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Personal Stories

Father’s Day is a great opportunity to thank the men around us for the job they have done raising us. My experience is no different. My father has been a great influence in my life, and as I grow older into a strong woman who fights the hold of patriarchy, I cannot help but think he has been influential in this. Even before I was born, it seemed that he knew the struggle for equality that I would have to go through. With his international perspective on the struggle women face, he equipped me with the biggest tool to survive this battle and named me Florkime: a traditional name from northern Liberia, his homeland. My name Florkime in the simplest terms means perseverance and to keep trying. He has constantly reminded me that my academic efforts are valued and my personal s... Read more
I sat in the back row of the church and quietly observed. The brave woman who had invited me to the event had taught me tremendous truths about biblical sexuality in my postgraduate course and now she was releasing her very own set of booklets for toddlers, teenagers, and parents. She has such a profound call on her life to teach true biblical sexuality to the world, especially to Africa, so I was excited to be among her honored guests. Unbeknownst to me at the offset, the night would take a dramatic turn, much to my horror. While the brave woman stood sharing her vision, her words were not yet cold when a young man jumped up and grabbed the microphone, he began bombastically telling the audience that he was this woman's (who was three times his age) spiritual father and that unl... Read more
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

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