Dave was right. A couple of men on the campus voiced interested in overseas ministry, but the response from the women was overwhelming. It was the women who asked to meet with me individually to talk about what concrete steps they could take to get to the field. In one conversation, a godly, single young lady asked me about how she, as a woman, could be used on the field. I tried to explain to her that the work of single women on the field was not an accessory to “real” mission work, but instead was vital to spreading the Gospel overseas.
The crucial role of women
I am currently working towards a Masters degree in Bible translation and, out of the required textbooks for my current classes, half of them were written by women. The content of these texts is dealing with heavy exegetical translation issues, and it is the women who are making major contributions to the field through their writings. In the same way, I just finished an annotated bibliography this weekend where I read multiple theses about literacy work that has been done in Cameroon. Seven out of ten of these works were written by women. And what was striking was that woman after woman gave praise and glory to God for in their dedications. It is the same on the field. Women serve as Bible translators, exegetical consultants, linguistic consultants, doctors, nurses, children’s ministry workers, evangelists, teachers and literacy workers. They saturate the field in every domain.
The founder of Wycliffe Bible Translations, Cameron Townsend, advocated for women to be sent out as Bible translators. There was much controversy surrounding his decision to send out Loretta Anderson and Doris Cox to headhunting tribes of the Peruvian jungle. The chief of the Shapras tribe was known to have killed his predecessor in order to take his position as chief. And it was this very man who started helping these two ladies learn his language. After working with the women for a couple years, he became a believer and repented of his witchcraft and murder. Then, years later he confessed to Townsend,
“If you had sent men, we would have killed them on sight. Or if a couple, I’d have killed the man and taken the woman for myself. But what could a great chief do with two harmless girls who insisted on calling him brother?”*
In some instances it is actually more advantageous to be a woman in kingdom work.
Be defined by what you can do, not by what you can’t
When we look in Scripture, we see many commands being given to both men and women alike, and only a few prohibitions given to women. As far as prohibitions, women are not to have authority over a man in the context of her marriage and in the context of her local church. And that is pretty much it.
On the other hand, women are called to go out into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20). They are called to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58), to devote themselves to do good works and to not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14) to cry out with the Psalmist that all the nations worship the one true God (Psalm 67). There is much work for a woman to do.
To restrict a woman from carrying out Gospel work overseas or for a woman to restrict herself unnecessarily would be costly and even ‘stupid’(as Fredrick Franson, the founder of TEAM, so bluntly stated). He explains,
There are, so to speak, many people in the water about to drown. A few men are trying to save them, and that is considered well and good. But look, over there are few women have untied a boat also to be of help in the rescue, and immediately a few men cry out; standing there idly looking on and therefore having plenty of time to cry out: “No, no, women must not help, rather let the people drown.” What stupidity!
Let’s get it done ladies
Only 9.4% of the world’s languages have a complete Bible in their language and there are tribes and nations who are still untouched by the Gospel. There are women cutting their sick babies with razor blades due to lack of medical knowledge and allegiance to their, often dark, tribal traditions.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Single women face unique challenges living overseas and yet, God has and will continue to use them to shame the strong and bring his kingdom to the ends of the earth. Let’s not be shy ladies, let’s get it done.