“I could tell you were an American woman before you spoke,” the young Russian woman said to me.
“How could you determine that?” I asked.
“Because you smile a lot,” she replied. “Russian women do not smile much. Life is so hard.”
“What would you say if I told you I have heartaches and disappointments in my life too?” I answered.
“No, no,” she said, “Your life is perfect. Mine is very hard.”
“Would you like to hear words that will make you smile even in the midst of all your hardships?” I asked.
I listened intently as she shared her life with me. In the midst of her words, I saw a very discouraged woman. She had no hope of circumstances getting better. Food was scarce, winters were cold, and money was not worth much. I told her I did not have the power to change any of her hardships, but I had “good news” that would change her life for eternity and good news that would bring a smile to her face in the midst of hardships.
Good things happened over the next few weeks. The gospel was taught, love was shared, and souls were added to the kingdom. My students were scheduled one per hour, eight hours a day. They were always on time, standing at my classroom door, and pointing to the clock if the student before them took even one minute of their scheduled time.
My interpreter, a young Russian man in his twenties, had translated for me all week. I was trying to answer a question with him interpreting every sentence. Finally he turned to me and said, “May I just answer the question?” “Go ahead,” I said. To my amazement, he preached for five minutes. My study of the Russian language helped me to know he had done a good job. I complimented him and asked if he was ready to obey what he had just preached. He said, “Not yet, I have it in my head but not in my heart.”
One afternoon, I looked up from my students to see a television crew entering my classroom. “We want American teachers on tonight’s news,” the spokesman said. I called to my husband in the classroom next door. We, along with our students, were interviewed for the nightly news.
There were long hours of teaching in the daytime and personal relations work and Bible studies at night. The people were eager to learn. This is what mission work is all about.
This experience plus my recent trip to Africa helped me understand the work of those who dedicate their lives to mission work on foreign soil. Twenty-two years in the mid-west in a mission effort helped me realize many things concerning domestic mission work.
The best example in the Bible of a missionary woman is Priscilla. She and her husband Aquilla lived in Rome at the time when the emperor, Claudius, ordered the Jews to leave. Priscilla and Aquilla traveled to Corinth where they met Paul. Paul stayed in their home while he taught in the city. They had several things in common with Paul. They were concerned about spreading the Word and they shared the same occupation. When Paul left Corinth, Priscilla and Aquilla accompanied him to Ephesus.
Perhaps you are the woman who wants to be involved in mission work in the field. There are many opportunities for you. Many women in mission areas are there with their husbands and families. Their work involves keeping the home, caring for the children, supporting their husbands, and working with the women and children. It is much like a mission effort in the states except for the differences in culture. Sometimes culture differences take lots of effort in order to adjust. There is also a place in the mission field for single women. They do not have as many responsibilities and concerns at home and they find mission work the answer to their longings to be involved in something constructive and adventurous for the Lord’s work. Congregations are more open to sending women than they once were. Elderships have seen the proof that women can be very useful and effective in the field just as they are in the home congregation. Their work is usually involved with a missionary couple or a team of missionaries.
Medical mission efforts are another area of mission work where women have proven to be effective helpers. Doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists, and their assistants go into an underprivileged area to offer free medical assistance. Because of their care and love, they are able to tell the people about Jesus and invite them to His church.
What about the woman who thinks she is not ready for the mission field? Can she be involved in missions if she does not go to the mission field? Absolutely! Perhaps you are not the adventurous type. Maybe you like staying close to home. There are many ways you can be involved in missions from your congregation. Following is a list to help you have a missions mindset.
1. Pray for the missionaries and remind others to pray. Organize a special gathering for the exclusive purpose of praying for the missionary and his/her work. Send prayer-grams to let them know you are praying for them.
2. Promote the mission effort. This can be done through articles written for the bulletin, newsletters, bulletin boards, and banners. This keeps the congregation involved and informed of the progress and needs of the missionary and the work.
3. Encourage Sunday school class awareness. This will help the missionaries as well as the students in class. Missionaries love to receive notes of encouragement from both adults and children.
4. Stay in close contact with the missionaries, send supplies for teaching, and possibly send food items they cannot buy where they live. Keep them informed of happenings in the home congregation.
5. Go visit the missionaries if at all possible. It can be lonely in the mission field. Familiar faces from home are encouraging.
6. Financially support missionaries. Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Cuza, Susanna, and other women helped support Jesus and his disciples out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3).
7. Send and grade correspondence courses through a program such as World Bible School. The wife of one of our elders taught another woman the gospel with this method. She put the woman in touch with a missionary in that country for her baptism. Later the woman came to meet her teacher.
8. Train women to be strong in the faith so if their path leads them to the mission field they will be prepared.
Yes, women can and should be mission minded. The “great commission” is for women as well as men whether we are going across the ocean or working from the home front.
By Pam Stewart
Pam and her husband, Bill, serve with the Bear Valley Bible Institue of Denver. Pam is an instructor in the Women’s Program. Bill is the director of development as well as an intructor. The couple can often be found at lectureships and at meetings sharing about BVBID. Pam is the author of Evangelistic Women, a book designed to help women discover in what ministry they can best serve the kingdom (for information on how to order, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org).