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Keynote address from 2016 international conference "Truth Be Told" in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Women in Africa are not always looking for outside assistance but are digging deep within to find the moral and spiritual resources to transform their communities.

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Throughout history, charismatic men and women of God have risen up, almost out of nowhere, to lead spiritual movements and shape theological discourse. These leaders often build churches and large followings before the institutional church pulls them in for a chat. The air is tense, awkward. At some point in the conversation someone asks a deceptively simple question: “Who gives you the authority to do the work you are doing?”

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Sisters in ministry, I hope you will take these words to heart as you continue in the good work to which God has called you. Let’s reclaim our time together!

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As women we should be encouraged. We may be soft on the outside, but we’re strong and mighty in spirit. We are God’s secret weapons and the enemy knows it. He takes us seriously, even when others don’t. The enemy’s strategy has been to keep us quiet and in hiding. But God is doing an end run. He is going to release so many of us at once that the enemy is not going to know what hit him!

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I so wish I could have told those bright young women about the challenges they will face as they enter their careers and endeavor to find satisfaction in their work and lives. I did not want to be that person, warning optimistic young women about future obstacles—and that the odds of success are ever stacked against them. I fear, though, that if we don’t have open conversations about workplace and cultural challenges, if we don’t call out hurdles by name, we set women up for failure when they enter the workplace.

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Though demeaned and exploited as outliers, their suffering is known by the God who sees, who vindicates their demands for equality, and who endures their abuses on the road to Calvary.

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Clearly there are complex reasons why women fail to answer or reluctantly answer God’s call to ministry. Those who do will very likely face a difficult road.

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Karen teaches adult education in her church. Her classes are exciting. Despite her denomination’s support of gift-based roles for men and women, she is frequently questioned and criticized by a few who challenge — not the fruits of her labor, but whether women should even be fruitful. The more she tries to persuade her critics, the more weighed down she feels.

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