Cecilia Yau | Allowing and encouraging both men and women to exercise all their gifts can only benefit the cause of evangelism and missions.
During the early 20th century, China was swept by waves of revivals. Many great preachers were born, both men and women. Through the preaching of women like Dora Yu, who also founded a Bible school, many came to the Lord. Among them were the famous Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
Christiana Tsai and other leaders started the Chinese Home Missionary Society with many evangelists, both women and men, travelling to different cities to preach the Gospel in some remote places in China. Other women taught at the seminaries and wrote commentaries.
However, as history repeats itself, once the Chinese Church was established with hierarchical structures, women were again marginalized. Ironically, indigenous Chinese church movements like those started by Watchman Nee and later Witness Lee no longer allow women to take leadership roles.
For almost fifty years, women within the church were “silenced” and pushed back behind the scenes. Then came the Communist Era, and churches went underground. When the iron curtain of China was pulled back in the late 1970s, the Church emerged and grew 100-fold.
Many new Christians are in the countryside, and of these, the majority are women. Teams of Christian women travel up the hills and down the fields, toiling side by side with the farm workers and evangelizing. They also host and lead house churches and teach the Bible.
There are still opportunities for women in China to use their gifts for the Lord. Yet, the government-controlled churches are more open to women in leadership than the evangelical house churches. Will the door close once again when the Church in China becomes stabilized and institutionalized?
Cosmas Ilechukwu | Ministry and roles in the body of Christ should be determined by the gifts, talents, skills and opportunities God has allowed each of us. These, taken together, give a clear indication of what God designed each individual to do. God is very economical with his gifting. He is not likely to waste his gifts on any person he does have a job for. One of the greatest proofs that God wants women in ministry alongside men is that they are just as gifted as men.
I strongly believe that the description of woman as ‘helper’ [in Gen. 2] must be understood in the sense the term is used elsewhere to describe God (Psalm 54: 4). Women are to help from strength and not from weakness. It takes both men and women working side by side, in every sphere of life as equals, to adequately represent the image and likeness of God.
The mutual relationship between the members of the Trinity—Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, provides a model of the mutuality that should exist between men and women in the work of the ministry. In the Trinity, we see equality and mutual submission devoid of the brutal competition that has been the hallmark of men and women in the church.
Here are just a few examples of Nigerian women God has gifted for ministry:
Rev. Dr. Margaret Benson-Idahosa is the presiding Bishop of the Church of God Mission International, one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Africa. This church was founded and overseen by her husband, Archbishop Benson Idahosa until his death in 1998. Her church’s numerous ministries now include Benson Idahosa University, which is rated one of the best in Nigeria. I interviewed some of the pastors serving under Bishop Margaret and they all agree that she has proven her mettle in church leadership. One of the provincial pastors of the church declared with obvious confidence, “the woman’s outstanding success in ministry lies in her ability to motivate people and help them to fulfill their potentials.” Clearly Bishop Margaret has a gift of leadership and works hard to make the most of that gift.
Dr. Love Amaga is the wife of Bishop Sam Amaga of the Foundation Faith International Churches. She is a gifted teacher whose special burden is the restoration of biblical family values. Her reputation as a conference speaker makes her always on demand for ministry in Nigeria and elsewhere. She is also a prolific writer and has published several books on family life and other topics of interest to Christians.
Mrs. Folu Adeboye, fondly called “Mother in Israel” by her numerous admirers, Sister Folu is the wife of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Her particular burden is mentoring women in ministry and wives of ministers. She is a gifted encourager who takes as a personal call the biblical instruction for older women to teach the younger ones. Her annual Feast of Esther draws women ministers and wives of ministers from all over Nigeria. The impact of her ministry in the lives of women has been tremendous.
