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Personal Stories

No matter how much I try to ignore it, minimize or overlook it, it manages to pop out of nowhere, sometimes when and where I least expect: the persistent reminder that I am, “just a woman.” How often have I heard that phrase from some man who felt I, or some other female, was getting too big for my boots! Take for instance the day I was driving to work in my new Toyota Sienna. On the corner of the road about 6 km (3.73 mi) to my office I stopped to give a colleague a lift; he was by far my junior in rank. It was shortly after the outbreak of violence in Jos, and there were security checkpoints everywhere. The soldier manning the first one we got to wouldn’t even look me in the eye or acknowledge my cheery, “Good morning.” Looking straight across at my passenge... Read more
Flashback to Cleveland, Tennessee, 1981: I became aware of a small Pentecostal Bible institute and church I wanted to visit. One Friday evening during a weekend seminar, I slipped into the back pew, as the special guests were already fully engaged. He spoke, then she spoke, then he spoke, then she spoke...so on and so forth. Wait a minute, I thought, they're not simply testifying, and she's not going to sit down while he ministers the word. They're preaching in tandem, a finely choreographed presentation of God's word that I had never witnessed before nor any time since. The man's wife didn't sit down after her few words of greeting, an action typical among evangelicals and Pentecostals. She was speaking as one having authority, just as he was. After they finishe... Read more
To read Emily Nielsen Jones's full article, click here. Do Our Own Religious Codes Diminish the Full Humanity of Women? Regardless of one's religious affiliation, it can be a useful exercise to reflect on the combined influence of religion on the collective status of girls and women in our world. While each tradition is unique, many spring from the same patriarchal soil of the ancient world and bear some similar dynamics and contradictions as they are lived and applied in contemporary society. Paradoxically, faith has been and continues to be both a source of challenge and a source of validation of cultural gender norms that limit and prescribe women's place in society to a subordinate role/sphere. On a recent family ski weekend, a Christian friend and I discussed the... Read more
One of my friends works in Christian ministry at a large, secular university. She is passionate about Christ; she is a gifted teacher, preacher, and apologist. Her tenacious use of her spiritual gifts, her holiness, and her love for others is a model to us all. She said to me once, “Mimi, do you realize that my church spends thousands of dollars so I can lead college students, both men and women, to Christ, yet they won't let me preach from the pulpit because I am a woman? This is not only inconsistent, it says to me that there is something wrong with being female!” Her logic was compelling, and yet her experience may explain a sad phenomenon. Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in America, particularly among women. According to one expert, the idea of a goddes... Read more
Many engaged couples tend to read books together, and sometimes have a few pre-marital sessions with a counselor in preparation for marriage. When we were engaged, we too read books and met with our pastor, and understandably, both were invaluably helpful and hilariously uncomfortable. We also were lucky enough to stumble upon three key principles for a partnership in marriage through a hobby we both love: rock climbing. They are communication, trust, and give and take.  As Adam was maybe ten or twelve feet in the air, Caroline, his belay (the one connected to and supporting the climber by the rope), had the revelation, “Hey, this is sort of like our own pre-martial counseling!” Caroline continued, “Your life is literally in my hands! I could drop you if I wa... Read more
Many engaged couples tend to read books together, and sometimes have a few pre-marital sessions with a counselor in preparation for marriage. When we were engaged, we too read books and met with our pastor, and understandably, both were invaluably helpful and hilariously uncomfortable. We also were lucky enough to stumble upon three key principles for a partnership in marriage through a hobby we both love: rock climbing. They are communication, trust, and give and take.  As Adam was maybe ten or twelve feet in the air, Caroline, his belay (the one connected to and supporting the climber by the rope), had the revelation, “Hey, this is sort of like our own pre-martial counseling!” Caroline continued, “Your life is literally in my hands! I could drop you if I wa... Read more
“I don’t believe God loves me—not really.” These words erupted from my wife in a season of personal crisis. One of the deep roots of the crisis—not the immediate trigger—was the traditional teaching of the church that women must be subordinate to men and are not qualified for certain offices of leadership. This lie had rooted itself in Debbie’s heart from her childhood years growing up in church. At the very same time as these words came forth from my wife’s lips, a sliver of glass, the result of a moving accident when a mirror slipped and crashed on my head early in our marriage, made its way to the surface of my forehead. I picked out this irritating sliver that had been working its way to the surface for some time. I thought at the time... Read more
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 borde... Read more
A while back a friend asked me my thoughts on gender issues and, particularly, a certain prominent “complementarian” organization. Here’s what I had to share about my personal journey: In high school and college I was a sure “complementarian,” based on arguments such as those of such of the organization alluded to above and the biblical texts often cited to support such views. I remember having arguments with one of my egalitarian professors about how he could possibly view this issue otherwise. Then in my second semester of seminary in a New Testament epistles class taught by a prominent complementarian scholar, he presented his soft complementarian view, concluding that each of us should decide what the biblical line is for women’s leaders... Read more
I recently traveled to Israel for a tour of biblical sites. The unexpected beauty of the Galilee, the historic walls of Jerusalem, and the tranquility of the Garden Tomb highlighted my trip but my most cherished memory was standing in the muddy Jordan River asking my daughter the essential question that every pastor asks before they baptize someone: “Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” My journey to this place began two years earlier… My friend Lou Ann invited me to visit a local church. Over the next several weeks, we agreed that this assembly appeared to be Biblically based. Soon, however, it became apparent that something was amiss—women were relegated to an inferior place. For example, women weren’t allowed to share in coed discussions; only men were... Read more

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