions train women for world missions. As early as 1837, Mary Lyon opened Mount Holyoke College which led to the formation of other women’s missionary training schools.2Soon, mission agencies followed suit, and eventually women’s missionary societies were integrated into larger denominational mission agencies.

In 1983, Wheaton College Graduate School began offering a concentration in missions and intercultural studies coordinated by Dr. John Gration.3 Today, this program is the Intercultural Studies Department where many women and men continue to be trained for cross-cultural ministry. Women are making important contributions to holistic mission work as they cross borders for Christ.
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1. Marguerite Kraft, “Women in Missions,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. A.Scott Moreau, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), 1021.
2. Ibid., 1022.
3. David M. Howard, From Wheaton to the Nations. (Chicago, IL: Wheaton College, 2001), 108.

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