Pastor Adeola Ilechukwu is an outstanding teacher of the Bible who brings refreshing insight into the word of God. She is in popular demand in different churches and conferences in Nigeria. She also serves as the leader of the Charismatic Women’s League, whose membership includes women in Nigeria and several other countries. She is the Executive Director for the African Centre For Christian Leadership. Her particular burden is helping women improve their self-esteem as a prelude to fulfilling God’s mandate for their lives.
Some traits that all these women share include the following:
• They all discovered their gifts and worked hard to develop them.
• They are all strongly committed to their families and consider them their first responsibility in ministry.
• They have a healthy view of men, seeing them not as competitors but as indispensable partners in ministry.
• They are committed to equipping others and not to controlling them.
Ministry is the routine use of our gifts and talents in pursuit of God’s purposes. The nature of the gifts should determine the nature of ministry each person has. God does not want any of the gifts he gives to be wasted, whether he gives them to a man or woman. Making the most of all that God has given his people to his utmost glory should be the emphasis in the church.
Uma David | India has more than a billion people, hundreds of languages and dialects, class and cast systems, different religions, customs and traditions.
Women and children, especially girls, are considered less than human. Girl babies and fetuses are often killed or abandoned in dust bins. A girl is a liability because her father incurs huge debts to get her married with an elaborate wedding and heavy dowry to the groom’s family.
India’s technological growth is stupendous and education is now available, but most rural people still live in ignorance. Even educated people hang on to old customs, traditions and superstitions.
Against this backdrop, I would like to introduce you to a remarkable Indian woman, who is evidence of God’s call to leadership in the midst of a culture that continues to suppress the female gender.
The Fellowship of the Least Coin
Shanti Solomon was born into a Hindu family where only her parents were converted Christians. Her father died when she was six weeks old, and her mother was driven out of her ancestral home by her Hindu in-laws. Her mother courageously supported the family of three children and gave Shanti a good education and helped her grow in Christ.
Shanti married a committed Christian man, Reuben Newton Solomon. But after ten happy years together he died after battling a long illness. They had no children. God used the difficult time during her husband’s illness to give Shanti the idea for the Fellowship of the Least Coin, a ministry in which she challenged every woman towards prayer and positive action, no matter what her economic situation.
Every time a woman prayed, she was to set aside a “least coin” of her currency. It was an encouragement to women to demonstrate their unity in Christian faith, regardless of their country or economic circumstance. It was a way to express their solidarity with suffering humanity and with women of every nation.
Through this movement, Christian women around the world seek fellowship with each other and are reminded to live a reconciled and forgiving life with others. The emphasis is on the word “least” because it is not a fundraising project, but a movement of prayer for peace and reconciliation.
Anyone who wishes to join this movement makes a commitment to spend time in prayer whenever she has a strained relationship with another person. She also commits to pray for others who are victims of jealousy, hatred, violence and injustice in the family, the community, the nation and the world.
Every time she prays for justice, peace and reconciliation, she sets aside a “least coin” of her currency as a tangible token of her prayer. The amount collected by each country is never publicized. Each local group decides what should be the smallest coin, keeping in mind that the poorest woman of the group must be a part of this fellowship of love and care. The “least coins” from around the world come in with prayers, quietly and gradually, to the FLC Custodial Fund in Geneva, from which an international committee gives project grants to about 30–40 programs and projects around the world. The “least coin” teaches us to be humble, to value the least, and to trust that nothing is impossible with God, who can do great things from out of the least and the unexpected.
The idea of the FLC, with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, quickly gained acceptance, not only among the women of Asia, to whom it was first presented, but also among women around the world. Today, women from over 80 countries are part of this ecumenical movement of prayer for peace and reconciliation. What started as a tiny ripple has become a huge wave.
Women have been using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to intercede and help others in their time of need and weakness. God uses very ordinary people like Shanti, and with the working of the Holy Spirit, He brings out talents and gifts we do not even know we possess. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:7). It is important that we learn to use these God-given gifts for the growth of his kingdom. Let us make our lives count with the help of the Holy Spirit.