Friday, November 7, 2014

In Their Footsteps

Photo by Evgeni Dinev

I love reading missionary biographies! The great missionary women of the past inspire me.

Mary Slessor with her adopted children: Jean, Alice, Maggie, and Mary.
Taken while in Scotland c. 1880.
Photo: Dundee City Library Local Resource
Mary Slessor, a slight, single lady went to the cannibals of Nigeria, evangelizing, rescuing, and becoming mother to countless children. They called her the Queen of Calabar. She “was sure that pioneer work was best accomplished by women, who were less threatening to unreached tribes then men.”1 She was an amazing, fearless lady.

Gladys Aylward with her adopted son Gordon and Sarah Griffiths.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Griffiths.
Gladys Aylward was a single missionary who went to China in 1930. They called her Ai-weh-deh, Chinese for “Virtuous One.” She used her official title of “foot inspector” to visit women all over the region, spreading the gospel. In 1940, a wounded Gladys rescued one hundred children from the Japanese invasion.2

Amy Carmichael with children in India
Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) was a strong-willed, godly, single woman with a deep love for children. Missionary in both Japan and India, she founded the Dohnavur Foundation, an orphanage and mission in India. She rescued children from streets and temple slavery. They nicknamed her Amma, which means “mother” in Tamil.3


I read their stories and am challenged, but I’m always left with questions. Did these ladies overstep their biblical ministry boundaries? I’m not sure—although if Mary Slessor actually preached to church groups including men, she did.

We follow in the footsteps of thousands of effective missionary ladies.

What does the Bible say about our job? Are there firm biblical guidelines?

Titus 2:3-5—The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Mature Christian women set the example and mentor younger women. We’re even told what to teach them: love husbands and children, be disciplined and controlled, live purely, homemaking skills, be respectable (The Greek word used for good means “excellence.”), and to be submissive to their husbands.

1 Timothy 3:11-12—Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

We’re examples in our serious, non-gossiping, faithful way of life. We help our husbands to teach our children.

The Great Commission (Matthew 29:19-20) is for every believer. The missionary lady evangelizes and helps the ladies and children in her church learn to observe all things whatsoever (Jesus) commanded. That’s quite an outline!

The next two passages are about our behavior in church services:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:11-14Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
God has a specific order for the home and ministry. Let’s explore this idea further.

In the homeBut I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3). God the Father—Christ—Man—Wife.

In the churchWives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing (Ephesians 5:22-24). God the Father—Christ—Husband—Wife.

Let them lead! Just as a married woman yields to her husband’s leadership, a single woman listens to her father. In the church, women yield leadership to the men. A woman does not usurp authority over the men, nor does she teach them. (1 Timothy 2:12, above) I believe this extends to counseling. Let men counsel men.

Women have the privilege of ministering to 70% of the world’s population—its women and children. The Bible outlines how we’re to teach young women. It’s our job to rear our own children and to help the women in our churches learn to love their children, bringing them up to love and serve God. We’re to educate our church ladies in practical Christian living. Also, we set the example of respect for pastoral authority through our quiet, supportive role.

Let me throw out a list of ideas for women’s ministries:
  • Mentor younger women
  • Teach children
  • Participate in the music ministry
  • Interpret services for the hearing impaired
  • Teach women in Bible studies and/or Institute classes
  • Personal evangelism
  • Visit in hospitals
  • Biblical counseling for women and teens
  • Do graphic design projects for Christian materials, help with information technology
  • Share the gospel
  • Give out gospel tracts
  • Care for children in the church nursery
  • Translate (or write) biblical literature
  • Visit the elderly and lonely people
  • Be a hostess: plan, decorate, cook, clean up, host people in your home and church
  • Write encouraging e-mails or send cards, blog, journal, write a book, write a gospel tract
  • Help to clean and/or organize at church
  • Pray for your pastor, other church leaders, and specific people in your church. Pray for the sick and needy.
  • Keep in touch with your church’s missionaries
Which of these can you do? 

God bless you as you reach the world and train Christians for His service!


1. Article about Mary Slessor, by Rebecca Hickman.

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